Christmas Traditions

One thing I have noticed about many of the children we have worked with is that they don’t have many traditions, especially during Christmas and the holiday season. It is important to have roots and traditions and I believe that is one of the more important things we can do for the children we care for.

We have always allowed the children to help decorate the house for Christmas. In fact, we have two Christmas Trees. One formal tree that we must have for Open House and a second tree we have in the family room that only the children decorate. They place all the decorations and where they place them is where they stay, even if there is a huge blank spot on the tree. We may offer suggestions on how to decorate it, but we allow them to do it their way. Funny thing about this tradition is that our home teenagers have enjoyed it much more than our birth children that are now teens. I wonder if they have so many traditions that tradition has less meaning to them.

My favorite tradition is on Christmas Eve:

  • We have a light supper, and then go to candlelight Church service.
  • Then we come home and watch a goofy Christmas movie and have eggnog milkshakes. Past movies have included: “Christmas Vacation”, “Elf”, “The Santa Clause”
  • Finally, before opening presents we load into the van and drive around town looking for the gaudiest Christmas display we can find to give our imaginary “Griswold Award” Usually by the end of the evening we have a winner and several runner up displays.

I would love to hear about what others have for traditions and what their children think of them.

Fishing Group Home Style Making my life easier


 Being that I originate far above the Mason Dixon Line in the heart of Yankee territory I have had to struggle a little with this whole Southern Bass fishing thing. For one, my roots (and heart) remain steadfastly a fly fisherman- dry flies at that. But I gave in and geared up for Bass fishing.

Problem is taking the kids fishing. Every one of us that has spent a day on the water with several kids knows you spend 98% of the time fixing lines and setting bait. I started getting real annoyed with the needle nose pliers in the front pocket and having to hunt down the tackle box for hooks. So, using some Yankee ingenuity I went out this time with my vest instead of the box.

Not exactly southern etiquette but it worked great. Best part is my vest is designed for fishing streams. everything is tied down and set on retractable cords. Which means I never wonder where I laid my knife down.

So here is my basic set up on my vest.

1. Forceps- Works way better than the old needle nose, especially on pan fish and Bass. They are worthless on Catfish though.

2. Mag Light.

3. Hooks- On the front of the vest is a fuzz patch you can stick various hooks on. You need a hook, rip it off, tie it on. No more trips to the box trying to find some between kids.

4. Worm box- Simple tin box that you can snap on. Works awesome with little kids if your the one baiting all the time.

5. Line snip/ Finger nail clipper.- Quick and easy to cut the line, less dramatic than the Bowie knife.

6. Snaps- quick hook replacement, especially if your fishing ones with leaders already attached.

7. Hat with spinners attached- Just makes people think you know what what your doing.

8. Knife- Along with everything else, TIED DOWN.

9. Sinkers- I use the ones that come in a red container with a spin top because the container is easy to tie down.

10. Leatherman tool- Works great for on the spot repairs for the reel or hooks.

Non- Vest Items

Any kid I take out that I have to do most of the work with gets a closed faced reel- no discussion. I know one HP that will only get open faced reels for his kids. I think he is either bored or clinically insane.

If I’m out to slaughter pan fish, I carry brass salmon egg hooks in a old plastic snuff can.


I think I will take my kids to captain D’s lol, I probably would fall out the boat if I was in one trying to fish or lose my bait ever time I cast the line out .


I like the whole fishing vest Idea. Seems like something I would have thought up, were I not a hater of fly fishing. Just never got it. I don’t understand how you can catch fish with your line stuck in a tree all the time.

I can’t say that I am a master of southern bass fishing either. In fact my boat is currently for sale, so I won’t be tempted to torture myself again.

I have decided to stick with cane-pole fishing with the kids on the private ponds that people invite us to or the seafood department at the local Kroger Supermarket.

Maybe someday I will be able to go home (permanently) and fish for Walleye and Northern Pike again. That I know how to do.


Now there’s an idea! I haven’t thought of using a cane pole in years. I need to invest in some for next week, the kids will probably have more fun with that than the Zebco reels.

As for the Pike, I have always wanted to catch one, but every time I was someplace to fish for them I never got a bite

A Trip to the Store!

Today we made a trip to that really big nationwide discount department store. That normally would be no big deal and is something that houseparents all over the country do on a regular basis; however we decided to take all the children with us while we did our shopping. The children in our cottage range in age from 4 to 11 so you can only imagine what it was like with their whole focus on trying to get us to buy stuff they wanted and visit the departments they find most enjoyable.

Thinking back to my early days of houseparenting is wasn’t any more fun to do the trip with teenagers. I remember walking into the store with our kids and the first words you hear over the PA system is something like, “All departments on zone defense” which meant, “Here come the group home kids, make sure they don’t shoplift.” The easy thing to do would be to just leave the kids at home with your spouse and avoid all the hassles of taking them to a public place. That is the choice we usually make, but I have to ask, “If you never take your kids out into public, how will they ever learn how to behave in public?”

