3 pieces of Technology I Can’t Live Without

I was driving one of my children to a specialist in Tupelo, a city about an hour from our facility and also the birth place of Elvis, and I realized I had three things with me I wouldn’t want to do without.

1. My Cell Phone: I remember being a houseparent when not everyone had cell phones. When we started as a houseparent only our administrator had a phone and he carried it around in a bag about the size of my current notebook computer. It was so discouraging in the old days to get back to the facility and find out there was not enough milk for breakfast the next morning and you had to turn around and drive 20 miles back to town to get some. Or to find out the kid you were supposed to pick up in 4 hours was already done and finished 5 minutes before you left town.

Our jobs became so much easier after we got our first cell phone. Needless to say, I was one of the first houseparents in the facility to get one. 10 years ago it saved us probably 400 miles a month worth of driving and today it saves us at least that much. I honestly can’t imagine being a houseparent today without one, especially considering how inexpensive they are and all the features they have now. I also figure there aren’t too many houseparents left that don’t have one.

2. My GPS Navigator: The price of the technology has finally come down enough to afford it, and as usual I am one of the first ones on campus to have one. Last month I bought a “Magellan Maestro 3100” on sale for $199 and I have to tell you it is one of the best electronic investments I have made.

A couple of days after I bought it, we had to take a group of kids to camp in North Carolina from our facility in Columbus, Mississippi. It directed me right through Atlanta and right up to the front gate of the camp in Hendersonville, NC. Afterward it directed us to our motel in a part of Greenville, SC that we had never been to, and back home with no incident. Today it directed me to the front door of that specialist, again with no problems.

The only downside I have at all with it, is that is looses some accuracy when you are out in the country. It was off by almost a mile in directing me to our church and a quarter mile to our house. Both are out on long country roads. I have found the more populated the area, the more accurate the navigator.

I will definitely dread driving to new places a whole lot less now that I have traded in my wife for a navigator that is much more accurate and doesn’t yell at me. I’m sure it will also help our relationship when we travel together, because we won’t be arguing over being lost or where my next turn is.

3. My Satellite Radio: Again I was the first on campus to have one and I can tell you I will never not have one again. It has been such a blessing to me with all the time I spend driving in the van. I am able to listen to my favorite music (without listening to commercials), or my other favorite pastime NASCAR radio.

The other great thing is when you travel you never have to change Cd’s or look for radio stations. When we traveled to North Carolina, we never had to change the station except to switch back to the NASCAR channel. It costs about $14 a month to have, but I would have spent that much on Cd’s each month anyway.

There you have it, three things I will always have with me when I am on the road, which I am a lot.


I love the satellite radio. It’s the only time I get to check up on news or talk radio.

If you have a cell phone but can’t afford the gps units check out TeleNav. A few cell carriers are offering it now for download. It gives audible and screen turn by turn directions. You can mark waypoints and even tell your current speed. It costs about $10. a month. I like it because I can always take it with me.

The only problem I have had with it has been in the city. A lot of times it will be off a block or two. Sometimes it will tell me a business is on the left side when it is actually on the right. Basically it gets me in the vicinity. I really wish I would have had a GPS when I was driving a truck .

As far as the old bag phones? I remember when they first came out- my step-father would drive to the top of the mountain to be able to use his. (Thanks for the memories webdaddy!)

Consequence for Cell Phone

Hi everyone! Was just wondering what a good consequence would be for an 18-year-old who snuck in a cell phone (cell phones are not allowed at our cottage). The biggest issue we have is that he lied to us about having one. I made him do a few extra chores but as far as a consequence for the lying, I feel there needs to be something more. What is you guys’s take on this?

Well, our level system is based kind of on a “trust” idea. The more we feel that we can trust you – the more privileges and freedoms you will have. Bringing in a cell phone and then lying to me about it is not showing me that I can trust you. It would be a pretty serious issue in my house. I know that in many homes this might not be that big of deal or that uncommon, but based on my boys and my home it would be. I would probably check their bag everyday when they got home before they went to their room. They would be restricted in the privileges they have at the house because in my mind I cannot trust this kid to do the things that they are supposed to. Until they can prove to me that they are not going to lie and they have rebuilt that trust – I’m pulling in the reigns.

