If you were starting a new place from scratch….

Called2workwith youth

If you were starting a new facility tomorrow, what kind of policies, practices would you put into effect?

What kind of facilities (gym, pool) would you consider essential for a group home campus?

What administration “issues” would you like to avoid?

What things would you want to emphasize that are not emphasized now (i.e. nutrition)?

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Launchpad

Awesome topic-

I’d start by saying that if you are looking to start a home, make sure you either have people that are extremely committed to the project or you have a couple of million burning a hole in your pocket. I recently quit a project of trying to open a home with a local church. Everyone lost interest as soon as it was time to start getting down to work and making it happen (Fund raising, research, contacting local government resources, etc…) I feel like I wasted the biggest part of a year trying to get it off the ground for a church that was in “love” with the idea of having a children’s home on its property but not wanting to get their hands dirty.

Anyway- IF I were to open my own home, here’s how I would do it;

1. Every kid would have their own room. If I had lots of money, every kid would have their own bathroom in that room. (Cuts down on sexual issues, gives kids their own space).

2. A pool and gym are great to have, but not critical. Again if I were Daddy Warbucks, olympic size swimming pool and one of them olympic training style gyms with an ice rink. A concession stand that sold pretzels would also be nice.

3. Administration would be made up of a grizzeled bunch of veteran House Parents. Old and broken from years of abuse by other facilities and children. I would then turn them loose with my Gold Visa card and tell them to turn this place into a House Parent Utopia. The kinda place they always dreamed of being able to minister to children at. Anyone that applied for an administration position without first having been a House Parent would be laughed out of the building, possibly beaten.

4. Every Friday would be BBQ night. (My first facility was “Vegetarian”). Ironically this would also be the night I encourage my wife to go see a movie so I can eat all the fat, greasy hamburger I want to.

5. There would be a program. It would be a version of the Family Teaching Model, just not as anal. The program will emphasize family living in ALL aspects.

6. Instead of off duty housing or having a respite couple come into the house, I would have a respite house the kids would go to when the primary’s are on respite. Kinda like going to Aunts house for the kids. This is by far the most effective and peaceful respite transition I have ever seen.

7. I would have an Independence Living Program for kids that are transitioning between High School and College/ Tech School.

8. I would encourage the cottages to have pets. After all, they are kids living in “Family Style” setting, not a bubble.

9. I would have a private school on site.

10. The maintenance crew would be made up of former HP’s as well. Kids would help with all general maintenance, From wiring to drywall.

11. I WOULD HIRE A REC DIRECTOR that worked very hard on organizing activities and sports.

12. I would have a computer network technician. He would do his job, back up the network like a good boy should and keep everything in working order. If he failed to make me happy he would disappear.

13. I would have a church on campus, non-denominational

14. All of this would be located somewhere in the South Pacific, preferably the island of Oahu.

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missy

I would like a private hot tub for each set of houseparents & date nights for the houseparents! 

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Called2workwith youth

While some might see your response as facetious, I think it is a good idea. Maybe a Jacuzzi tub (large bath tub with jets).

One thing I have noticed in my time as a houseparent, as well as researching facilities for employment, is that houseparents are taken for granted and expected to live a life just above that of a homeless person. There seems to be a prevailing attitude of “it’s all about the kids”, so we’ll spend resources on things for the kids, but the houseparents have to do without. What is missed so often, is that when houseparents have to live in undesirable living quarters, or deal with an exhausting schedule, etc. etc. then there is usually a lot of turnover, and they are constantly stressed out and tired. And guess what?! That affects the kids in a negative way.

I agree that it is all about the kids and we do this because we feel called to make a difference in their lives. However, it is hard to be effective in that regard if you have to deal with a lot of other issues.

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Called2workwith youth

1. Every kid would have their own room. If I had lots of money, every kid would have their own bathroom in that room. (Cuts down on sexual issues, gives kids their own space).

While I like that idea, I don’t know if it would be practical. Maybe have one or two single rooms and two or three doubles (total of 6-7 kids), with the single(s) being an incentive as they would go to the oldest kids with the best behavior. If we want to make this as family-like as possible, that is reality for most large families. I understand the other side of it though, as sometimes a sloppy kid can make it hard for a kid who is trying to do right (in regards to room care).

2. A pool and gym are great to have, but not critical. Again if I were Daddy Warbucks, olympic size swimming pool and one of them Olympic training style gyms with an ice rink. A concession stand that sold pretzels would also be nice.

Let’s not forget Italian shave ice and nachos. Seriously, though a pool and gym aren’t necessities, I think some kind of recreation facilities are important. Perhaps with a good Rec director, you wouldn’t need the pool and gym.

3. Administration would be made up of a grizzled bunch of veteran House Parents. Old and broken from years of abuse by other facilities and children. I would then turn them loose with my Gold Visa card and tell them to turn this place into a House Parent Utopia. The kinda place they always dreamed of being able to minister to children at. Anyone that applied for an administration position without first having been a House Parent would be laughed out of the building, possibly beaten.

Completely agree with you here. I don’t care what kind of education credentials a person has, if they have not lived with kids and dealt with admin issues from the side of houseparents, they are not qualified to be an administrator over houseparents, IMO. It makes about as much sense as giving a 23 year old DHS worker fresh out of college total authority over a teenager in the foster care system (don’t get me started on that). I don’t know about the beating part (there might be a hidden camera somewhere  ), but if I were doing the hiring, that individual wouldn’t even get an interview.

4. Every Friday would be BBQ night. (My first facility was “Vegetarian”). Ironically this would also be the night I encourage my wife to go see a movie so I can eat all the fat, greasy hamburger I want to.

I just don’t get the whole vegetarian thing. It makes no sense in regards to nutrition (no meat that is, meat in moderation is good nutrition. Someday I’ll post my cancer story and you’ll understand where I’m coming from there). And the whole “meat is murder” thing just baffles me. While I would not be at all opposed to a BBQ night, I would have an emphasis on nutrition. [Once again, wait for my forthcoming cancer story, and you’ll understand. I might post it later today as I am starting to get worked up about it. Just a little tease…7 1/2 years ago when I went off medical treatment, I was given a death sentence (was told my life expectancy would be months, maybe weeks). 7 1/2 years later (and an alternative treatment program that emphasizes nutrition) and I am alive and well and cancer free.]

5. There would be a program. It would be a version of the Family Teaching Model, just not as anal. The program will emphasize family living in ALL aspects.

When working with these youth, you definitely need some kind of program. At the same time, there needs to be a lot of latitude and room for individual (couples) styles. You go to any normal neighborhood, and there is variance from home to home in parenting styles. To expect 10 different couples to parent exactly the same way is just ludicrous. There does need to be a certain consistency from home to home though. For instance, you couldn’t have a consequence for sneaking cigarettes be a level drop in one home and an early bed time that night in another home.

6. Instead of off duty housing or having a respite couple come into the house, I would have a respite house the kids would go to when the primaries are on respite. Kinda like going to Aunts house for the kids. This is by far the most effective and peaceful respite transition I have ever seen.