Our kids weren’t perfect but they are one step closer to knowing that you can go to the store without getting everything you ask for, that you are expected to behave in public places, and that things don’t just come from the kitchen or supply room. In a few weeks we will recover from this trip and do it again so that they can learn even more.

We should all remember that the easiest way of doing things isn’t always the best way, especially when it deprives the children in our care an opportunity to learn.


That is awesome advice! The easy way is not always the best way.

Here is a little praise report about the whole grocery shopping with kids thing…

We have six teenage girls in our home. My husband and I do all the shopping for the facility we work at (there are only two bunkhouses to shop for right now though). We usually shop during the school day. Well, since school has been out, we have been taking the girls shopping with us every week.

The first week – nightmare!! Two girls got into a LOUD argument with each other, one girl was lost for a while, two girls run down the aisles screaming “mommy, daddy”, and one girl is found laying on her stomach on the ground trying to find spare change under the coke machines!!!! My husband was mortified – vowed to never step foot into Walmart with this group of Neanderthals again.

Well, he did not stick to his promise and we returned the next week. We wore bags over our heads so that we could not be recognized – but things went much better this go round.

In the following weeks, we began to divide the shopping list. Each girl is assigned a shopping partner, and they are given a portion of the list. The girls go and get the assigned items, and then we meet back at the front. I check their carts and we check out. Throughout the experience, we all communicate with walkie talkies.

I now love to shop with the girls. They make things sooo much easier on us. Sometimes, my husband and I will even sit in the snack bar for a “Walmart date” while the girls do the shopping! I am sad that school has started and we will have to go back to shopping without them.

Moral of the story – don’t take the easy way out with your kids. Put in the time and effort up front, then sit back and reap the rewards!!

Face Plant Why playing tag in a Cow pasture is not a good idea.


I took the boy’s camping Saturday night at the Lake on campus. At 10pm the boys wanted to play tag around the campsite, good idea I thought. About five minutes into it one of the boys tripped and landed face first into one of the biggest cow patties I have laid eyes on (No pun intended).

The kid hosed off his face before I was able to stop laughing and get the camera. I guess you had to be there….

Capatalisim in Action I got hustled by a 7 year old


 The local fly population in our cottage finally hit an all time high so I decided to declare a bounty on each flies head. .5 cents per dead fly. I figured a day, max, I would have no flies left in the house after a bunch of money grubbing elementary kids were set lose to collect their bounty.

Our house is not that bad, so after paying a dollar to each kid (20 flies X 7 kids) I knew I was being hustled. Just behind our cottage is the dairy farm for our campus. One of the kids would distract my wife and I (not a hard job) and one of the other kids would run to the back door and open it. I found out later they were taking a bowl of leftovers from the fridge and setting it by the door to draw some more in.

I have to admit I was impressed by the teamwork and fore thought they put into the plan.



That’s pretty good… we have one boy we have to watch like a hawk because he will “Tom Sawyer” the younger boys into doing his chores or giving him toys, etc. For instance, one morning I made cinnamon rolls for breakfast, and I had left the dining room to get one of the toddlers up. I come back in and viola! He has multiple rolls on his plate. At my raised eyebrows, his protest was that “they gave them to me, honest”. The payment? One matchbox car per cinnamon roll…. of course the four and five year-old’s jumped at that!

Four Wheeling


I remember taking a load of our kids and my 9 year old boy for a ride on the ranch in a pickup truck and they were hounding me to go four wheeling up over a steep hill. Truth be told, I had never done that before and was scared nearly to death…AND I had to remember I had kids in the back of this pickup truck. I slowly crept up the side of the MOUNTAIN, er, hill and over the top we went and down the other side bouncing all over the place and I hear them yell, stop, stop, stop! So, I did what I knew to do, and stopped. Afraid to look in the back, there they were, all discombobulated and piled up in the back LAUGHING their behinds off, satisfied.

 Was it a smart thing to do? Probably not. Could they have gotten seriously hurt? Probably so. I grew a lot that day, thanks to those boys

Sunday Cottage Routine


Today is Sunday and it’s been a good day. God is good. I got to wondering what routines other places have on Sundays. I’ll describe ours first:

I get up early and have a little quiet time then some more casual reading. After about an hour one of our 8 boys usually gets up and comes into the living room for some early morning chatter. Around 8:00 my wife gets up and we begin breakfast. At 8:30 I wake the rest of the boys up for breakfast and we then get ready for Sunday School which begins at 9:45. Afterwards, we meet up with the boys in the church sanctuary in a pre-selected area and sit together for the worship service.

After lunch at the cottage the boys go their separate ways in various groups for touch football outside, bike riding, or even naps. All in all they are a good group of guys.  At 5:30 I call them in to get cleaned up for our on-campus chapel service from 5:00 to 6:00. After chapel, we walk back to the cottage for dinner and evening chores. They then might watch a little TV if their grades allow it, or a few of them may get together for board games or cards. In-Room time/showers and lights-out begin at 8:30pm for the youngest and all are finally down and out by 10:00pm.

