Union ??????


Yeah Washington!!!! VIVA REVOLUCION!!!!

 I have had to remove the article that was posted here because it is copyrighted material and I don’t have a license from the AP to publish it on my site. Here is a link to the article on another website:

Foster parents in state are nation’s first to join union (http://www.seattlepi.com/local/270817_foster19.html)

I am sorry for any inconvenience but I have learned from what the big-name user content sites have gone through over Copyrighted material.

The Webmaster



I think what really excited me about this article is the potential to have a lot of impact in the entire child care system when there is a bargaining chip. I am not a big fan of the modern union system (It killed my hometown) but in some cases it is a good thing.

We are in the mission field. But there are many HP’s that have found themselves in a position at a facility that abuses the HP. I know a couple that was told a year ago that if a child in their facility hits them or assaults another staff, the child will be given a 72 hour notice. The couple has had to endure punches and assaults almost weekly for a solid year. The admin has since changed their position and now states that they cannot discharge a child because they need the money the state pays for the child. But all new couples arriving at the facility are told any child that assaults them will be out of the program.

I’ve seen three single women promised the same position in a house just to keep them from leaving.

I have seen part time staff that never worked under 70 hours a week. How about couples that work a solid month straight, but are then consistently expected to still take care of facility business on respite time. (Training, paper work, fill-in, etc…).

Why do some of these facilities treat their employees this way. Easy- you let them. Most couples in this profession have no intention or delusions of becoming rich. Most are HP’s because of a calling to serve Christ. As such we become accustomed to going the extra mile, which is great until the facility begins to take advantage of it. Take a look back thru the history of the union and you will see some shocking similarities. People working hard for their families and giving it their all, just to be used and abused by the people they are employed by.

 I know many people that use this forum think that their is no way to change the current system. I believe that is very short sighted. This profession has changed by leaps and bounds in the last 20 years. Don’t believe me? Talk to an old timer that worked a home about corporal punishment. Look around your facility. All the HP’s that are dead weight and lack professionalism are on the way out. If your facility has even half a brain they are using resources like this network and filling empty slots with qualified people who are ministry minded. You think it’s just coincidence that many facilities that are treating employees as professionals and networking have more applicants than slots for HP’s? If your an administrator and your facility has constant turnover and never enough HP’s to go around, maybe you should re-think your entire program. You know what they say, “If you build it, they will come” (Great movie). 

If you wonder if your being taken advantage of look at the labor laws. If you are a single HP at a facility and not in a supervisory position they must pay you by the hour. There are no exceptions to that rule. If you’re a married couple they can work you as much as they want and you agree to on a agreed upon salary. That is why facilities love couples (Besides the family style atmosphere). Boys Town was instrumental in advocating the paid couple salary in the new labor laws. (Which I agree was necessary). Are you part time and consistently working more than 38 hours a week? Do some research and see what the Federal Government says about your pay and benefits. 

Point is, be professional. EXPECT to be treated as a professional. DO not allow yourself to be abused, God will open doors to other opportunities if you listen to him. Stay in some place that refuses to treat you with respect will affect how well you take care of the kids there.

If conditions in the system continue I believe there could be a real chance a HP union will form. Maybe sooner than you think. 



Honestly, I don’t see any chance of a national union for houseparents. There are already some private and state ran facilities with unions. But I don’t foresee a national one for the same reason I don’t see national standards. Childcare is regulated by each individual state. Additionally the states contract most of their care with individually owned facilities (whether for profit or not) My understanding of labor laws is each company would have to decide to form a union and cannot be mandated by the government.

On top of the whole individual facility thing, you have all the religious organizations that are exempt from most labor laws to begin with. There is no way there will ever be union in any large scale.

The biggest voice we have as far as change is our presence. If a facility is unable to keep good qualified staff, their only choice is to change or accept the hassles of continually recruiting and training new staff.

Personal Living Space and Inspections


Is your personal living space inspected regularly for hygiene, safety and maintenance by the administration? If so, what’s your opinion and how is it done? If not, do you feel it is an invasion of your privacy?



When you say personal living space, I guess you are talking about the houseparents bedroom/area? Our bunkhouse is inspected about twice a month, but our personal bedroom has never been inspected. No one at our facility enters our bedroom without being invited. (That is not because we demand it; the staff just goes out of its way to thoughtful.) We are very appreciative of the respect that is shown for us and our personal space. If the administrator did want to inspect our bedroom/bathroom I guess that would be okay with us. But, we definitely appreciate their respect for our privacy considering the fact that this is a profession with very little privacy as it is.



Our personal quarters are inspected quarterly with the rest of the cottage for “maintenance” purposes. However, given the lack of response to the maintenance items noted, I really think it’s mostly nosey administrators – yes, I feel an invasion of my privacy. I’m not sure exactly what they’re inspecting for….maybe making sure we’re clean enough, or not painting the walls purple…. 



Oh heck no!

Maintenance issues are one thing, but the quarters are personal living space IMO. To have someone that is rooting around my meager possessions for an “Inspection” is an insult. Especially at places that require thirty days on duty and pay about 10 grand a year. The quarters should be part of the benefits package.

The Boys Ranch I was with were awesome. They respected the privacy of their house parents. It is hard for me to even imagine a facility that would purposely invade HP’s quarters.

If I was at a facility like that I would have to rebel. Besides the purple walls I would hang chains from the ceiling and hang pictures of Barney Fife upside down just to make em’ wonder. 



We share our quarters on campus with relief staff, we keep it open and tidy at all times. We live in a fishbowl already, doesn’t matter if they see our laundry. We go to the house we own when we are on relief and that is only subject to our inspection. Our birth children however believe we are somewhat intrusive because we inspect their rooms and nag them about cleaning them up.