This is an excellent idea and one I had never thought of. If you think about, if you could make this work logistically, this would allow the houseparent apartment to be much smaller, as they would have the whole house completely to themselves when their off time comes. I have not worked as a houseparent at a facility where you have to pack up your belongings and go to another place every time you are off, nor would I ever work for a place like that. I can’t even imagine having to do that for more than a month or two. You could even have a special lodge on campus where the kids could spend a long weekend (kind of like a camp getaway or retreat).

7. I would have an Independence Living Program for kids that are transitioning between High School and College/ Tech School.

I think the vast majority of places now have these programs. Although, I would like to incorporate it more into the regular home program. Maybe each house would have a couple private rooms that are on a different wing than the other bedrooms. Like my wife has said, most of us (in normal families), transitioned through the college and post HS years still at home (or with the ability to come back home if problems arose). I believe most group home kids fail after HS because they go from having a family environment and accountability and support, to being in an IL program with very little accountability and parental support. Where is it written that when teens graduate from HS they are instantly endowed with all the wisdom and tools needed to make it on their own?

8. I would encourage the cottages to have pets. After all, they are kids living in “Family Style” setting, not a bubble.

Agree again. There have been numerous studies that show that people with pets live longer and are generally healthier. And pets can be very therapeutic. Our golden retriever (the best dog in the world) did something amazing once. One of our girls was sitting at the kitchen table sharing a hurtful experience. She was crying and obviously hurting as she was sharing this. Our dog walked over to her, put his head in her lap, and looked up at her like, “I’m here for you” (this was not something he did on a regular basis – putting his head on people’s laps).

9. I would have a private school on site.

Definitely. Don’t get me started on public schools.

10. The maintenance crew would be made up of former HP’s as well. Kids would help with all general maintenance, from wiring to drywall.

I don’t know if this would be practical, but I would definitely want people who understood the ministry and saw their job as more than just a job. Maybe some kind of work experience with youth, especially at-risk. Like experience in juvenile justice, high school, youth ministry, etc.

11. I WOULD HIRE A REC DIRECTOR that worked very hard on organizing activities and sports.

Another excellent point. My wife has a Master’s in this field (as well as experience). We worked at a place that had a couple of rec directors, but they had no education or experience in this field (take a guess at how effective they were). I think something that is often missed, is that old, old saying “idol hands are the devil’s workshop”. Basically, I believe what Father Flanigan said in the movie Boys Town (the old one, 1938, with Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney. If you’ve never seen, rent it and watch it). There is no such thing as a bad boy (or girl). Young people need to be kept busy most of the time. Boys especially need to be kept physically busy. If they don’t have something constructive to do, they will find something to do, and it will often be mischievous. It is very hard for houseparents who are dealing with the day to day work of feeding, administering meds, checking chores, paperwork, etc. etc.  etc., to come up with and organize activities. I think a quality, QUALIFIED, Rec director would be very valuable.

12. I would have a computer network technician. He would do his job, back up the network like a good boy should and keep everything in working order. If he failed to make me happy he would disappear.

Definitely necessary. Just make sure to have one who understands youth (especially at-risk) and is very careful about how much he teaches and to which kids. We had some teen boys who became quite accomplished hackers. One got in trouble one time for hacking into a teachers computer and controlling it remotely while she was on her computer. He did it more or less as a joke (and to show he could), but he could use that knowledge to do a lot of harm.

13. I would have a church on campus, non-denominational

This is one that requires a lot of deliberation and prayer. I would definitely want Christian staff and a Christian philosophy. And it would ABSOLUTELY be non-denominational. The longer I have been a Christian, the more I despise denominations. I think there are positives and negatives to having an on-campus chapel. But then again there are pitfalls to having each couple take their kids to a different church. And do you consider making church optional? Maybe requiring private reflection/prayer time if they choose not to go? I know, that can cause a lot of issues. At the same time, forcing teenagers to go to church can just drive them further and further from God. I think it is a difficult issue. One thing I am sure of, it would not be a program or ministry of any church or denomination.

14. All of this would be located somewhere in the South Pacific, preferably the island of Oahu.

Wouldn’t that be nice. 

For me personally, it would be a region that has four seasons, and definitely not in a hot/humid climate (like the southeast).

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Called2workwith youth

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Launchpad

Yep, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it either.

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webmaster

I’m not sure I would ever want the pressure of starting my own facility. That’s just a stressor I don’t think I could handle.

Though taking government money would solve a lot of financial issues it could also cause issues. The home we started in is now closed because the county attorney decided not to use local facilities when dealing with youth in that community. He preferred sending them to the state school. He wouldn’t even use it as a transitional program after they finished the state program, they just went back into the community. The social workers wouldn’t use it for therapeutic foster care, because there was a big push to put all kids with foster families. Then they would get in trouble and end up in the state school. The Facility didn’t have a donor base so they eventually used up their reserve money and had to close. It also puts a lot of pressure on the program to follow state philosophies. A lot of the religious training is not allowed if it is Christian, though they seem OK with spiritual training from other cultures. You also have to follow Equal Opportunity Employment which means you couldn’t disqualify an applicant based upon their spiritual beliefs, etc. which means you would have people working for you that hold beliefs contrary to yours and your vision for the facility.

Taking only private money puts on a whole new set of issues. Designated money for one. Declines in giving during recessions. Having to meet the expectations of the donors, etc.

I agree with a lot of what has been previously said on this topic except for a few things. I don’t like the concept of a completely self contained campus where school, church, recreation all take place separate from the general public. I think it shelters the children way to much and they don’t get an opportunity to interact with the rest of society. They need to learn how to live in society and be a part of society and that can’t happen if they never leave campus. I also think it causes a fear in the community of the kids from the home and in some cases the home itself and may think of it as a cult or commune. Though an on campus Rec Facility, or School or Church would be cool with me.

I agree that administrators should have experience as houseparents or at the very least several years experience as associate type administrators before they become in charge of an entire program. I have worked for two directors that got their first day of Residential Childcare experience the day they became my campus director. The one almost drove me from childcare permanently! Hence another problem with private religious facilities, administrators often come from the clergy and though they may be great pastors – they are not childcare professionals.

I like the idea of the kids leaving for relief, Tennessee Baptist does it that way. However I don’t think it would matter how it was done. It is still going to be a bad experience for staff and kids because it is always a change from the normal routine.

I also think there needs to be some sort of program, but I also believe there has to be a way to get off of it for the kids in very long term facilities. We have kids that spend virtually their entire childhood at our facility, and I would hate to think of them having to be on a point system the whole time they are here. It wouldn’t be very family like in anyway, except for maybe one of those freak families that appear on “Wife Swap” or something.

I think Independent Living is one of the most neglected programs in the entire country. Even facilities that have them, many times neglect many aspects of it. Although I also think many parents in today’s society also fail miserably at it, hence the indulger, enabler or helicopter parent. I would want independent living to be the corner stone of my program. In fact if I was to ever start my own program it would be an independent living program for kids that age out of other programs.