Yes – I left out the occasional wrestling match that got out of hand, the kid that got upset because he thought something at football was unfair, the kid that had to be rounded up for chores, etc. But that’s all normal stuff. My wife and I are able to enjoy our evening together after all is quiet. We work as Relief Houseparents so when we move to other cottages the kids aren’t always this compliant, but the routine is basically the same. -TexPop



Our Sunday routine is this:

I wake up at 7:00 AM – shower and start breakfast.

My wife wakes up at 7:40 – showers and wakes up children

We eat breakfast around 8:00 am and leave for Sunday School at 9:00 am

Return from Church at about Noon.

We will either eat Lunch in the Dining Hall at 12:30 if they are serving or I will serve something that has been cooking in the oven or crock pot while we were at Church.

The afternoon is pretty much spent with the children playing or watching the NASCAR race with me, except during the months of December and January, when we watch football.

My wife and the older kids leave for Kids Church and Youth Group at about 5:15 pm and I stay with the preschooler’s. They eat at Church so I only have to feed the little ones.

She returns at about 7:15 and everyone gets ready for bed with the little ones in bed by 8:00. The rest of us watch TV (Cold Case, Sunday Night Football, etc.) or work on next week’s Sunday School lessons. Both my wife and I teach Sunday School. All are in bed by 10:00 and then my wife and I get about 30 minutes of alone time, before we go to sleep.

That’s about it.



I assume you have a house of boys? What are the age ranges?



We actually have a co-ed cottage with 7 home children. The youngest is 4 and the oldest is 11. We also have a birth daughter that is 13 and a birth son that is 16.

I can’t wait until the home children get older, I have had enough little kids to last a lifetime.



I realized there are people reading these posts that are interested in becoming houseparents and might be interested in what to expect in a typical day. I would have loved to have known these little things before I started.

My wife and I are about to take over a cottage of little boys – eight of them from 5yrs to 11. We’re excited about the change from the High Schoolers we’ve had for the last 8 months. I know it’ll be more physically demanding, but we’re ready to be out of the older girl’s constant “drama” for a while 



Y’alls Sunday routine comes close to what the houseparents we met said. We got to meet and interact with several homes when we interviewed. We are looking at a job with 6 boys age 10-18. Could anyone give me the – and + of this group? We’ve felt called to boys so it seemed right. We were very impressed with the atmosphere of the homes. The kids were typically naughty but not downright aggressive or threatening. We are told the boys we would have are basic care. In tx that means the kids can’t have had trouble with the law, right? Thanks for this post, it was enlightening.



Our routine is really laid back on Sundays. Our church is only about 5 minutes away so we get to sleep in until 9am. Breakfast at 9:20 and Sunday school at 10am.

We usually start the Crock pot the night before so lunch is ready when we come back from church.

Most Sundays we go for a hike or fish for a few hours at a lake on campus. Then we head back to church at 6:00pm.

We are watching CSI by 8pm. Bed at 9.

Normally the kids with no privs will set at the table and read on Sundays while the rest of the group goes and has fun.

How much work do you do with your Church??


We work at a residential foster care facility and attend a fairly small church (less than 100 members). We help out with children’s ministries because the children from our facility make up 90% of all the children in the church.

Today we were supposed to attend a big meeting at the church for a new children’s ministry the church is starting this fall, but we had a conflicting engagement that we had to attend as a PR event with the home. When I tried to explain that to the pastor, I am not sure he truly understood that what we do with the children and with the facility comes first. He talks a lot about people being involved in ministry, but I am not sure he fully considers what we do ministry.

I think I am going to have to have a meeting with him, and try to explain it better.

Anyway the point of all this rambling is to ask. How much do y’all get involved with your Churches? & Do you find it difficult to balance what your local church expects from you with what you are required to do



The local church we attend, both as a cottage and belong to personally, has financially supported our facility for years. The pastors have been invited to speak to our H/Ps during chapel many times and have visited our cottages. This interaction has built a good understanding of what we do here. The ministries of our church that we are involved in understand when we have a conflict due to our responsibilities with our kids.

I think I understand the situation you described. I would advise inviting your church leadership to come spend an evening with you and your kids.




Since we have chapel on the campus we can’t really get too involved in our own church. Sometimes we do take the boys to our own church but then they still have to go to chapel.



The church we attend off campus has no clue as to what we do. My wife and I get borderline harassment calls about playing music for service and every church project/ open position/ committee. They are in awe when we say no way- our schedule is way to packed and busy to take on any new projects. I don’t even feel guilty anymore.

The problem is most do not consider what we do as “Real Ministry”. They just have no clue. They see us as full time baby-sitters.

I’m not sure that perception can be easily solved. To really understand the lifestyle you have to live it. An outsider looking in just can’t possibly relate. Kinda like when I loaded the Uhaul for the first facility and thought I would save the world. 

Anyway- My perception of this ministry has definitely changed, for the better- not worse. After a year or two any misconceptions or fairy tales about being an HP fade away. I definitely believe this is the greatest ministry on earth. My pastor just can’t relate.

On the flip side, my father in law was a pastor for twenty some odd years. He retired and became an HP to lead a less stressful life . After a year he is now going back into the pastorate after living the HP life. He has whole new appreciation for what we do.