Same here—same here! Our system is based on trust, too. We don’t have a point system or anything like that. We try to model a home as close as we can. This boy in particular hates to write and I was reading the book, “Boundaries with Kids” by Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend (good Christian book, by the way), and I was reading the chapter on internalizing. My husband and I decided to come up with a good consequence that fit the crime but couldn’t think of any until I had read that chapter. This young man does not internalize mistakes he makes. So, we decided to have him write us a letter (he hates writing, by the way–only loves computer work). So, it had to be written out. We posed three questions to him that needed to be answered by the end of the weekend. These are the three questions and feel free to use them for other things if anyone wants to. I feel this makes kids think internally instead of just externally all of the time:

  1. What did it mean to you to lie to us; did it benefit you in any way?
  2. How do you think it made us feel that you lied?
  3. How does this behavior hurt you?

And you know, he came up with some pretty good answers that also revealed a lot about himself to us through this. He was using the cell phone to call his mom because it’s long distance for all of these kids to call their moms, so we can’t have them call their parents, but their parents are more than welcome to call anytime here they want to talk to their kids. They are also encouraged to write letters. I feel bad about the rule of not being able to call their parents if it’s long distance, but then again, I get upset that the parents don’t call their kids on a regular basis, too. It’s very frustrating.

Group Home Scheduling for Teens


What is your group home schedule?
For Saturdays? Are the teens allowed to sleep in until noon or whenever they feel like getting up? Are the teens required to participate in activities such as going to the beach as a group? What if one doesn’t want to go? Are the teens allowed to keep their cell phones and use them whenever at night? What about computer time? Do they earn it? Are they allowed to spend hours on it? What about visitors? Do the teens school and neighborhood friends come and go to the house, even up to the bedrooms?

Say it’s Saturday and what do the teens get up to do? Wander around listlessly? What?


The boys in our cottage get up around 8:30 on Saturday and take showers and do their chores. We have brunch at 9:30. They have pretty much a free day during the day to play video games, skateboard, etc. around the cottage. We have dinner at 4:30 and then spend time preparing for church on Sunday. They kids do not have cell phones. Well, we have one boy that is in his 2nd semester as a senior in high school and he was able to get one, but because of behavior issues, it was taken away until he gets back on track. The kids can visit with school friends, but only after we meet the parents of the kid. Don’t know if this helps at all. Just what happens at the home we’re at.


nmmommy, thank you for providing a response to my question. There have been 9 views of this question and you were the only one gracious enough to reply. I hope in the future, others will provide input to questions put forth by houseparents who are reaching out to glean knowledge and wisdom in childcare.


It depends on the facility. When we worked B-mod the children were required to be up at a certain time and be at breakfast by either 8:00 or 9:00 AM depending on what we were doing that day. Most Saturdays we spent the morning doing chores and the afternoons doing something recreational whether it was going to the lake, swimming hole, fishing, B-ball at the park, etc. Occasionally we had extra money and could go to a movie, skating, bowling or something like that.

To answer your other questions: None of the children were allowed to have cell phones, walkie talkies, etc. Depending on your level you could use the computer, we had dial up access so they could only use the internet after supper and the weekends. We would usually limit it to about 30 minutes to an hour at a time to allow others to use it. Visits from friends had to be prearranged and they were never allowed in their rooms.

As far as house activities: If both my wife and I went everyone went. They were not required to participate in the activity but they had to go. If it was an activity they couldn’t sit out we usually just didn’t do it. Sometimes we would split and one would stay home with the non-participants the the non-participant was being difficult. If that was the case, it usually effected their score and level.

We now work Basic Residential Foster Care and things are very different. All our big kids graduated a couple years ago and we now have only younger children except for our 15 yr old Birth son. When we had them we allowed them to sleep till noon if they wanted to, however we usually eat brunch about 10 or 10:30 and only have a snack in the afternoon. If they miss brunch, they are responsible for any mess in the kitchen. If we had a cottage activity planned they had to participate or arrange to go to another cottage while we were gone or could arrange through administration to be gone that weekend (either to a family member or approved friend).

They are allowed to have cell phones if a family member or sponsor signs the contract or they can purchase pre-paid phones with their own money. The girls in our house were fairly responsible and we never had any problems with them, however kids in other cottages had them taken away and given back to the family or whoever for talking on them all night and other things.