Recreation facilities would be nice, but every community usually has some pretty good stuff to help with recreation. Parks, pools, the “Y”, etc. While I think it is good to keep kids busy, having tons of on campus recreation stuff tends to create over stimulated children that sometimes lack imagination, creativity and the ability to play and entertain themselves. I have experienced this a lot with some of the children I have worked with. Yet it is also a result of our current society and the advent of video games, cable/satellite television, and the computer.

I think nutrition is important, especially considering the weight issues I have battled my entire life, and it drives me nuts to watch houseparents that will let children eat whatever they want, regardless of what it is. Like Ice Cream and Macaroni and Cheese for supper. We eat corporately at a dining facility on campus several times a week and I just don’t get it. Having been here almost 10 years I have seen houseparents let young children eat whatever they want and then harass and nag them everyday because they are fat teens. On the other hand that whole Vegan/Vegetarian thing I don’t get either. BTW: Update on the Houseparent Bulge – my current total weight loss is 61 pounds and I am wearing large shirts as opposed to the XXX I was getting ready to buy when I changed my lifestyle to go with the 10 inches I have so far lost off my waist. I like BBQ night, just leave out the sugar!!!

As far as pets go: I am personally opposed to them, mostly because of the irresponsibility I have seen other people do involving pets. Like letting them piss and crap all over the house, leaving them chained up in the back yard, chew up furniture and scrape down doors, etc. I realize they can be very therapeutic and for some a joy to have, but for me I don’t like the hassle, it makes it very difficult to be able to travel, and there are too many irresponsible people. I just don’t think it is worth the hassle. Having said that, to keep harmony in my family I have agreed to allow my wife get a small dog next (2009) September. I am also hoping the facility outlaws pets between now and then because of all the abuses to the pet policy, but that probably won’t happen and I will be stuck caring for a Yorkie that I didn’t want in the first place.

As far as maintenance people with houseparent experience – where do I send my resume?!!!!!

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MomforLife

1) The Administrators would definitely have been HPs (for more than 2 years)

2) The children would live in family style homes …

a) I actually like dorm style, single bedrooms, big closets, large bathrooms at the end of the hall with privacy stalls on the showers and toilets. One shower/toilet per 2-3 kids. Private bathrooms are okay, but a lot to keep clean, bathrooms between rooms invite nighttime trouble/parties.

b ) The common areas (Kitchen, dining, living room) would be huge, especially the kitchen with multiple ovens, large pot capable cook tops, dual refrigerators, etc…

c) The HP bedroom would be private, but have appropriate alarm system to alert them to trouble.

d) The HP office should overlook the common areas (big window).

e) The HP bathroom would be every woman’s dream… can we pamper the House Moms a little more!

f) The House Dads should have a heat/air-conditioned work shed for tinkering.

I’m sure I could think of more!

3) The schedule should be structured but with flexibility built in. The children should work (maintenance, computer repairs, wood shop, etc…) with mentors (one on one at least once a week). Kids need some free time, but too much free time (video games etc) creates a bored child and trouble begins. Working at something meaningful builds self-worth and a work ethic that could get them through college and a successful career and home life.

4) Kids that don’t get to go home to families should have special host families and special dates.

5) On site school – my preference, with lots of tutoring, and school uniforms

6) There should be a special ‘nurse’ for our sick children (both for the child and the House Parents who still have many others to care for)

7) HPs should be involved in scheduling any Appointments, so that their time is respected

8) There should be plenty of budget for ‘family’ fun times, both structured (movies, movies, etc… and unstructured – camping and watching the stars and lightning bugs).

9) Nutrition should be VERY important. I too believe that our children are over medicated and under nourished. Fresh vegetables and fruits are expensive initially but in the long run cheaper than health care. HPs and Administrators should spend more time learning about good nutrition (forget the food pyramid and NSLP!). Regular exercise is important also, but it should be fun for the kids.

10) If you are in town – then the YMCA or local parks are great – if you are more than 30 minutes out, then you need your own rec director and facilities.

11) Staff need to socialize – this should be a community that takes care of each other and plays together – it would be a great experience for the kids to learn what neighborhoods used to be like (at least in the South).

12) The administrators should listening carefully to the HPs that live with the children 24/7. If the HPs say they have a problem, then they are really saying ‘we have already tried all we know, and it’s not working’. The children deserve to live in a peaceful environment, and if another child is disrupting that environment without an response, then it is not a good fit between the child and the Hps, or the child and the facility. Counselors should be available to HPs as well as the children.

13) Independent Living is an absolute must. I’ve seen too many kids leave at 18 with no understanding of how to live on their own, buy groceries, cook for one, pay bills, deal with utilities, insurance, etc…

14) The administrators should take care of the HPs, so that the HPs can take care of the children (what they were hired to do). The HP facilities need to be sufficient in size and comfort, the children’s home needs to be sufficient in size and comfort and amenities, maintenance should be performed regularly and emergencies asap, the administrators need to make sure that someone is always on call and available quickly to assist with problems/emergencies – one phone call should do it all. The homes should feel secure to the children and the adults. If I was an male Administrator, at least once a quarter, I would pamper my House Moms and take my House Dads to lunch and drop by to say hi and play with the kids occasionally. If I was a female Administrator, I would take my Moms for a manicure/pedicure and/or lunch and have another male staffer take Dad to lunch. Extra budget for a special dinner on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Birthdays. Everyone needs to feel appreciated.

Well I guess I have dreamt enough.

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glidenhi

Kids would be allowed to go barefoot as much as they want.

Kids would be allowed to put their bare feet on the sofas while watching tv.

Kids would be encouraged to bring friends from school and church over to the campus and houseparents would be good hosts and monitor activity.

Kids wouldn’t be punished by taking their personal property away from them.

Houseparents wouldn’t consider their job done when they find consequences for bad action….they would work out a plan of redemption and monitor progress and guide the offender’s progress and give encouragement and hope.

Houseparents would be the type of people that appreciate every person…..both Christian and nonchristian….for the beautiful creation they are, and have an ability to find things to encourage every person for the gifts they have been given and give hope.

Establishing an emotional commitment to the kids would be considered normal, and when a kid needs a hug they would get it and it would be ok to tell a kid that you love them.

Houseparents that tend to abdicate the management of the house to the most powerful and ruthless kid would be fired.

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MomforLife

Kids would be allowed to go barefoot as much as they want. Kids would be allowed to put their bare feet on the sofas while watching tv. Kids would be encouraged to bring friends from school and church over to the campus and houseparents would be good hosts and monitor activity. Kids wouldn’t be punished by taking their personal property away from them.

Spoken like a man that loved kids and wants them to experience childhood. I agree, except that I have collected PSPs and gameboys for the night when they were abused – i.e., someone played PSP all night instead of sleeping – letting the kids check them back out for use during the daytime.”

Houseparents wouldn’t consider their job done when they find consequences for bad action….they would work out a plan of redemption and monitor progress and guide the offender’s progress and give encouragement and hope.