My husband is a pastor & we are full time houseparents to 6 boys & we have 1 boy & 1 girl of our own. We love doing both but sometimes I don’t think people understand how much we have to do & they don’t understand when we say no to invitations to go out between services. We are exhausted alot on Sundays & want to relax. When I was asked to teach AWANA, I had NO problems saying NO. (I hope God doesn’t want me to though because then I would have to.) I don’t think people understand what is normal according to the boys & that a fist hitting a wall is something that just sometimes happens. You deal with it & just keep loving them. Also, after taking 10 people out on Sat. the money for eating out is tight.

Summer Vacations


Here we are once again, time for long drives, and exotic locations.

This summer we are heading back down to Folly beach, SC, camping for a week in the mountains and probably a couple of Zoo trips.



How’s this……north Georgia Mountains:

location’s a secret….but I’ll tell you. Meet us there. It’s cool up there…..way up there….it takes an hour to get up the mountain on winding dirt roads. Warning….it’s primative. We use tents.


Pocono Mountains Resort for us and our girls this summer.



We are renting cabins for a couple of nights at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville Alabama. Campfires, Smores, & hot-dogs in the evenings. A day at the Space and Rocket Center and a day at Cathedral Caverns State Park

We will also do a couple of day trips to water parks, plus all the kids will get to go to at least one camp.

We will be taking personal vacation back to Montana for two weeks in July to visit my wife’s family and will make stops at the Mall of America in Minneapolis on the way there and a NASCAR Speed Park in St Louis on the way back. We went to Utah and California two years ago to visit my family.



That sounds like a great vacation for the Kids, webmaster!!!!! I’ll meet you guys at the Huntsville skatepark….bring your skateboards…LOL!!! By the way….don’t’ know if there is enough at the caverns to entertain the kids a whole day….but lake Guntersville is just 20 minutes away… can swim there. It is beautiful. As you enter the town of Guntersville on HWY 431 there is an information center on the right. By the way….there is an I-Max theatre at the Space and Rocket Center, and Spiderman is showing.



I would bring my board but I’m tired of people laughing at it. It’s short and narrow with fat wheels. It was really cool back in the 70’s and I could even do a 360 on it.

Thanks for the info we will probably do the caverns on our last day and make the 4.5 hour drive home afterwards. I should probably know this from previous posts, but are you from the area?



We’ve finally decided to take our little boys to North Padre Island off of Corpus Christi for our summer trip. We’ll be going the end of this month before it gets too hot.

I’ll let you know how it goes!




This weekend we are flying with my cousin in his small aircraft to Grayton Beach, FL. I am not one for carnival rides…..please pray!!!!


We’re on vacation now and not too pleased with the resort we’re at. We’re making due but are ready to go home. We will NOT recommend this place to anyone, that’s for sure.



Sorry to hear you ended up with a bad vacation. Give us a review of the place so we know where not to go!!!

Enjoy the sunburn  !!!

Finally starting a home-questions on younger kids

Well, the day has finally come. We are beginning visits with a boy that may become our first kid. We’ve been doing relief while waiting for our house to be finished and now its finally done. We were trained for teenagers and cut our teeth on them too. Now it looks like we will be starting our home with a 5 year old. Although I’m used to little kids, its different when you are hping them. Any advice?

What do you do when a 5 year old tantrums in the store? I assume you take them to the car until they either calm down or you have to leave but what if they are flailing uncontrollably? Its just so different with teens. The worst thing our girls ever did was beg for favorite food! I know I got spoiled doing relief for our relatively stable girls (although it didn’t feel like I was being spoiled at the time) 

What about attachment issues? My little goddaughter started calling me mommy when I kept her for very long so this worries me a little.

Does your facility run TCI, CPI, TFM or another program?

Are there any written guidelines in regard the children’s consequences/ behaviors?

I know a lot of others here will disagree with me, but as far as attachment goes- It’s a good thing. If they want to call you mom and the facility does not mind- I say go for it. Sometimes they need that. The attachment is what makes them feel like there is someone that loves them.

As for tantrums in public places? Get ready for it. I’ve had more dirty looks at the mall from people who thought I should be spanking my six year old who is cursing while I’m leading him out to the van for a time out than I care to think about.

A good program, clear and well established boundaries and lots of patience will help when dealing with the younger kids. Actually I’ve worked mostly with teens, but now that I’m in a elementary cottage I enjoy them more. It’s more work, but it seems like we have more genuine moments with them. I also don’t have to worry about them running an underground tobacco smuggling operation. 

What do you do when a 5 year old tantrums in the store? I assume you take them to the car until they either calm down or you have to leave but what if they are flailing uncontrollably? Its just so different with teens. The worst thing our girls ever did was beg for favorite food! I know I got spoiled doing relief for our relatively stable girls (although it didn’t feel like I was being spoiled at the time)

You are correct about going to the car. Lead them out by the hand if they will let you or pick them up and carry them out. If they are too big to carry and have tantrum issues you don’t take them to the store until you have had sufficient time to work with them in other situations to reduce or hopefully alleviate their tantrums. Make sure that as you lead them or carry them from the store that you don’t strike them, shake them or grab them in a way that can appear abusive (hair, ears, collars, etc.) and remain calm.