He have only ever worked at one facility for 5 months that had private quarters, but we were still subject to inspection by administration, because some of the people that were hired prior to us were real slobs. In the 10 years plus that I have been a houseparent I have seen some pretty nasty quarters when former houseparents leave. I can certainly see the view from an administration standpoint.

If we could get rid of all the people in houseparenting that are not professional I am sure the rest of us would be more trusted and respected. However, I am not sure that will ever happen

Just thought I would add, the rooms of the children in our cottage are subject to visitation by strangers at virtually any time. We have visitors and guests very often that want to see their rooms. It seems only fair that we set the example for the children and make our rooms available also. Just my Opinion and it is not shared by many of the other houseparents on campus

Houseparent-to-Child Ratio


I’ve been informed that Texas has just implemented a change in licensing standards that mandates we include our own personal children when calculating our ratios of House Parent to children. Our cottage currently houses 8 children from 5yrs- 18yrs. Each houseparent can supervise 8 kids in this range so this is fine. However, if you have a child under 5 present within your home then the HP with that child can only watch a total of 4 kids by themselves. This will present some situations we’ve not encountered before and will require some forethought as we work to comply with these new standards (my wife and I are expecting a baby in February).

What are the ratios in other states and how have y’all accommodated them? -TexPop



My wife and I worked in Texas 8 years ago, and at the facility we worked at we had to include our birth children in the ratio then.

There were many days we had to load up the entire cottage and go somewhere because we would have been out of ratio. If we were caught out of ratio, we could receive consequences up to being terminated.

We are currently in Mississippi and as a privately funded religious organization we are exempt from state licensing and most regulation, so I am not sure what the ratio is, however I could say that if you had to have a 1 to 4 ratio for children under five we would be out of ratio with both of us on duty. We currently have 10 children aged: 4,5,5,7,9,10,11,13(birth),16(birth) plus a 3 year old that is here most days. We raised his mother here at the home and care for him while she works.

The state is currently being sued by Children’s Rights so things could change drastically in the future.



That’s a great question. My in-laws work at a facility in Macon, GA where they say the ratio is 1 to 10 for five year olds and up. That sounds absolutely insane to me.

In Maryland we had a 1 to 4 ratio. There were times (often) that you would have more children for short amount of time but they generally did a good job at keeping those ratios consistent.

The previous facility was a 1 to six ratio. Again that was the facility’s number not the state of GA which I believe was higher.

Makes you wonder how some of them old ladies used to run orphanages with 30 kids by themselves back in the day. 



………….Corporal punishment and permanent hair loss?  …..






My wife and I was House Parents for several yrs in Texas but now we are in Kansas working as Managers for a group home. we tried to get back into a home in la Porte Texas they seem like they was wanting to rehire us and return but the new laws stopped us . We have 4 children 5 ,7,8 and 13 this is really a serious thing since they have such a great HP shortage. I guess we will be staying in Kansas.



God bless you. That’s a lot of kids. From what I have seen I think there is an unwritten rule that most facilities will shy away from couples with more than two bio’s.

It is a shame, especially when your heart wants to serve kids somewhere else.

Pets in the House


We are starting our job as houseparents on January 2. We have a five pound dog and a cat – both stay indoors. Our administrator has given us the okay to bring the pets to live in the house with us. Should we be concerned about the safety of our pets – living in a home with trouble teenaged girls?

I know that this is an ugly question to ask, and I apologize in advance. But hey, if you’ve read the “diary of a childcare worker” then you saw the cat that was hanging from a noose!



You are fortunate to be allowed to have a pet, most facilities have stopped allowing pets.

Our facility also allows pets, though we don’t have one now. We have to leave the cottage when we go on relief, and don’t want to move pets anymore, but when we had them, we found that the children were very nurturing toward them for the most part. Even our Juvenile Delinquent children in Wyoming.

The only issue I have ever had with children and pets was with my Cockatiel. We had a group of boys in one cottage that teased it, and it became mean. I lost all my cats (4 total) to stray dogs. They would get out of the house and never come back.



Yep! No pets allowed where I am.

As for the kids, most times the only child you have to watch out for will be the mean child you can spot a mile away. From my experience, they are rare unless you’re going to a very troubled facility (meaning they take on especially hard cases).



All three homes that we have worked at have allowed pets. Our first dog a cocker spaniel always knew which child needed a little extra loving or when a new child came into the house he was always there next to them. He became an important part of our team. Always giving special attention to someone who needed him to love on them. Sometimes Spud,( he was the runt of the litter and looked like a little tater) would just adopt someone for the day and follow them around the house and love on them until they didn’t need him any longer and then he would return to my wife’s side where he spent most of his time. The unconditional love a pet can sometimes make a difference in a child’s life. Our current dog Bogart is really good at checking the rooms when the girls are out for the day, he is real good at finding notes they have hidden or socks that they hide under the bed that they didn’t want to put away like instructed. He has also found a candy stash or two, so the girls have learned that if we don’t find it Bogart probably will. Pets can add such joy to a house that we have found that the children have responded very will to having them around. Neither dog was ever hurt by any of the children we have had in 3 different homes and 10years of house parenting. Just blessed I guess. 



I agree with the others. The home we spent time at had teenage girls and they LOVED the family dog. I think unless you go to a very high level care facility you will be fine. We are taking our Brittany (formerly called brittany spaniel) and are looking forward to watching her take care of the kids. She was a rescue dog so I think she will fit in perfect. I’ve seen her change attitudes between my dh and a small child so I know she will be great with the kids. I don’t worry about her safety because she knows danger from a mile away. Animals are so instinctual I bet your pets will be fine. Another idea is to email another hp couple that has pets and see how their animals are doing (I mean a hp couple from your facility).