The Lion King has a great example of parenting – Dad rescues the wayward children, scolds the son explaining the responsibility that he should have shown and the consequences that he could have experienced – in other words, voicing his disappointment; then when the discipline cycle has ended, he gathers his son up and reminds him that he is precious and loved.

Houseparents would be the type of people that appreciate every person…..both Christian and nonchristian….for the beautiful creation they are, and have an ability to find things to encourage every person for the gifts they have been given and give hope.

Not just house parents (although they have a unique position to observe many walks of life – believers need to remember that the God, who loved us enough to provide salvation from ourselves, desires to offer that love and salvation to everyone – we need to look at everyone, especially the parents and the children that we serve, as children of God, whether they know it or not. Looking at someone through glasses that miror our own mistakes, helps us to be more loving towards others – in a small part, it might be like looking through the eyes of God and it changes our perspective immensely.

 

Establishing an emotional commitment to the kids would be considered normal, and when a kid needs a hug they would get it and it would be ok to tell a kid that you love them.

Can we truly be houseparents if we don’t commit to love, protect, cherish and serve our kids? Aren’t these the qualities that we are supposed to MODEL for them?

Houseparents that tend to abdicate the management of the house to the most powerful and ruthless kid would be fired.

That is not (house) parenting – it’s why so many of our children end up at ‘at-risk’ teen facilities, because the adults forgot to be the leaders in their home. We cannot provide security for our children if we abdicate our authority and responsibility as adults.

Sorry for the mini sermon – it’s easy for me to climb on a soap box — but then I catch my reflection in the mirror

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Called2workwith youth

Excellent points. Too often we focus on the negatives. I remember a trainer we had talking about a quote he had posted in his office, “Catch me doing something right”. Very profound. In childcare, we get caught up in always trying to catch them doing something wrong, that we don’t put enough attention on pointing out and praising the right things they do.

Also, I am very passionate about the concept of getting to the core of “each child was created by God, in His image, and endowed with unique talents and gifts.”

It is OUR job (not the kids’) to help them see that and find those talents they were blessed with and use them. I believe a lot of kids act out because they feel they have no purpose (further compounded by the lie of evolution). If we can help them find their talents and purpose and start to work toward that, the behaviors will diminish (I understand this is just part of the solution, but it is an oft-missed part of the plan in dealing with these kids’ behaviors).

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MomforLife

It is OUR job (not the kids’) to help them see that and find those talents they were blessed with and use them. I believe a lot of kids act out because they feel they have no purpose (further compounded by the lie of evolution). If we can help them find their talents and purpose and start to work toward that, the behaviors will diminish (I understand this is just part of the solution, but it is an oft-missed part of the plan in dealing with these kids’ behaviors).

Case in point. We have had a young man for 2 years, who many would just see as overweight, lazy, unmotivated, unresponsive, etc. He came to us at 14 from a very chaotic background – too many moves between two many relatives. We could tell he was very intelligent, but he didn’t want to put any effort into anything (including relationships).

A year ago someone donated an electric guitar to our house and one night I heard this young man picking at it, making some pretty good sounds. We were able to find a guitar center in town and received permission to take him off site for lessons.

After 2 months of guitar lessons with a very invested instructor, this young man was/is demonstrating purpose and self-worth. We have seen his grades improve (student of the month in April) and his attitude is much more optimistic. It needs to become my daily prayer (to quote a song: Open the eyes of my heart, Lord) – let me see the needs of these children, the way to their hearts, and the key(s) to give them hope.

PS – It turns out that he is indeed very gifted. His instructor says he is a natural and could be a great blues guitarist. Praise God for people like this guitar instructor willing to work and invest over and above his paid time for this young man.

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dontlietokids.net

QUOTE

In childcare, we get caught up in always trying to catch them doing something wrong, that we don’t put enough attention on pointing out and praising the right things they do.

 

From my experience that’s because too many leaders (trainers, admin, etc.) believe all children are evil little jerks out to do wrong any and every chance they get and until they PROVE they are not like this they are going to be treated as if they are. Then, anytime they are “caught” or “discovered” doing or having done something wrong those people feel justified. They ONLY way those kind of adults would ever not be that way would be if a child was perfect. We know that’s never going to happen so as such, those adults will ALWAYS be the way they are.

Public School or Facility School

momofmany

Does your facility provide school? Or do your kids attend public school? And for those of you that your facility provides the education, how does it compare? Any info would be greatly appreciated.

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dontlietokids.net

We have our own school and it’s amazing. Sadly it’s clearly “secular” as many of the teachers and administrators of the academic program are typical liberal democrats and or pure secularists. That said, we don’t claim to be a “Christian” facility but I am free to pray with our students, we have daily devotions, chapel every Sunday, and religious classes! It’s much better than my last facility that “claimed” to be Christian.

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webmaster

My facility does not have a school. Our children attend either the public school or one of several private schools based upon their academic and social needs.

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Launchpad

We do not have one here, but I think it is something we are looking at for the future. All of the kids go to public school and depending on their individual treatment plan, they attend a mixture of main stream/ special ed programs.

At a former facility we did have a school. It worked very well and actually became very well known in our area for the program they had in place. I personally like having a school on campus. Academically the kids did a little better than in public school. House parents also have a more active role in a on campus program from my experience.

Other Houseparents at your Facility

momofmany

Are the other houseparents at your facility friendly with one another or not? Ours are not. We went on a women’s retreat and everyone just sticks to themselves. I tried to be friendly, but always felt like the conversation was not returned. Is it this way at most facilities, or just mine?

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glidenhi

I’ve worked at three different campuses so far……have found friendships cordial, but not close.

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webmaster

We have been at our current facility for almost 8 years and although we are all pretty cordial, I am not sure how close our relationships are.

We definitely have clicks that are basically divided old houseparents – newer houseparents. I try to be friendly with all the houseparents, and try to help whoever or however I can, but I am not really close to anybody.

I am so busy with running my house, all my additional duties, plus my website – I don’t really have time for any type of a close friendship. I do good to have a few moments to spend with my wife.

Friendships require work and commitment, and I also don’t really have the spare emotions to put into it. I imagine there are other houseparents in the same boat.

On the other hand I am sure it would probably be nice to have a friend that can relate to the issues you face on a daily basis, because those friends that are not houseparents, if you have any, CAN’T.

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dontlietokids.net

I fear that there are so many answers to this issue that trying to speak to it is nearly impossible. At our last place of employment administration used staff against one another. It was sickening, but rather than supervise, they would listen to gossip and rumors. You almost had to tell on others to keep heat off of you.

Where I am not the administration is so, so much better and from what I can tell after a year and a half 99% of the staff are friendly and not out to stab one another in the back, mainly because they don’t have to.

However…

There is an uneasiness amongst childcare staff. Because all of us have our own “style” we are uneasy around each other because we don’t want to be challenged, more importantly we don’t want rumors to start about how we are too mean to our kids or too easy going, etc.

That’s why at sites like this one and mine we need to take EVERY opportunity presented to us to speak to one another without getting defensive or offended. We need to learn from one another in the name of the children we serve.