What about attachment issues? My little goddaughter started calling me mommy when I kept her for very long so this worries me a little.

The children I work with are very long term kids that could spend their entire childhood with us. Some of them call us mom and dad and we may be the only mom or dad they ever know. We do however have many discussions with them about birth mom & dad and foster mom & dad; that we are here to care for them and love them because their birth parents are not able to.

Our facility allows us and the children to do this, but I know of several facilities that don’t allow the children to call you mom and dad. When we were foster parents, our state regulations prohibited the children calling us mom and dad. You need to find out what your facility’s policy is and follow it. There are some ways to avoid the mom and dad name issue and still be personal. We have had older couples that had the children call them mamaw and papaw. We have a housemom that goes by Aunt Becky. I have known several housedads that go by pop or pops.

wow, ok. Thanks for the replies, that helps a lot. I was worried about picking them up but that makes the most sense. My director even said to let them tantrum on the floor but I was worried about them destroying things. I think I like the idea of waiting to take them to the store until we’ve spent time together and tested out other outings. We were going to start with an open area such as a park, then work slowly up to grocery stores and restaurants. You know, McDonalds before Lubys kind of a deal.

The first pre-placement visit went well. I’m really confused about the family situation. I can’t tell what is “wrong” with this kid. I’m sure there will be a brief honeymoon period but that doesn’t last as long with little kids as with teens right?

Launchpad, I think I really enjoy working with the little ones too. They are so honest. They just talk to you. Its very obvious what the sensitive issues are…they aren’t afraid to talk (if they are comfortable with you). This kid adored my husband. It was so funny because he wanted to be with both of us at the same time. If dh wandered off to do something, it only took a few minutes before he asked where dh was. I can tell that if we take him, he is going to break my heart. Since we have been doing relief, I’ve been able to keep the relationship on a relational but definitely more of an aunt and uncle level. A little one living with us all the time will definitely change that.

Change of topic- what do y’all think about taking elementary age kids off of meds for add/adhd for the summer? I’ve heard theories that since they don’t have to do schoolwork in summer, they should be off of them.

We almost always take our kids off of ADD medications during the summer, with Doctor’s permission of course. They don’t need to concentrate as much, and hyperness doesn’t bother us that much. School starts in 4 weeks and we have a child that is trying meds for the first time. He is the most hyper child I have ever met, it will interesting to see how they work. We got the Rx today and will start him right away to see how the meds affect him. The first day of school is not the time to try new meds if you don’t have to; there are too many things that can go wrong. 

The first pre-placement visit went well. I’m really confused about the family situation. I can’t tell what is “wrong” with this kid…….. I can tell that if we take him, he is going to break my heart. Since we have been doing relief, I’ve been able to keep the relationship on a relational but definitely more of an aunt and uncle level. A little one living with us all the time will definitely change that.

My wife and I have a house of little boys, now 6yrs – 12yrs old. Prior to taking this cottage, we relieved in teen boy and girls cottages. We’ve found that most of the time what’s “wrong” with the little kids are that those caring for him are totally incapable of doing it (i.e. jail, drugs, health, etc.) These little guys just need love and structure. We’ve traded the self-sufficiency and “attitudes” of teenagers for the hugs and tears of little ones. Yes, it is more physical work – laundry, dressing, baths, cleaning – but they’ve got our hearts and it’s a pleasure and honor to be the ones who get to teach them all the basics of life.

The heartbreaks are different too. Like when they go on “Home visit” and come back to the cottage not understanding why they can’t be with their family and then cry themselves to sleep because they miss their mom. But, I’ve gotten to teach them how to ride bikes, tie their shoes, make their beds, catch a ball, and pray to God. HOW COOL IS THAT?!!

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

Coping Mechanisms What do you use?

I just finished reading a post by bakergirl and she mentioned the issue of coping mechanism.

This is a stressful job, no matter how you spin it. We all have to do something to blow off steam. So here is my list.

  • I shoot stuff. Seriously. I have a shooting range close by and I love spending $15 bucks on a box of rounds and pump them into the hillside. It sounds psycho in this day and age but hey, it’s reaffirming in a manly way.
  • Fishing- The closest trout is probably 200 miles of here, but I am starting to develop a fondness for Bass and Catfish. But just to make it clear to everyone, especially the webmaster, I still feel trout are a far superior species. 
  • Eating- I’m not proud of this one, but I’m listing all the coping mechanisms, even the vices. I figure this coping skill has probably added about 60 pounds to my physique. This is one area I would love to change.
  • Music- I play guitar and write songs. I will be playing in Columbia, SC Starting in June. My acoustic tribute to Motley Crue is killer. (Kidding). This is probably the one outlet I have that keeps me sane. I live out the rock star fantasy in a coffee house, make no money at it whatsoever and wish I could play as good as the people before and after me. If your waiting for the CD, Don’t hold your breath.