One thing we do that might help keep them safe is to make sure they sleep in your room. Our Brittany does that anyway because she needs the contact but that would add an extra bit of protection.

Congrats on the job! We start our first job Jan 8th so I bet we have similar stories soon!



We have a dog and a cat mixed in with six boys. I agree with everyone else here that the pets are an awesome addition and for the most part the kids are great with them, but stay vigilant on ALL shots and vaccinations. Keep the paper work in the office of the house or somewhere close you can pull them out if asked. I have never had any issues with a state inspection asking for the copies but I figure I have them if the man comes knocking. It would also come in handy if a kid ever got bitten or scratched.

When we were up north the kids were actually calmer when the dog was around. We had a boy that would always calm down when he could pet the dog. He started learning the dog would only sit with him if he was calm.

We have had a boy here throw the cat over the stair banister into the basement. The cat was fine but the other boys wanted to throw him over the banister. No issues since then. 

The only other animal issue I have heard of was a couple of kids at my old facility dumped a quart of 10w-40 they snagged out of a staff members truck, into the houses aquarium (30 gallon). The aquarium got smashed a few months later from a flying projectile. I have no idea what happened to the fish, but it probably wasn’t good.



Greeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeat. My dh wanted to get a big aquarium for our house. We have two and when the fish have babies (which is often), every kid that comes over sits staring at them. We thought it would be good for the kids but that scares me a lot. Our kids are going to be basic care- I wonder if this will be an issue…



If you’re allowed to have an aquarium and want to get one for you and your kids- do it.

I have come to the realization that everything I own and hold near and dear to me will not make into eternity with me. We do have a nice apartment aside from the house, but we choose to hang all of our family pictures and knick-knacks throughout the house. I even have a key wind clock my grandfather made sitting on the mantle in the house.

Have any of my personal belongings been broken? Yep, it sure has. It has also taught me what is really important. I loved Grandpa, but if the clock gets broke, the clock gets broke. I think Gramps would be more honored that I’m doing my best to make a home for kids who need it rather than putting his craftsmanship in the attic. All the knick-knacks my wife and I have collected tell a story. Every kid in the house knows the stories, just like my own bio kids will. We take pictures of the kids and hang them along with all of our bio families, there is no separation between the two. The kids have really liked it, and to date they have not messed with or broken any heirlooms, pictures or knick-knacks. They have treated it with respect because it has become part of their story as well. But I am fully prepared for something to get demolished.

The things that have been busted up of mine have been a laptop and a cell phone. Both of those got thrown by a kid at the last facility. I also like nice pens and they disappear frequently (At least they are working on penmanship!)

My philosophy is this job is your life. It’s a mixture of the professional and the emotional. If God has truly called you, how much are you willing to lay down to follow that voice? Ask yourself if a kid destroyed everything you owned and the facility was two weeks late in paying you, would you still be a house parent? There is enough that happens in a week that would make me want to explore other professions and ministries, but I can’t. I have only been doing this work now for about three years. in that short amount of time I bet I have seen 50 people (admin and hp’s) quit who were “Called by God”.

True story- My wife and I were talking with a lady who had just started about two days before. We were at the kitchen table and she was talking about how God specifically called her to work at the facility. She about had me in tears with her testimony. She walked out of the house, got in her car, and began to pull out. A baseball from the house next door hit her windshield and cracked it (accidentally). She got out of the car, screamed at the kid and left. The next day we were informed she quit. 

Share your life with the kids, don’t hold back. It will probably cause an early death from all the stress of putting it on the line every day, but at least you can go with the knowledge your relatives won’t have to fight over what’s left of your estate after being a house parent for thirty years. 



Launchpad – we are the same way with our stuff. The entire house is decorated with many of our things, to include at least the better half of the Christmas Decorations. Our staff lounge is open to all members of the house, and we will even let the children on occasion watch the TV in our bedroom. (Our quarters are not separate from the house, but integrated with it – we leave during days off and share it with relief staff though all the furnishings are ours)

In 10 years as a houseparent I have lost a very expensive camera because a resident smashed it on the ground. I have had 3 cars keyed, all our cars dented by bats, balls, and bicycles. My children have lost several toys and collectibles to include a couple of game systems. He have had a couple of hundred dollars worth of cash stolen over the years, and I can’t count all the Cd’s & DVDs that have been lost or stolen. My cockatiel was ruined and we have had probably 20 houseplants killed by being fed various substances like tobacco juice. This is a partial list!!

I have lost some stuff as a houseparent, but on the other hand I know several normal families where birth children have destroyed tons of stuff, so I don’t think it is totally unique to just being a houseparent. I think about some of the stuff I destroyed as a kid, and can understand why I got some of the whoopins I got from my parents.

This is not directed to anyone in particular, but if God calls you to be a houseparent – He is calling all of you including your stuff. If a few things get broken or stolen consider it joy that you were able to sacrifice it in service to the Lord and think about other Christians that were called to sacrifice all they owned and even their lives.



Wow, launchpad, you got me there. Frankly, I’m not worried about OUR stuff. For one thing, we will still have our house in another town where we will leave some stuff and besides, stuff is replaceable. I was more worried about the money the agency would spend on the fishtank (its all budgeted) but really once I think about it, its nothing compared to the house they spent money on. This is all stuff I’m still processing. Reading through all of these, I remembered what my baby brother (he’s 18 now) did to my sister’s fish tank. He decided to add Desitin (baby rash ointment) to the tank. They died quickly so I doubt it was painful…

State Gov’t Bureaucracies Better or Worse?