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Launchpad

Currently we are in a really good place. We all seem to just “click” at the moment. I think it has a lot to do with the dynamics of the people and a whole lot on the leadership of a facility. Employee moral (in my opinion) is the reason for turnover. Happy employees will go the extra mile. Just common sense. I do go out of my way to build a relationship professionally with the people I work with because I need them and the service they perform. It is a bit selfish, but in the process I end up with some good friends. We get together occasionally and BBQ, last night a couple of the houses just decided to have a bonfire. It was a good time with the house parents and kids. We didn’t need any specific reason or dictate from admin to get together. We just do it because we really enjoy each other’s company.

My last place the house parents were friendly, but there was always a little tension between someone. Always a soap opera going on. It was also a major reason I left. My wife and I set out to specifically find a place that was more family oriented and where the staff could at the very least, be friends. We turned down an offer from a great facility, paying higher wages than here, where we have friends at, entirely based on how well ALL the staff work together as a family. I’m glad we did. Life is way to short for us to waste it in a place where everything but the kids and ministry comes first. Especially when there are so many HP positions out there.

Something that might help; Find a morning when most HP’s can get together and have coffee, start a women’s or men’s prayer meeting once a week. Have a group BBQ for absolutely no good reason and bond over greasy food that is gonna send you to Jesus a little sooner than you expect. Go way out of your way to make friends with the one staff member that seems to the most un-pleasant. If you don’t make friends with them, at least you’ll annoy them a bit and give ’em something to gossip about.

This is an emotionally and physically draining job. I can’t imagine doing it without the fellowship of my sisters and brothers in Christ to help me stay on track. 

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webmaster

Well I am back from the Fishing Trip and I am glad to report that the kids had a GREAT time!! I had a pretty good time with only a few issues, however the biggest thing I brought back from the weekend is an insight I discovered about houseparents, at least the houseparents that were there this weekend.

There were over 30 houseparents from all over the south at this event this weekend and it should have been a great opportunity to meet other houseparents and visit with other people you can relate too. However, it wasn’t. Most everybody stuck to themselves and didn’t seem real interested in meeting anyone one else. Many seemed very stand-offish.

I tried to visit with a few people, and did visit in length with one couple that knew of me through my website, but for the most part it seemed like people were not real interested in meeting other people. I understand that we had children that needed to be supervised and I had a couple boys that were a real challenge, but I guess I just had hoped that we would all want to network more than we did.

I think this is a real issue for houseparents and is something I have resolved to work on. I probably would have been much more forward, but my wife reminded me before I left that I was representing our facility not The Houseparent Network this weekend, so I needed to keep my promoting to a minimum and I did. I didn’t even mention the website unless they brought it up.

The couple I did visit with confirmed one thing I thought about participation on this and other websites. They said they had time to read stuff from time to time but didn’t really feel that they had time to post or interact in-depth – they were just too busy.

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Launchpad

I see the whole issue as professional development. I can find more relaxing things to do rather than read, network or listen to podcasts about my profession.

I think it is the same in any job. In the Army, people get off work and have down time. The ones that did a little time management, studied a little and strived to be all they could be, progressed. The ones that didn’t? They just did the job.

I don’t see anything wrong with those that see this as just a “Job”. However, I do not identify with that crowd and they tend have the life span of a fruit fly in the HP world.

We can and will change how we network. My wife and I have no problem, and we are planning, with contacting and going to see other house parents at other facilities on our off time when finances will allow. The only purpose we have is to meet others in this field, learn and make some good friends. This is a culture unto itself. We do what no others want to. This is a very unique ministry and we are few. No one else, except other HP’s can even begin to know what this life, or the challenges it presents are like.

As a Christian community we should be open, especially with other HP’s. I don’t know what the deal is, but I plan on knocking on a few doors. (No I’m not looking for a Job, I love kicking it Southern style here)

Maybe I am a fanatic. In the long run it really doesn’t matter what the ones that “Just Do It” think. I’m more concerned with those of us that do care about this ministry and doing it well with the time the Lord has given us to run the race.

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webmaster

I know what you mean. I can honestly tell you that I have considered just bagging it all and doing something else. There is always HVAC or Mechanics I can fall back on as well as working with these computers full time, even though I hate them most of the time.

Other times I want to just take care of the kids I have, and not worry about anybody or anything else.

State Gov’t Bureaucracies Better or Worse?

TexPop

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?

-TexPop

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webmaster

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.

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TexPop

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

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webmaster

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.

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MomforLife

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.

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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

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TexPop

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?

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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.

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TexPop

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.

-TexPop

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Launchpad

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…… 

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TexPop

Launch,

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

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Launchpad

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.

How soon should we start applying?

dmitchell_00

I may have asked this before but I am wondering how soon should we start applying for jobs. We are not going to be ready until next July at the earliest. That is when we are going to be moving back down south. I am so anxious to talk to some facilities but don’t want to jump the gun either. So my experienced friends what do you think.

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Launchpad

Everyone’s situation is different. 11 months before you want to move would be a little too far out for me personally.

But it would be a good time to research and find out all you can about certain facilities before even applying. Research the local areas around the facility and see if it will be something you and your family will be comfortable with. Some like being out in the sticks, while others are more comfortable with the suburbs. Coming from Upstate NY your husband may be shocked as I was at the complete lack of glorious trout in the south and the total lack of respect for anyone that dares to cast a fly out on a pond.  (But it will never snow in May here)

Look for churches in the area that you might be interested in, pastors in a facility’s area will also have more firsthand knowledge of the facility. Chances are good they may have projects with the facility or at the very least know someone who works there.

Then again, carpet bombing facilities now with your resume may open up some doors for you and your family early. You may go to a facility for an interview, and everything will fall into place. But if your still not ready- it would be good for them to know you and your family, so when next summer rolls around and your ready to make the move they will have your resume and they will have a better feel for you. Remember, a lot of these places have high turn-overs. 

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dmitchell_00

Thanks Launchpad,

You crack me up with your fishing (I am more of a fisherman than my husband he is an off roader) anyways. We are actually native southerners. We are both originally from Texas and are transplanted here in NY. We are excited to get back to more laid back people and life style. We love Buffalo but it is time to be home. Thanks for the advice. I feel like that is all I do is research facilities which is why I am so excited to send in our info, but I have not thought about hooking up with pastors in the area, what a great idea. Thank you. We appreciate it. Talk to you later.

Houseparent Children is having your own children safe as a houseparent?

emyboy

Hey guys,

My wife and I are interested in becoming houseparents, but we have a 4 year old son. I was wondering how safe he will be, and I do not want to jeopardize our time with him. Does anyone have small children and be houseparents? Am I out of my mind? My wife and I just have such a passion and a calling on our lives to work with this upcoming generation, and we feel the Lord is leading us to be houseparents. Let me know what you think

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DH and I want kids badly. So far we haven’t been able to conceive but we hope to and if not we will adopt. Since we feel that houseparenting is our forever career, this is an issue for us too. What level of care are you looking at? We have been hired for basic care, meaning we hardly ever even get CPS kids. You can imagine this is the safest environment for natural kids. Later, when our kids are older, we will probably take on harder to handle kids but I think this is best for now. God really led us here, we didn’t even know this level existed. I would find out what kind of kids will be there before you accept a job. One way that a facility can control the level of kids is by being a private facility. If you get govt funding, you have less say on who is placed. So that’s my 

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Launchpad

My wife is four months pregnant now and we are still convinced that this is the ultimate job to have and raise a family. I had my concerns at first, especially coming from a facility that restrained constantly and had staff getting hurt frequently.