That about does it. Now that I look back at the list it makes me realize I need to get off my rump and climb a mountain or something.

Your turn……….

I have thought about it and besides the obvious prayer and meditation I enjoy:

NASCAR- Watching Races, reading websites, talking to others about it, and listening to my Sirius radio about it. 

Working on and learning about websites (Mine and the one I do for the Home I work at) I am down to just the two so it is much more therapeutic to work on them. I don’t feel as pressured. I’m not real great at all the super technical stuff with websites but I enjoy tinkering with them and writing stuff.

Working on my house, except installing tile flooring, I don’t think I will ever do that again. My knees ached for days after that.

Talking with, spending time with and doing other things with my wife. (This one should be closer to the top, but I thought I would save the best for last. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

I eat, but I am getting much better at resisting that one. I just wish I would have done it 70 pounds ago.

Right now I am working on VBS stuff for my Church. Making decorations and planning crafts and stuff have been a lot of fun.

That’s about it. 

Number 1 with a bullet has to be eating and I wish I could say it is all about salads and healthy foods but not even close.

Number 2 is non stop reading, I have several favorite fiction authors and I read any time I am sitting still.

Number 3 is sports, I have 2 NFL teams I follow, 2 NBA teams, and 2 or 3 college teams that I follow and I mean checking on daily internet sports spots info and rumor for any and all of the teams I follow. 

Number 4 right now is planning a 3 week vacation that is coming up here in about 3 weeks that we will be driving up north and seeing family and I have so over planed the route we are driving and picked out camping spots that we will stay at. I have redone it 2 or 3 times just for the fun of it. Little nutty huh. 

And of course Number 5 which in reality is number 1 is spending free time with my wife. Mothers day we will be at the beach with a pik nik lunch enjoying the South Florida sunshine. 

Here’s my list in no particular order (that would take too much thought and I might not like the result)

  • Landscaping around the cottage (If $Fines$ are used as a consequence, the money goes to cottage beautification)
  • Reading (I usually have at least 2 books going)
  • Shooting (at the range, of course)
  • Riding my Harley (’83 FLH Shovelhead/Dresser)
  • Going for a walk
  • Playing with my 3 month old son

I was real close to going the Harley route about a month ago. I decided with the baby almost due I would have a hard time spending the extra cash on a “Me” purchase. One of my buddies here just got a Softtail Classic. I have to admit I’m a little jealous.

I’m almost afraid if I got on bike I’d never be home, which would not go over real well with my wife while we are on respite. 

My coping mechanisms…

-camping (relaxing, peaceful, and I never run into anyone I know!)
-reading (Christian fiction suspense – Ted Dekker, Frank Peretti, etc.)
-shopping (not really a good coping mechanism when you are living on a houseparent’s budget!!)
-taking showers (this is the best escape when I am on duty – a fifteen minute break without hearing “Ms. Rachel” in that loud whiney voice – heavenly!)

webmaster – take a break man! half your coping mechanisms involve work! Working on your house, working on websites, and working on VBS – I got tired just reading your list of ways to relax! I guess that’s why you are the king of houseparents and not me!! 

I’m almost afraid if I got on bike I’d never be home, which would not go over real well with my wife while we are on respite.

I don’t get to ride it as much as I’d like – or as much as I used to. I’ve been riding street bikes since 1978 (wow! that’s a long time!) and I got my Harley from my dad who purchased it new in ’83. I’ve also got a big Honda that me and mama can more easily ride together. My 3 month old has really put a crimp in the riding opportunities, but I don’t regret that at all!

  • -Video Games (Some think I’m too old-bah on them)
  • -Driving my Crossfire (sometimes too fast I’ll admit)
  • -The internet
  • -Working out with my Bow Flex and Slam Man
  • -Reading (mostly the bible and theology books)

Wow, I thought I was the only one who ate for stress relief. DH and I have gained so much weight 
Here are mine, in no particular order

  • Eating out, especially when on duty (for lunch) or when just coming off duty (we finally had to create a budget just to control this)
  • Eating in general (do you think the agency would pay for a stomach stapling as a hazard of the job?)
  • Reading, anything, everything
  • Web surfing while listening to Dave Ramsey online
  • Shopping (rachel I had to stop once we went on a budget but it felt so freeing to be away from the kids for awhile)
  • watching tv after the kids are in bed (this is not a good habit as it makes me tired for the next day) particularly CSI
  • playing with/petting our cat

House parent rules and regulations…


We have recently opened a group home on our campus. Currently we have two house parents interested in moving into the home.
What are some of the rules and regulations regarding house parents and their behavior. Such as personal entertaining and outside interests?


We have been houseparents for 7 years. Every facility we have worked at has allowed guests and visitors. At our current facility we are in a unique situation because we work a 29 day shift and are a residential foster care facility Here you are allowed to have guests as long as they don’t interfere with your duties and they can’t stay longer than a week without administration approval. We are not allowed to have an outside job, but we can participate in outside activities like church and sports if it don’t interfere with our duties. We are allowed up to two small pets, but are responsible for any damage they may do and we must take them with us on relief, and provide all their shots. While the kids are in school, we are able to do whatever except on training days, lawn mowing days, or if we have a special assignment. If hope you find this helpful.