I’ve been asking myself lately if there are some states where it is easier to run a Children’s Home than others due to the amount of state control and hoops to jump through. I’ve only workied in Texas where it used to be a lot easier to operate than it is today. About three years ago a new person took charge of our state’s licensing system and, since I’m told he came from the day-care industry, he decided to “beef up” our licensing requirements and restrictions. Our list of “Minimum Standards” more than doubled. Sometimes I think bureaucrats do this just to justify their existance.

I also wonder what it’s like working with your State’s Child Protective System. What I observe here is a lot of good intent – but not much common sense. We as House parents and therefore primary care-givers have very little input on the disposition of a CPS child in our care.

What are your opinions of your States’ services?




There are definitely states where there is less regulation. I have worked in three different states: Wyoming (twice), Texas, and Mississippi. Of the states I have worked at:

Mississippi (1999-present) is by far the least regulated, in fact there have only been licensing requirements for about 7 years. However things are becoming more strict since they settled the lawsuit with children’s rights and I expect that trend to continue.

Wyoming the first time is next (1997-1999). We were licensed and regulated but things weren’t real strict.

Texas (1999) We quickly noticed how much more strict Texas was than Wyoming. Among other things, child supervision and child/staff ratios were strict and strictly enforces.

Wyoming the second time (Nov 2000-Mar 2001) In the time we were gone regulations had changes drastically. We were required to have 24 hour awake staff, logs with entries every 15 minutes, much more strict facilities regs, etc.

Unfortunately people that have done very bad jobs at caring for children have resulted in the vast majority of the regs we live with today. I think it sucks that we have as many regs as we do, but if people in the past would have done better jobs we wouldn’t have as many. On the same note, the better the job we do today, the less additional regs we will have to deal with in the future.



Wow! 24 hr staff for “basic care”??

I understand, but tend to disagree. If there are no problems in the future because we are doing a better job – most regulating agencies will simply figure it’s because their rules are so beneficial. Reducing regulation is VERY rare. -TexPop



I never said reduce current regulation. The better job we do today will reduce the amount of additional regulation we have to face in the future.



I finally got to read the minimum licensing standards for Arkansas just before I left the state! When I read the Texas standards, it appeared to be very similar.

Seriously, I believe the major difference in the amount of harrassment appears to be in the types of placement. My current facility in Texas has a lot of state placed children, parental rights terminated. When your facility is a ‘private placement’ the state is usually too busy to bother, unless a compliant is made. The facility I came from in Arkansas was 100% private placement…the courts sent us children, but the parents still retained legal custody. We rarely had a visit from any state official. Since coming to Texas, it feels like everyone is expecting the worst…fearful of mis-stepping…worried about being censored by the State. It puts an unnecessary burden on people trying to devote their time and energies to the children in need.


Craig Bridges

I just do not want to post on this subject. It is going to get worse in the future for facilities that take state placements. Sadly, many Christian homes have the answer to many of these kid’s problems but have to spend too much time worrying about state regs & red tape & money instead of focusing on programs that



Craig – I agree with you, but why don’t you want to post on this? I thought some might be hesitant to post because they didn’t know who might be lurking.  Are these your thoughts?


Craig Bridges

No, no. I just didn’t want to get on my soap box as this subject is a huge frustration to me. There are so many kids out there not getting served all because of lack of $ and state regs that become the focus rather than kids. Government just does not have the answer to the problem and the system is broken, even in crisis in my opinion. I am not worried about posting for others to see and think that it is a very worthy subject.



Good. I know we spend lots of time, $$ and effort to satisfy state licensing regs – rather than opening up more beds and ministering to kids. It’s the shotgun approach to management via the state. I mean, if a facility is endangering kids, close them down. Don’t regulate the rest of us to death. Craig, I can’t even imagine the frustration you as an administrator must feel when you are asked to conform to a rule that was put into place because of someone else’s substandard faciltiy. Thanks for responding.




At this moment I truly believe I am at ground zero when it comes to state regulations and red tape. I have never seen the amount of policies and procedures that a facility has to comply with to be licensed as here in DC. To be fair, I also may have been shielded from dealing with the state because I worked for some administrators that did their job and dealt with the paperwork and red tape, while I was allowed to take care of the kids.

90% of my time is spent doing paperwork and reporting to the powers that be in the District Of Columbia. In case you’re wondering what I have been doing with the other 10% of my time it has been divided between actual childcare and sleeping (about 5 hours if I’m lucky).

I have seen firsthand the differences in state placements. In Georgia and South Carolina I may have seen someone from the state doing an inspection or file audit once every few months. Here we have audits on a bi- weekly basis and walk through inspections at random times every week.

Oversight is a good thing and it keeps an honest facility honest. To much oversight has the the potential to rip the guts out of a facility and create a climate of fear and dread. The turnover at our site in DC is all about the paperwork, redundant regulations and reporting procedures. The kids are the easiest (and most enjoyable part) of our work here.

Someday, I’ll open my own outlaw facility in the wilds of Alaska and thumb my nose at the man. Until then I’ll be asking every state employee if they would like some cream in their coffee or a foot massage…… 




Since DC is not actually a state – how does it work? Is it run by some federal department? 



Dc actually operates like a pseudo state. It’s a city, but the social services branches and every other government function you would find in a state government are here. We just do not have representation in the House or Senate, which is how DC was able to get around the Second Amendment for so many years (Sorry, that’s a rant for another forum).

Living in a group home with every inspector and Social Worker in the District being less than 4 miles away definitely has its drawbacks.

There is a bright side to all of this though. Our house is so sterile that I can eat off the floor without hesitation and I have more inside knowledge on the social service system than I ever cared to know.

Single Houseparents


Are all the houseparents at your facility couples or do you have any singles? Our facility is trying singles. Most are young and inexperienced. They have a helper AKA babysitter/assistant when they are on duty? Anybody seen this? Any thoughts????