My supervisor raised three children as a house parent and did a great job. He put it best when I asked him how he did it, “I’m a full time dad”. You see, my kid will have me and my wife when he gets home from school. I will actually get to be a very active part of his life.

Think about it- you’re a professional parent. You get to learn and study parenting techniques. You will hopefully research and study the latest and greatest strategies in child rearing. Think of the patience you will or have developed after dealing with a multitude of teen drama.

I see it as a positive. I get to be with my family. I make a living being with them, not driving a truck down the road or dodging bullets. It is hard to imagine a different life, especially when I know I will get to raise my kid and be a dad. That’s where it’s at.

Prospective Houseparents Former student looking to make a difference

hersheytom

I am a 25 year old graduate of Milton Hershey School. My wife and I are interested in pursuing a career as house parents and are looking for more information to help decide which facility is best for us. Location isn’t an issue, and we’d be willing to pretty much anywhere. As a graduate of Milton Hershey, I understand the importance a houseparent plays in the life of a student, and I dream of an opportunity to return the service that was provided to me as a student of a similar school. We currently live in NE Texas, and both work at an after school recreation facility and summer day camp at a local church.

Particular details about the type of facility we are looking for include a few different criteria. While we dont mind working with troubled kids, we do not have an interest in working with mentally unstable or special needs children, as I feel completely unqualified to work in that environment. We are looking for locations that may accept a pet or two (I’ve found a good deal of information about this in a previous thread.) Also, we are looking for a location that does not have a problem with young/less experienced houseparents. My wife has been working in child care for approximately 10 years, while I have only worked 1 year relative experience, I do think my experience as a student at a similar school must count for something.

Anyway, if anyone can help guide us in the right direction, any information would be greatly appreciated.

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webmaster

The most difficult part of your criteria will be finding a facility that will allow pets, there seems to be less and less of them all the time and although regulation is usually what is blamed, but I think the true blame can be placed of those few irresponsible staff that allowed their pets to be a problem. When you look at facilities, it wouldn’t be the first thing I asked about, but if it is really important for you, it should surely be a question early in the process.

There are many facilities that will not have mentally unstable or special needs kids in the sense of handicap’s or disabilities, but as you know all the kids in care have special needs as a result of abuse, neglect, abandonment, etc.

As far as being young, there is always going to be somebody that will be suspicious of your age. There will often be that staff member that thinks you are just going to be try and be peers with the kids. Your professionalism when you start will go a long way in changing those perceptions. I know many houseparents that have started young and are respected and very successful.

I do have one word of advice for you as far as your experience in a facility when it comes to the kids in your care, and I share this from my own personal experience. My wife was in foster care and I should have been. When we first started as houseparents we thought the kids would be encouraged by the fact that we had experienced something similar in our youth, turns out they couldn’t care less. They felt that our situation was nothing like their situation; therefore we couldn’t possibly understand what they were going through. After going through that a few times, we simply decided to keep our past to ourselves and use the experience of our past make us better houseparents. To be more compassionate, understanding and caring as well as being really good at the cat and mouse game that youth can play. We still have kids that are amazed that we would think to look there, where ever that may be or how we can tell something is wrong, even when they are trying to appear normal.

I hope your search for a position goes well. I hope you will find tons of information on this forum/site and if you can’t find an answer to a question you have please ask it. Chances are somebody here has the answer or at least a piece of the answer and if you can get enough pieces together you will have something substantial. Welcome. 

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hersheytom

Thank you for your response! In terms of my pets, its not necessarily something that will keep me from accepting a position, but it is definitely something I’d obviously prefer. In terms of my experience as a student, I don’t think it is an advantage so much as you had stated, the experience I was referring to as a student was more related to my extensive inner knowledge of how a home is run (at least at MHS). I was a leader as a student within my home, and continue to be a strong leader in my adulthood.

I feel that do to my youth, children relate well with me, however I do try to be an authoritative/parental figure, more than just a friend. What I didn’t mention in the previous post is that I would prefer to work with younger children (k-5th grade) as that is what my wife and I have the most experience with.

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webmaster

That is the age group that my wife and I have worked with the last 6 years. I think they are easier to work with mentally, but much harder physically. However in our case, long term residential foster care, it is MUCH harder on you emotionally when they leave.

It is great that you were a leader in your house, and that information you have about the workings of a home, will truly benefit you.

It’s Christmas Time Again! Hold on for the ride!

TexPop

Well,

It’s that time again. I thought I’d get a jump on things and pulled everything from the attic last Sunday. I’m still going through it – what is today??!? Tuesday afternoon a group of volunteers is coming to hang lights on the eaves so I had to get them ready anyway. The campus administrator announced a prohibition on getting up on the roof this year. Yea!! Christmas decor can get a little competitive between cottages and that should help keep things from getting too crazy.

I was going through strands of lights wishing I’d bought that light fixer do-hicky that someone mentioned last year on the forum. Oh well, I just tossed out 3 strands. Gotta go to Walmart tomorrow before the group shows up!

Merry Christmas! (I wanted to be the 1st to say it this year)

-TexPop 

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webmaster

Our outside decorations are mandated by administration. A single strand of large white lights along the eves, a green wreath with ribbon that coordinates with the house on the door and matching green garland above the door. We are allowed to put out other decorations after open house, but most don’t put much out, because the kids will mess with them. I have a blow-up Jimmie Johnson Holiday car and my blow-up “Thanksgiving Scarecrow choking Santa Claus” protest decoration.

Inside the house we are pretty elaborate. We have a formal tree in our main living room, decorated as mandated by administration. But we also have a tree in our family room that the children decorate. I will set up the tree and put on the lights, then the kids get to place all the remaining decorations. We leave it exactly how they decorate it, which means the decorations aren’t always spread evenly throughout the tree.

Our main theme in the house is “The Nativity” My wife has about twenty sets in various sizes that we put out. It takes almost a week to decorate, but I can have everything packed up and put away in less than a day on December 26th. Our Christmas preparations start in August and our first party is the weekend of Thanksgiving. We are usually ready for it to be over, by the 26th. 

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dontlietokids.net

Wait…administration “mandates” how your tree is to be decorated?!?!?

wow…

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webmaster

Yes administration mandates how our outside decorations and how our formal tree is decorated, however we are free to decorate everything else to our own liking as long as it is tasteful. It is not a big issue for us and they have very good reason.