Our local Dept of Children and Families doesn’t allow guests to stay at the program unless they have all the same background checks as the employees. But staff can do what they want while the kids are at school including another job as long as it doesn’t interfere with their houseparent duties. So having another job is pretty unrealistic. Can have a small pet also.
As for off time you can do what you want but we are not a religious org.

Both Florida and California seem to have similair regulations.

No one that has not been screened by the State and DOJ are allowed contact with the children. Even after that individual CaseWrokers usually have to sign off on it as well.

That seems to be policy in most states I’ve looked into.

So visitors have to come by while everyone is gone to school.

The reality of that however for us has proven to be difficult to arrange.

6 Teenagers in placement for different reasons, many of which inclusde behavioral issues, tend to have days when they get suspended, expelled, have court, Dr appointments, Dentist appointments, Vision appointments, Therapy, etc, etc….. Then there is turnover and the time it gets to get all documentation to get them registered…… For us there have only been 6 days in the last year and a half when every kid that should have been in school WAS in school.

Every Agency told us the same thing but our experience proved to be different. The reality for us of time to ourselves while kids are in school is that it is very, very rare.

We balance it with my covering extra shifts while my wife works on her Masters but our program also has a higher staff to resident ration than many others.

The stability of your house and program will determine your freetime but if house parents are new to it then they should plan on devoting their first couple of years to learning their new job.

I was mistaken in thinking that parenting my own three through graduation and being a Grandparent gave me some special understanding of working with children.

Kids in placement are nothing like your own children.

Some State regulations do not allow pets. I believe when we looked at North Carolina and Virginia that was an issue for us.

Some programs don’t allow for it either.

But many do. We have a small dog that has been raised as a puppy in Group Homes that just loves the kids and they love her.

If you allow pets then definitely require and copy proof of all vacinations and annual checkups for the animal.

Outside jobs seem to be the norm for any and all relief staff and part time staff but House Parenting is a priority and they need to understand that residents needs will always supersede the needs of a part time employer.

Although you might be “off” technically, when one of your kids is in a crisis mode it’s the House Parent that is needed.

We had to try 3 programs before we found the right mix that would allow for outside pursuit of education. By that I mean the ability to attend classes in a regular and 3/4 or full time capacity.

Everyone SAID it would be no issue but the reality of the responsibilities never allowed for it.

A lot of common sense applies to “rules”…. Most of your rules will actually be dictated by licensing regulations for your state. Some suggestions we’ve encountered that SHOULD have been rules that we adopt ourselves are;

1) No consumption of alcohol within 12 hours of starting a shift. This includes even having a glass of wine with dinner.

2) Male House parents should never be alone in the house with female residents.

3) Kids are not responsible for caring for other kids. Do not expect the older kids to care for the younger ones. This will be the job of the Staff.

4) Staff should always do chores WITH the kids and not simply by direction. They should lead by example. Things are much more harmonious this way.

5) Food and Snacks: All meals, food and snacks should be prepared under the DIRECT SUPERVISION of staff if not directly by staff. No resident should be in the refrigerator or cupboards at anytime without staff in the kitchen with them directly supervising their activity. All meals and snacks are to be prepared and eaten as a group with staff sitting down at the table with the residents. This is a great time to discuss activities, plan the next few hours or just socialize. Unless your House Parents will have totally separate quarters or have specific medical needs they should always eat the same meals prepared for the kids. We have seen so much dissent in houses where the parents cooked themselves different food than that they were providing for the kids.

6) Every staff should always know where other working staff and every resident is and when they are expected to return if gone from the house. Staff leaving on an activity should communicate where they are going and when they are to be expected to return and keep the remaining staff informed of any changes in plans. IF both staff are leaving the house with the kids then the a manager or supervisor should be called and notified where they will be and when they will return. Either the Facility Manager or a staff in the house should at all times know where every resident is and when they are expected back.

7) Dress Code. Your Agency should have a dress code for the Staff as well as the kids. Especially for younger female staff. If you don’t spell it out up front it’s much harder to deal with later and your idea of proper attire will seldom be the same others share totally.

8) Personal Cell Phone Usage. There should be a policy banning usage of personal cell phones during work hours. Personal interests and business should be taken care of during hours outside of those being charged to your Agency.

Contests with Rewards


We’ve run some short term contests awarding something extra for clean rooms or doing extra chores… things outside the normal program point system.
Does anyone have any ideas/suggestions on competitive type events within houses/cottages that can be used to provide additional rewards?


The Coffee Can Program was something I developed at our first facility, it was a program we used to improve motivation in our behavioral program, and this is how it worked:
We had two cans, a large can and a small can. In each can were different coupons, for such things as 10 daily bonus points, a no chore day, extra 20 minute phone call to family, one-time one-hour later bedtime, choose your favorite meal (of course this was in reason-no steak and lobster) and the favorite was “winners choice” The winner’s choice coupon was like a wild card, it could be used as any coupon. You could easily adapt the coupons to your situation and program.