I started out as a single HP. But it was a facility where the kids were much higher maintenance and most were stepping down from the psych ward. The facility really did not understand what they needed to do to bring in couples. Soon after my wife and I married we moved to a facility that was looking for couples.

IMO- The biggest issues I have seen with facilities hiring singles is they try to match a man and a woman in order to model a family style setting. Problem is the kids know they are not married and it seems more like a play act you put on for the kids, not to mention all the drama associated with the boy- girl thing, but the facilities that are struggling with finding couples almost have to hire singles to keep running the facility.

There are some awesome single HP’s out there. I know of many actually. The biggest problem is when a facility just runs an add in the local paper to fill the vacancy instead of using tools like this web site to find HP’s, single or married. Professional HP’s will come from all over the country to fill positions you have open IF you are interested in being a serious, professional ministry and not some hack outfit that only warehouses the kids. Since our facility has almost exclusively advertised and hired off the Houseparent Network site, there have been nothing but professional, ministry minded couples and singles hired here. The turnover rate is also ridiculously low since they have incorporated the network (13%).

We have single HP’s here, but they usually pair them up with the same gender (So as to avoid any soap opera stuff) and generally with the older teens. Every one of the singles here are extremely dedicated to what they do, which is a first for me. Couples are always more preferable to a facility, financially and in modeling family style living. But it just is not possible to fill all positions with qualified couples. There are more slots available then there are couples, especially for larger facilities.



We use singles as relief staff at my current facility. The lady that relieves in my cottage has been here for over 33 years.


The downside to singles is that they can only really keep the seams from bursting the week they are there. I always feel for them at those times my wife is gone and I have to run the cottage by myself. We try to make things easier on them by not scheduling appointments for the week they are on duty and trying to have everything in the cottage organized and scheduling sponsor and family visits during our relief so they have fewer kids to care for.

The upside for us is that we have a very low turnover in our relief staff. Being in a different place all the time and living out of your car just seems to be easier for a single person than for a couple and especially for a family. Our relief staff ladies have been here for 33 and 10 years. Our vacation relief staff couple, changes about every year.

At a former facility we had singles that they paired up in teams to be houseparents. Sometimes they paired them as male/female couples other times they were same sex teams. IMO it worked best when they paired same sex in teams in the same sex home. It was all about B-mod so there wasn’t any family modeling issues to deal with.

My biggest grief with singles at that facility was that they got paid more than married couples. The administration said that both the husband and wife could combine their income to pay their bills and singles couldn’t. This part blew my mind, they had no problem paying a brand new pair of singles a higher combined salary than their most experienced couple. If a single is doing the job of a couple they should be paid more, if they are being teamed up and doing the same job as a married couple, the team should be paid the same.

I foresee as a future trend the more therapeutic facilities continually moving to singles and shift work; however I see the residential foster care home model expanding which will use couples. I see more homes that will hire couples and provide them with a home, vehicle, groceries, and other things yet they will operate as an independent foster home with support of counselors, tutors, etc.

Cottages on your Campus

Are the cottages on your campus basically the same? Or do you have some Cadillacs and some Pintos? And, how do you go about getting furnishings for your cottages? Is it by donations or do you get to purchase stuff?

Our cottages are all almost identical. The main difference between them is the amount of wear and tear apparent caused by boys vs. girls or young vs. old. The maintenance crew tries to keep up with repairs and replacement as best they can. Some houseparents chose to work hard to maintain the outside area, some don’t.

As for furnishings, they are furnished via donation – we have some wonderful corporate/individual sponsors – or every few years a cottage is allowed to replace furniture of a specific type: bedroom furniture, living room, etc. If something were to actually become unusable we would be allowed to purchase a replacement as needed.

Our cottages vary in age and condition, however the condition of the cottages are reflective of their ages. We have one cottage that was built back in the 60’s that is like a dormitory. It has a long center hall and everything comes off of it. The house is in good repair but it is not very homey. The desire is that someday we will be able to replace it with a new cottage.

Our newest cottage was built in 1999 and it is the Cadillac. It has a modern kitchen with two dishwashers, two refrigerators, a nice laundry room etc.

There are advantages to not having the newest cottage. 1. You don’t have to deal with as many visitors. 2. The administration isn’t as critical on the condition of the cottage, not that we all don’t take very good care of our cottages anyway.

My cottage is one of the older ones on campus, yet I have worked very hard to make it one of the nicest ones and I am very proud of it.

All our furnishing are donated, but because we take care of what we have, we are one of the ones to get the better furniture when it is donated.


Does your facility give condoms to the high school boys as part of Planned Parenthood? I don’t have any high schoolers, however, I have younger kids who found one on the playground. It caught me off guard when I reported it. I was shocked to learn that we just give them away once a month.

We are in a privately funded facility that is not required to, nor do we issue condoms. However, I know of a former administrator that has taken girls to the doctor for birth control, supposedly to regulate their period. I thought it very suspicious that 5 out of 6 teen girls in one cottage was irregular.

That administrator is no longer here and I am not aware of the practice continuing.

I think this may become a hot thread! 

I am not a big fan of giving the kids birth control or offering it. I do however think that it is necessary for some facilities. If you have a co-ed facility and think your supervision is that tight to stop a couple of teenagers- forget it.

I think we should teach to it, explain to them God has a plan for them and pre marital sex is not in that plan. But I would much rather a kid that is acting out sexually be giving the option of being on birth control versus bringing another life into an already dramatic situation.

I do not for ANY reason support abortion and will not work for any facility that even suggests it as a option for a kid. (They would be lucky to even get a notice from me).

My wife and I do not agree on this subject. She was raised in a great family and made very good choices up until meeting me . She believes that by even offering an already sexually active kid birth control in any form will do nothing but encourage them to have more sex.