In our cottage computer time is based on your age and how responsibly you use it. We use a program called Enuff PC. With it each child has their own log on and we can set time limits for each child. Our younger children are allowed 30 minutes, our teens could get up to 1.5 hours. Extra if needed for homework. Some cottages allow their teens to have over two hours, others only 30 minutes. We can also block access to the computer or internet using EnuffPC.

Our kids are allowed to have visitors and that is determined by the houseparent. We have never allowed opposite sexes in the rooms and have been known to ask guests to leave.

Hope this helps.

Computers, TV time and towels

I may have asked this question before and if so I apologize in advance.

What time are the computers and the TV’s turned off in your teen group homes?

I think they should be turned off at nine PM but hubby has a different opinion.

The junior high teens go to bed at 10 and the high schoolers go to bed at 11…that means lights out. It doesn’t mean showers, reading, choosing clothes for school, etc.

I think if the computers and TV’s are on up until their bedtime it only serves to distract them from preparing for bed and school the next day.

IMO, I wish admin would make a new policy that group home kids cannot use MySpace.

In addition, how do is the towel situation handled? You know that a teen will use two, three or four towels a day. Do you assign them a certain amount of towels a week?


In our house the TV is only on for a few hours in the evening. It goes off 10 minutes prior to bedtime. Teens are responsible to be in bed on time on their own, we will help remind Jr. High/Elementary kids. When we were in a B-mod house that meant in bed lights out. In our basic care house that means Jr. High/Elementary in bed lights out, High school in their room and quite. We don’t enforce an in bed rule on high scholars’ unless they have trouble getting up in the morning and then their bedtime is also lowered.

Our computers have timer software on them that prevents log ins after 9:00 PM and before 8:00 AM. This is in addition to time limitations the children already have. In our house it is anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how old and responsible you are. Extra time can be given for homework projects with an administrator password.

I am a firm believer in the concept of with responsibility comes privilege, with irresponsibility comes structure and guidance.

Many homes agree with you on MySpace and have blocked it, ours probably will when I get back. You have to realize however that when you plug one hole in a colander water comes out another one, and so it is with the internet.

Our rule is one towel a day, except for the rare exception. We have a chore for house laundry and every child that is old enough has a turn doing it. I don’t have a problem washing and folding towels so it don’t bother me, but I have only known a few kids that have enjoyed doing it, so they do a pretty good job of keeping towel use down. Most know that if they make a bunch of towels for somebody else to wash, they will surely to get a bunch when it is their turn.

I have also seen programs where the children are given a certain number of towels they were responsible for. When they got dirty they washed them, if they lost them they replaced them. In these programs all the towels were numbered/colored so you could not take somebody else’s and claim it as yours.


I am a firm believer in the concept of with responsibility comes privilege, with irresponsibility comes structure and guidance.


As long as my girls meet their responsibilities then I am very easy going. We keep our PC room open until chore time (10pm) and then only those who have everything else finished may do a little more on the PC’s after chores are done and then at that time it is ONLY school work.

I use as much as I can as an incentive for good behavior and responsibility. If our girls do their rooms, and chores good, get along with us and each other, act respectfully, and do well in school we are very easy going and very giving to them. When they make poor decisions, act disrespectfully, etc. we begin to structure that child more until they prove they no longer need that.


Computer time is limited based on their levels (we have a 0-5 level system). If they are on the correct level, they can have 30 minutes of computer time. Homework stuff is allowed on any level. Just got info over the weekend that myspace is being blocked on all campus computers.

TV time is limited too based on level. We have to approve whatever they watch. I’m more inclined to let them watch a sporting event (baseball, football, etc.) for a longer period of time that movies, etc. Just my personal opinion though.

We haven’t had a problem with towels so I can’t really address that one. Each boy does their own laundry including towels and bed sheets.

As long as my girls have earned use of the computer, bedtime is the cut off time–as long as they have finished their homework & chores.

TV has to be earned too. When the girls don’t have school, I limit the TV to 2 hours per day until 7pm. After 7pm, if they want to unwind in front of the TV, for me it’s no problem.

As for towels… each person has 2 towels. Each one has a different color.