The youth with the highest average weekly score, would be able to draw, without looking, one coupon from that large can, which by the way, had the best coupons. The youth with the highest score for one day, would be able to draw a coupon from the small can. The youth were allowed to save their coupons: there were no expiration dates on the coupons, so they could use them when ever. 10 bonus points were pretty handy to have on a bad day, or an extra 20 minute phone call on a mother’s birthday, etc. However, the youth were not allowed to give their coupons to other youth; if you wanted a coupon you had to earn it. We wrote their names and dates won on the backs of the coupons, so we knew who they belonged to.

The kids in our house loved this program and it helped several kids, do better, and get the jump start they needed, to work their way through the program. However, before you start a similar program, check with your administrator. When we started ours, we had to change a few of the coupons, because the director, wouldn’t allow them. Checking with him first, saved me from having a big problem later.


We found a great way to show awareness of the home. We have used this at two facilities. We get all the kids together and take a tour, no comments from them, they are the visitors and benefactors looking at the way their donations have been used and are kept up. It really makes them think and I have found this to be a great motivator to instill pride in the home, looking through someone else’s eyes.

Helping the Children to Belong


First of all let me say I know that at some facilities the guidelines make this very difficult but do the best you can.

I have found that helping some of my kids feel a little more stable is with pictures and memories. A while back I got into scrapbooking and found that several of my kids also enjoy it. I happen to work with girls so they really get involved, however I did work with boys and although they did not want to make the book they did like to look at it from time to time. I will take little snap shots of things we do even just doing chores and put them in the book writing down sometimes what and who was going on. If there were times we couldn’t take pictures we have kept movie stubs, program, or newspaper articles. the kids look back at the ones that were there before them and know that when they leave they won’t be forgotten


This is such a great idea and when you are in the throes of houseparenting, sometimes the simple gets forgotten. During the summer, the kids are able to take a scrapbooking class which is a favorite of the staff and the girls. One of my boys took it last summer to get “closer” to his girl interest!

Doing the individual books is a great idea and pretty low in cost too. Some of these kids have no pictures at all of themselves so it is good to preserve these memories.


I forgot to add that a very cheap way i started with our girls was just a regular 3 ring binder and clear page covers


This has actually become a Required Item in the State of California for all programs that take placements from the State in any manner.

They call them “Life Books” and they have been written into Licensing Regulations in the last couple of years.

A Basic Life book provided to start the kids at our Agency consisted of a 3 ring binder, an assortment of about 6-8 sheets of different colors/patterns of paper and a head shot of the child that the Agency paid for.

It was a required activity for Staff to hold at least 1 group per month and allow for at least 1 hour in a week for the residents to spend time working on their Life Books.

Pictures, collections, writings etc were common.

So were some writings and drawings that, although “creative in nature”, were not allowed in any other manner.

Relief Parents


What do you think of relief parents?

What should a relief parent bring for the children the first day?
Kids music for the little ones? Games for the bigger ones?

Do kids of any age in a shelter participate in boy or girl scouts, school sports teams, church youth groups?


What do you think of relief parents?

I think they have an extremely difficult job. In most cases they have to try to carry out the wishes of the regular staff even at the expense of their own feelings. The youth are always trying to get over on them, especially in facilities were regular and relief staff don’t communicate well and they are always required to live in somebody Else’s house.

I very much respect relief staff and have no desire to be relief staff again (I was relief staff for almost a year). It just didn’t work for me, I have too many control issues. I have however known several people that prefer only to be relief staff. My first boss said that he preferred being relief because you weren’t responsible for all the regular appointments and stuff, you don’t have to be the heavy with the kids, and you get to do a lot of fun things with the kids.

What should a relief parent bring for the children the first day?
Kids music for the little ones? Games for the bigger ones?

I am not sure I would bring anything. I would try to find out from the regular staff as much as I could about the regular routine, try to stick as closely as possible to it, and use the first couple reliefs to really get to know the children. From there you can figure out things to do with them based upon their likes and dislikes. The best possible thing you can do as a new houseparent is observe and learn.

Do kids of any age in a shelter participate in boy or girl scouts, school sports teams, church youth groups?

I don’t know about the particular facility you will be employed with, but every facility I have ever worked at, the kids have been in outside activities. Even when I worked in a therapeutic group home, kids had jobs, where in choir, youth groups, etc.

Hope you find this helpful.


At our facility we do not have relief parents but work 7 days on and then 7 days off so both sets are the primary. We do have a “floater” couple who is usually the newbies but we seldom have full staff to use the “floaters” and they are put into their own cottage. I would find it difficult to be relief because you don’t have any space of your own. I suppose if you have no kids it would be easier but with us, we have our rooms full of kid stuff and when we go anywhere we end up bringing the whole house with us!

With the activities, I ditto what Michael said about the facility having control of that. With our kids, we need the states permission to get the kids involved as most of the activities need parental permission. Our kids are involved in some things but logistics tend to get a bit difficult. We have an awesome assistant who helps with that though.

I don’t think you will need to bring anything because they should have all of their own stuff there.