I however believe that is insane reasoning. And until someone can convince me there is better way (short of castration) I will hold firm.

I’m afraid I have to agree! I think it is a pretty much true statement that “if kids are going to be sexually active, they are going to find a way to be sexually active.” Short of locking them up 24/7, there isn’t much you can do to stop it EVER happening. While the idea of giving kids birth control does not appeal to me, if 2 teenagers are having (consensual) protected sex, they are pretty much just hurting themselves. On the other hand, if they get pregnant, they hurt others–no matter what they choose to do about it. I am totally against abortion, but even if that is ignored as an option, someone is going to pay for what happens.

That said, I don’t know if I could bring myself to actually GIVE a teen condoms–let’s hope no administration ever asks me to. Giving birth control to girls (although perhaps not ALL of them like one person mentioned) I can understand, I was pretty miserable until that happened. So I can see it being legitimate in some cases.

I think what is bothering me is that 1) they are getting them from the powers that be at my facility, and 2) if they are grown up enough to use them then why the heck are they ending up on the playground???? What about abstinence? Somehow that has escaped these kids.

I’m sorry, but if our boys “need” condoms, they can get them somewhere else…school nurse?…..home visit?…..they will not be getting the mixed signals from me about the appropriateness of premarital sex. They need to know there are absolutes in this world. They’ve seen enough black and gray…let’s show ’em some “white”.

I totally agree about the inappropriateness of getting them from the facility! Surely they can get them somewhere else like you mentioned! The laws on this issue protect the privacy of the teen–even from parents, so they should get them elsewhere…the question is, if they are being irresponsible enough to have pre-marital sex, are they capable of being responsible enough to plan ahead and get protection from the nurse, etc? Probably not, in most cases.

I am always sure to point out to teens that are thinking about being sexually active or are sexually active is that condoms under normal use are only about 85% effective in preventing pregnancy and even less effective in protecting against disease.

I will concede that condoms are better than nothing but abstinence is the only sure way to prevent disease and pregnancy.

I have to agree that kids that are already sexually active when they arrive will try to find a way to have sex. We had a teenage girl in our house that was not only sneaking out, but also sneaking guys in to her room. We finally convinced the powers that be that we did not want her in the house. We have 8 little girls and I didn’t want them to pick up any of her bad habits. I am sure we will face enough issues without her help. I think my wife and I have our work ahead of us training our girls to know that it is better to wait for marriage to have sex and not give in to any peer pressure when they are teens.

Campus Security

I’ve become very concerned about our campus’ security plan and have broached the subject with our executive director. He doesn’t seem too concerned about it and seems to believe he can call all of the necessary people in an emergency and all will be well.

I keep thinking of all the emotionally unstable people we come into contact with each day/week/year and wonder how long it will be until one of them decides to bring a firearm on campus and start going crazy. I am also wary of ex-spouses, etc. that may be looking for kids and female partners within our campus shelter. There is no good way of performing a “lock-down” on our 100+ acre campus.

I’m looking for ideas. What kinds of security steps have you seen in places you’ve worked? Were they effective? Expensive?

I have had those same concerns in the past. Our last facility I kept a 45 in my quarters loaded with one in the chamber. I had a internal lock on it so only I could use it. I know this statement will freak some people out here, but I truly believe VA Tech would not have had the body count it did if some of the Teachers and staff would have been packing.

Here they do not allow firearms on campus. I keep a tire “Thumper” in our quarters and I also always carry a knife that I can operate quickly. I keep the 45 in my off duty quarters fully loaded and ready to go.

I know it sounds rough, but being a good shepherd means being prepared to put a cap in a wolf that is trying to harm a lamb. I have never had a situation as a civilian where I was put in a situation to even pull out a weapon on someone else, but I am more than happy to do so if anyone came looking to mess with the kids or my family.

I do think 99% of the time you can take common sense precautions to keep the boogey man at bay.

  1. Always carry a cell. Even if you have no service in some areas if you dial 911 you can be routed thru another cell tower. Always grant permission for others to see your GPS location on your cell. So if something does happen or the call is dropped the good guys can find you.
  2. Pepper spray works awesome. MUCH more effective than CS or mace.
  3. Light up the perimeter of your house.
  4. Lock down the house before going to sleep.
  5. At the first sign of “Feeling” like something may not be right put yourself on guard. If the doorbell is ringing at 3 am, I don’t answer it unless I got my shoes on, skivvies pulled up and my tire thumper in hand. Whoever is there had better be real certain they need to be there at that moment. 
  6. Emergency numbers always at hand- programmed into the cell.
  7. I keep a big Mag light close by the door in my quarters. If power goes out or if I need to run out in the middle of the night, it’s an easy grab.
  8. Question anyone you even suspect has no business being on campus. Kids, adults- it’s all the same. If they aint local they need to be escorted by staff or under supervision of someone while on campus.
  9. Keep all underbrush and bushes trimmed around the house so you can see through them if need be.
  10. Keep all vehicles locked with windows up.
  11. Put together an emergency house plan and practice it. If the kids hear a code word they know to run to their rooms and lock the doors or keep them closed.
  12. Get a house alarm system. (I guess if your facility is to poor to afford it you could try the cans on a string across the door way trick).
  13. 11. Lift weights and watch at least one season of the Sopranos.

Any kind of campus-wide alert system you know of?

Here we have speakers mounted in all of the cottages connected to an internal phone system. The primary purpose is for tornado and weather warnings but anything else happening can be easily transmitted over the system. The director can give warnings all over campus at the same time. Similar to a school PA system.

Any Singles?