We are totally dependent on private donations for our funding and raise probably 40-50 percent of our annual budget during November and December. We do things to present ourselves in the best possible light, including how we decorate for Christmas. Kind of like the whole dressing up for Church principle. Though I think the Griswold style of decorating is pretty cool, not everybody else does. However, not all staff members realize that or even care, so administration has to mandate it.

Reality is – If more people would think of the greater good of everybody (the kids, program, facility) instead of their own personal desires, we wouldn’t need so many rules. And that can be applied to every program in the country, and I think life in general.

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Launchpad

We just opened the cottage this year, so our decorations are slim pickings this season. I would like to get to the point next year that we can put lights up around the house, especially since we have one of the oldest cottages on campus.

Volunteers would be nice. Oh well, there’s always next year. Maybe…

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Housepop

My wife and I start decorating the cottage on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I do the outside and she does the inside. I string lights around the roof of the cottage and a a few hanging stars and then I put out gingerbread pople with each of the girls names on them. I start about mid morning and am done by early afternoon. My wife loves decorating and along with a 9 foot artificial tree that the girls decorate she usually has it complete by the end of Thanksgiving weekend. She then starts baking candy and cookies that the girls decorate and eat until Christmas is over. We also let each girl decorate their own stocking and they get pretty artsy and creative and it is always fun to see how they turn out. We enjoy Christmas and try to makes as many memories for them to treasure and keep for years to come. We also have a fire place so when we have our Christmas party I light the fire place and I read the Christmas story from Luke and then we open presents. Of course in order to light the fire place sometimes I have to turn the air conditioning up since it doesn’t get real cold here in South Florida. It is such and awesome time of year I love it more than the kids do probably.

Questions about being a Houseparent

Doug

Hello,

I am new to the forum here and this whole idea of being a houseparent. I have been amazed at the number of opportunities posted out there and how many facilities there are.

Before I get to my questions, I’d like to give you some background. My wife and I have been married 11 years (for each of us it’s our second marriage). We are both Christians, who tried for years to reconcile with spouses that just were not willing. We each brought two children into our marriage and yes I had custody of my two children, so we raised all four together. We now have two in their third year of college and we have two that are in their last year of High School. I have been doing youth ministry (both Jr-Hi and High School with a focus on Jr-Hi age) for 22 years. My wife has a training in Children’s ministry and has joined me in the past 11 years in working with children anywhere from 8 years old through High School (again mostly Jr-Hi age). We both feel strongly led to work with youth in some capacity, but recently have had some doors shut. My passion for youth is born out of a God given gift that allows me to relate very easily with children/youth.

Now, my questions:

With a strong passion to minister to youth, is being a houseparent something that my wife and I could consider?

Is there room for a 44 & 50 year old couple to get started in this area?

What are our choices?

For example, I would assume that there are facilities out there that are associated with denominations that would not allow a divorced & remarried couple to work. Is this assumption correct?

Is the market for workers such that there are more people seeking positions as houseparents than there are positions available? Or, is it such that facilities are finding it hard to fill positions?

I’m not sure if we’d be ready to make a move for a couple of years or so, so my plans for now are to sit by and watch these forums. I hope it’s OK to chime in from time to time with some questions as I’d like to learn as much as I can about this. I’d also like to take Lauchpad’s advice to do some networking and to find out some information about the different facilities out there. We’ve got some more good years left in us and we’d like to do some serious ministry work. The thought that we could move into a full-time position really sounds appealing to us. What do you all think?

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TexPop

Hi Doug. Welcome to the forum. Sorry you’ve not received any responses to your questions yet, but Christmas time is a wild and crazy time for Houseparents, so I assume everyone is running around trying to be 6 places at once like we are.

My wife and I have been doing this for 2 years now – so let me give you my perspective:

I know several houseparent couples that have Youth ministry experience (ourselves included). Some of the experience transfers, but there’s a difference to being with kids a couple times a week and then sending them home vs living with them 24/7 IN their home. You are then responsible for feeding them, discipline, and homework as well as spiritual growth and trying to overcome whatever situation led them here. Another thing – most kids don’t want to be here – at least initially.

This job DEFINITELY is a ministry and if God has led you in this direction it’s your responsibility to pursue it. I really don’t think your divorce history will be a big deal, but expect to speak about it openly and honestly. Your relationship with God as well as your spouse today is what will matter, as well as your health (long days/nights). Couples on my campus range from their 20’s to their 60’s. Some with kids and some without. There are lots of different types of facilities. My wife and I work in a Basic Care Facility. These kids have relatively few emotional/psycological issues and we operate in a mildly structured, family environment. This differs from a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) which may handle kids with more severe problems and be much more structured – as well as may require shift-work for 24hr coverage.

We are in a Christian facility – many are not. Based on the fact that you’re posting here I assume that’s what you’d be interested in. Be sure to check out exactly what a potential facility means if the say they are “Christian based”. Their definition may not line up with yours and this could cause some serious heartache later on.

As for the availability of positions out there vs job seekers – I think you’ll find many, many openings available. Our webmaster can speak to this more directly. I think you should seriously consider Houseparenting. Ask lots of questions. Participate in this forum.

My wife and I love it, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

 

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Launchpad

QUOTE

Is there room for a 44 & 50 year old couple to get started in this area?

IMO, you are in higher demand to a facility than any other age group. Stability is everything in this job. Hopefully by the time you hit your mid forties your getting much of the dynamics of this whole “life thing” down. Your kids should be getting close to leaving home to be on their own and you are probably in a better place financially than a couple that are in their twenties.

Unless you work out a lot and dying for the excitement of working with clinically insane children I would think you may want to look for a non restraint facility.

QUOTE

I would assume that there are facilities out there that are associated with denominations that would not allow a divorced & remarried couple to work. Is this assumption correct?

There may be a few places out there like that. But I also remember something in scripture about forgiveness and what not. I actually think it is one of those things ALL Christians are told to do. If a facility cannot look at you as being in a strong, stable and Godly marriage for the past 11 years you do not want to work for them. People that perfect are bound for hell, and I guarantee nothing the children in their care do will ever measure up to being good enough.

QUOTE

Is the market for workers such that there are more people seeking positions as houseparents than there are positions available? Or, is it such that facilities are finding it hard to fill positions?

There are definitely more positions available than there are couples. It’s not a real romantic job. Between child behaviors, long hours and barely making enough to feed the family in some places, to say there is a high turnover is an understatement. You have to be bi-polar or truly called from God to last in this ministry.

QUOTE

I hope it’s OK to chime in from time to time with some questions as I’d like to learn as much as I can about this.

Heck yeah. They let me run my mouth on here. There is no exact science or program that is perfect in what we do. By you talking on the board we more than likely will learn a great deal from you. Stuff that worked with your own kids and other relationships help us all grow.

Glad your here bro.

Single Houseparents

momofmany

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????

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Launchpad

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.

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webmaster

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.

Living by the Bell

webmaster

My kids and I had to fill in at the dining hall today (we normally wash vehicles) setting up for dinner and cleaning up afterwards so I had to ring the bell to call everybody to come and eat. We have an old train bell mounted on a tower outside our dining hall we ring whenever we have a meal in the dining hall or whenever we have a cookout in the area next to the dining hall. We also ring it occasionally for certain other gatherings but not often.