Are there any other single people on this board? How do you deal with trying to have a personal life? I find that I am so busy with work that I’m never going to meet anyone. I’m only 25 but am not an extroverted person. I am totally waiting on God but most days’ that is hard. I’m just wondering how others deal with this… if you do. I desire to be a primary houseparent at sometime in life but don’t see that happening if I’m single forever. As much as I like being a relief I feel like I am gifted for so much more. I’m not sure how that last statement came across but I just know I am gifted to run a home. Those of you that pray… pray that I would faithfully wait on God! I really appreciate it.

I’m not single but I can relate to where your at. I worked as a single in Maryland and there were many times I felt like I would never meet someone as insane as myself to live and work in this kind of ministry.

I met my wife there shortly after she was hired. She worked the morning shift and I worked the evening/ overnight shift. We started out by me waking up in the morning and having coffee before I left to go home. Pretty soon I found myself sitting there drinking coffee for about four hours every day.

Eventually she was put on the evening shift with me. She thought we were just friends, I thought I was smooth. Every weekend I took her and the kids to the movies just so I had an excuse to sit with her in the theatre. All of our dates were with 8 kids and a beat up 15 passenger van.

Eventually Amy figured out what a righteous dude I was and we got engaged. Even then the kids were part of it. I and another staff member restrained a kid while the other kids ran inside the house yelling for Amy to come help. As she ran up to us, the kid we were restraining spit the ring out at her. I guess you had to be there to get the effect.

We got married while on duty, the kids were in charge of decorating the church which they did with black and purple balloons and streamers. We even spent our honey moon night on the second floor of the boy’s house. (I did take her for a proper honey moon to the mountains three days later).

My point is if God can match someone as ugly and crazy as me up with someone as classy and decent as my wife, there is hope for everyone. I remember praying for someone to share my life with; I actually thought there was no one in their right mind that would even consider doing this ministry as a husband and wife (This was before I discovered the HP Network). At one point I resigned myself to living as a monk in the mountains of Western Maryland and living with dysfunctional teens at our vegetarian facility (These were my hippy years).

God bless you. I know it’s a lonely time, but it sounds like you have a real heart for this ministry and we will pray God brings someone that is just as out of their flipping mind as you that can live this kind of life.
If you ever get real desperate, I got this buddy of mine we all call “Groundhog”. He aint real pretty but he has a pleasant demeanor…….when he’s sober  (I’m just teasing, he won’t be out on parole for at least another six years).

Levels of Children in Care


We work in a level I basic care facility and we are getting children in that are ADD, ODD, PYRO’S just to name a few of the lesser problems some of these kids have, is this normal for a level I facility


It is normal to a point. It depends on their behavior. And their mental capabilities


Love4allkids is correct it is common to have this type in basic care, If their behavior gets out of hand consult with your intake counselor or the case worker for assistance but it is usually not anything to be alarm over.

Pyro’s are not normally level 1 in my experiences.


Where are you guys at that you have this leveling system? I am not familiar with it.

Texas is the only state in which it has a level system. All others do not. Level 1-3 is basic. It goes up to level 6 in Texas.


Texas is the only state in which it has a level system. All others do not. Level 1-3 is basic. It goes up to level 6 in Texas.

We work with “Level 12” kids in California and are aware of a Level system that goes through 14. We’ve toured other facilities geared through Level 6 as well so it seems there is a “Level System” alive and well in California.

As a matter of fact it seems that agencies work to get their ratings increased to be able to take in higher level kids as State reimbursements seem tied to the levels as well.

We are in N.C. and only go to level 4. We work in a level 1 facility and on occasion get kids in that are higher level worthy but don’t know until they’ve been in placement a few months. I would defiantly take my concerns to my Director. I have in fact on several occasions.


Until kids have been in placement a while the “system” typically does not react and adjust to their behaviors.

You need to always remember that the children have rights as well and that often times their rights and attorneys working to protect them and keep them out of more restrictive placements outweigh the sensibility of what a caregiver or case worker sees.

Until children have built a healthy size package of documentation supporting their “issues” they will be in basic care facilities or foster care. As more evidence is gathered and more visits to MH facilities adds to the documentation in their packages for the court to act on then they will move deeper into the system towards the level of facility best suited for providing their care.

We recently had a 13yo SED Fire Starter that had started a fire in a school bathroom, assaulted 2 teachers sending one to a hospital and when arrested the Police stated he was the most uncontrollable youth they ever dealt with.

He should have been in a Psychiatric Hospital or a Level 14 Lock Down Facility with on duty psychiatric care and the ability to restrain him but was placed in a Residential Group Home in the community because the behaviors manifesting were too new and lacked the psychiatric evaluation.

After finding him strangling another kid and then threatening to “burn him in his bed while he sleeps” I was able to have him detained. We took a half dozen packs of matches off him that day.

After 6 hours in juvenile hall he was released to DCFS and replaced in another facility with no history of his prior actions given to them.

It will probably take another year of these kinds of issues before he lands in a place suited to care for him.

All you can do is document as much of his negative behavior and get the information to the people that handle those things for your agency.

No Contact Periods


Has anybody worked at a home that had a policy of not allowing contact with home/parents for a period following admission of a new child?
What was the typical length of the no-contact period? Several months?

How did it work out overall?

Every home we worked and most every Agency we talked to has a policy like this.

I would say that an average would be that for the first 30 days, while a child is settling in to her new surroundings and establishing a level of trust with the new houseparents and building relationships with her peers, being enrolled in school, learning the new program she needs to learn etc, that minimal or no contact or distractions are a necessary thing.

Many programs actually violate a child’s rights however in enforcing a period like this.

Families fight it. Kids fight it.

But overall I think it works well for the purpose intended. There is no time harder on a child than the hours after a phone call or the day or two after a visit when in placement.

I think we all work hardest putting them back together and on track after those events and need a period of time to establish ourselves in our new role to them.

Writing should be allowed and encouraged from day one.

Anything MORE than 30 days in my opinion would be unwarranted and cruel in considering the programs needs.

There are some situations however where courts and caseworkers might deem longer periods of seclusion in the child’s best interest.

The first home we worked in was a group home that cared mostly for adjudicated youth and Children in need of Supervision (also called incorrigibles in some states) in Wyoming. They did not have any policies prohibiting visits from family and many times we would have several family visits the first week the child was there. The only time visits were not allowed was when the social worker or court prohibited them.

Since then we have worked in private long term basic care (residential foster care) facilities that in many cases became the home of the children in our care. In almost every case there was a no contact period, usually 30 days. In many cases after the no contact period, visits with family occur on a fairly regular basis for about a year, before they begin to taper off, and eventually end. More than half our children will grow to adulthood as a resident of our home. In our case a no contact period works well for the children to allow them an opportunity to bond or at least get to know the others at the home and their role in their unique situation.

I totally agree with CaringCouple that the period after a visit is a very difficult time for the child. It is especially so in our case when children only see their family once or twice a year.


CaringCouple said in their reply to my initial question that

“Many programs actually violate a child’s rights however in enforcing a period like this.”

Can anybody point me to where these rights are enshrined in law? If I’m going to fall out with a a facility over it I need to be sure of my facts.

http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/socwork/nrcfcpp…foster_care.pdf has copies of several States individual “Bills of Rights”

http://www.cwla.org is a good resource as well

http://www.youthlaw.org is a good resource.

Almost every State has a version of something called a “Foster Child Bill of Rights”. I’m not sure if there is a state that does not.

A common premise in most of these is that a child has the right to unmonitored contact with Case Workers, Lawyers, Advocates, Parents and siblings UNLESS such contact is specifically ordered not to occur by a Judge.

Although we can make minor behavioral decisions that a child might lose phone or visitation privileges here in California a child can at almost any time assert his right to call mom, dad, his attorney or case worker and any attempt on our part to not accommodate the request can be. I’m aware of similar rules in Texas and Florida.

Very few judges seem willing to bar contact or uphold an Agencies decision to delay or not allow that contact to occur. In the hands of a “institutionalized” child it can make dealing with them a real pain in the keester.

http://www.youthlaw.org/downloads/constitu…onal_rights.pdf is a very interesting accounting of some recent issues that have received Supreme Court attention.

I think that some forget or others are simply never taught that our position as caregivers to distressed kids is to SERVE their needs and help them resolve their problems.

Asking for raise

My wife and I are Houseparents for a wonderful Christian Maternity Home and are asking our Director and Board for a salary increase, we would like some help in knowing what is reasonable. Thank You , in advance for your help.

The Child Welfare League of America has a book on Salary ranges for the social work field. I don’t know if direct care positions are covered or not but it is worth looking at.
Another helpful tool is the poll on this website. It tells you what others are making and what kind of insurance they are getting. Of course it is not scientific but it is still helpful.

Otherwise I would assume you ask for what you need to pay your bills, take care of yourselves and family and put enough aside for retirement. Good luck.


Thank You for the help, I will check out the sources you mentioned. No, we’re definitely NOT in this for the money; we left everything and everybody to follow GOD’S calling on our lives. Our executive director simply asked if I could give her some idea of what other organizations are offering. Thank You and GOD bless.

Teaching Family Model(TFA)


What’s your opinion about the Teaching Family Model? Do you think it works or not? It has been my experience that it does not work for all kids. It seems to me that the older, smarter kids it is less likely to work. Whereas, with the younger and lower functioning kids it does seem to work a little better. Overall though, I’m not a big fan of Teaching Family.
I’m open to other opinions though. Your thoughts are appreciated. Thanks.


I have never really worked this program so cannot give an educated opinion sorry.


We were exposed to it briefly and read a bit about it.

I can’t envision ANY model working with ALL kids but we thought it would make it more difficult to create any “family” type atmosphere and always stand in the way of forming meaningful relationships with the youth in our care.

We spent almost 2 years in a totally “Hand Off Facility with very high risk youth and were trained in “Life Space Crisis Intervention” . The home was run with Points and Level System as well as a lot of common sense. Meaningful rewards were put in place for kids that set and achieved goals.

We seemed to have some success with what we were taught.


I agree, the Teaching Family Model does NOT work. Recently I was working with an agency that used the Teaching Family Model (TFA) and we could not even get through training because the phone to the area supervisor kept ringing, the CEO couldn’t even concentrate on training because of numerous phone calls of PROBLEMS in all the homes under the agency. In my opinion, the TFA is too robotic, and it seems to elevate the kids rights over the authority. It awards back points for “good behavior”, and overrides consequences that should be given for bad behavior. That’s my opinion and IM STICKING TO IT!

Forum Archive

Looking for a good situation, Do any facilities accept pets?


My husband and I are relief HPs at a wonderful school in Pa. Our home has 11 middle school boys and we have just loved working here with them.

We are considering becoming full-time houseparents, but our school has a no-pets (no exceptions) rule. We have three cats. Two of them we could find homes for, but our eldest cat is 14 and it would feel like we are giving up a child if we had to part with him.

Does anyone know of a facility that would either allow a pet, or have a situation where he could become a “barn cat” ?

We’d hate to have to wait until he passes on to pursue this.


The facility that I work at (Palmer Home for Children) has a very liberal pet policy.

Other facilities that I know have recently allowed outside pets: Tennessee Baptist Homes, Boys & Girls Country in Houston, though I don’t know if they still allow them.

More and more facilities are not allowing pets, mostly because of irresponsible former staff.


The facility that my wife and I work at allows pets. However, we did sell our horses due to the fact that they had a policy of no unspayed mares. It is such a good facility. Probably one of the largest in the country. We love it here.