We ring the bell 15 minutes before the meal starts to let everyone know to get ready and wash-up, and then ring the bell again 5 minutes before the meal for everyone to come in. The point of all of this is to ask:

Does anybody else have a bell or similar system for corporate gatherings? 

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Launchpad

We have several bells here. (Must be a Presbyterian thing)

The Campus chapel rings hourly, we have one at the football field which I’m sure gets rung at some point, and one in front of the Dining Hall. I have never heard the one in front of the Dining hall get rung. I’m sure one of our kids will eventually take care of that. 

I love hearing the church on campus ring.

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TexPop

We have a chapel bell here that rings every 1/4 hour and plays songs at the begining and end if every day. No real way of corporate calling exists, but I think it’s funny when the office workers send out an email asking everyone to come to the commissary to pick up prepared food that had just been donated – and nobody shows up. Sometimes they forget we’re houseparents, not office staff! 

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webmaster

We have the same thing that happens here. We have a new Director that is totally into E-mail, for a while he was sending 10+ emails a day, and then he realized we don’t check our E-mail that often and started using the telephone much more often. I don’t mind E-mail that much but we have some houseparents that are not into it at all, my issue is having to show everybody how to use it because I am the facility computer guru. 

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Launchpad

I had a supervisor in MD that only sent out paper memos. The guy was personally responsible for the destruction of a few acres of trees a week.

Anyway, Back to the bells- Anyone see that episode on Dirty Jobs where they made bells the old way?

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bakergirl

A Presbyterian thing huh? We work for a Presbyterian agency and on one campus there is a dinner bell. Weird

Names How Are You Addressed

foshgirl

How do your kids address you? If you’ve been called different things at various facilities, what has seemed to be most comfortable for the kids and to you? ie. by first name, Mr/Mrs. So-and-so, etc. I think it must be a fine line between comfort and familiarity and respect. Any insight on this would be appreciated. Also, did you choose, or did your facility inform you?

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Launchpad

All the facilities we have been at have left it open for us. We prefer Mr. or Mrs. And first name.

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momofmany

Ours calls us Mr. and Mrs. with first name attached. It is/was our choice. With our biological children still home, I did not think it was fair to them (this is our first job as houseparents) to let others call us mom or dad. This may change over time.

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foshgirl

Wow…I had completely forgotten that was the new trend (“new” according to my parents) in the States. Which is weird because the kids at my old Child Care facility called me that.

The only thing I had been able to come up with was from my childhood in South Africa. There you call everyone “Auntie so-and-so” or “Uncle so-and-so”. Although the shortened it with my mom and just called her Auntie B. Pretty much anyone who is not like a teacher, or stranger, or not actually related to you. Like, at church I called everyone more than 10 years older than me Auntie and Uncle. Even my parents would call the people older than them Auntie and Uncle. It was just polite.

I’ve stopped since living in the states, but people I met in the USA during visits in my childhood are still Uncle and Auntie to me. You can usually tell when in my life I met a person based on that. Sometimes I find myself at a loss about common practices because my own childhood doesn’t apply.

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webmaster

We have worked in a long term residential foster care home for the last 8 years. We have been in our current cottage for 5 years this month, minus a 9 month sabbatical. Some of the children in our cottage have been with us since before they were 2 years old; don’t even remember their birth parents. Additionally, they will probably be with us until they graduate from school. We are the only parents they know, and those children call us mom and dad.

We have a girl that we claim as a daughter that we raised since she was fourteen. She calls us Mr. Mike or Ms Marje. When she refers to us to other she says, “This is my mom and Dad”

We have some children that are more comfortable calling us Mr. Mike or Ms Marje and we are OK with that.

At the home we worked at in Wyoming the just called us by our first names. Things are much less formal in the western culture and it is totally acceptable to address adults by their first name. Additionally, the children we worked with there were in placement short term. The longest we had in placement when we were there was 22 months. We were encouraged not to allow any of the children address us as mom and dad.

At the home we worked at in Texas the children were not allowed to call us Mom or Dad. They all called us Mr. Mike or Ms Marje.

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Launchpad

I use to correct kids that tried going the “Mom and Dad” route. My supervisor helped me see the other side of the issue. I use to believe that a kid would have serious transitional issues if they moved and saw me as Dad.

Now I see a kid that does that needs to call someone Dad. I really respect any HP that will allow them to do that. My supervisor helped me to see that a kid will have transitional issues no matter what they call you. It’s the relationship itself that is important. (Thanks Craig!)

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TexPop

At our facility here in Texas our “titles” are “Mom” and “Pop” followed by last names for specificity if there is more than one of us present. I’ve had kids tell me that they are a little uncomfortable with the Mom title at first, but none have ever seemed to have a problem with “Pop”. In fact, sometimes they will slip and call me Dad….I love it when that happens. 

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rachel

I love that mom and pop followed by your name idea – very cute! We go by Mr. Billy and Ms. Rachel (chosen by facility). Some kids choose to call us mom and dad, and that’s fine with us!

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Housepop

Our present facility prefers that my wife and I are called Mom and Pop and if in a group of other houseparents our last name is added. We work with middle school age girls and it is harder for them to get used to calling my wife mom then calling me pop but they get used to in no time. At our previous home it was Mr. and Ms and then our first names which for me was harder to get used to. The first children’s home we worked in was less formal and our first names were used. For me I guess I like Pop the best but we do teach the girls the we have first names and my wife and I don’t address each other as mom and pop. It is easier for them to see us as real people if they understand we have real names too. The only thing I don’t like about being called pop is when administrative staff call me pop instead of by my name as if I have no identity beyond my job title.

What to search for?

emyboy

Ok, question number 2. As we search for a position, what am I looking for in an organization? What kind of questions do I ask? Also, how do you as houseparents not come to the place of burnout? I am making a huge move with my family to another state possibly, and I do not want to get burned out of this job. Just searching for some Godly Wisdom on this area

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marjie

I have never replied before, I am the webmasters wife, but we have been houseparents for almost 10 years and as for your question about burning out. There is no easy answer because I believe this is a calling from God and when things get hard, and they will, he will give you the strength. My best advice is to pray a lot and have other people also pray. This is a life altering move and there are a lot of tough days but if this is what God has asked you to do you will lead you path and he will always make that clear to you even on the days when it looks dark. God has always blessed us, protected our birth children and given us children that we would not be the same people without. We work in a facility that is 1000’s of miles away from our extended family and yet he has sent us wonderful Godly people to fill that void. I guess what I am trying to say is give this to God and he will not let you down. 

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rachel

I am not a houseparent yet (my husband and I start on January 2), so I don’t really have an expert opinion. But I do know that these questions you are struggling with were on the forefront of our minds as well. We have been especially worried about the burnout issue. We are giving up careers, and we don’t want to just be houseparents for one year and then start new careers all over again. Our pastor said something during his sermon recently that really helped us feel confident to take this plunge…

God will never ask you to do something that does not require you to have full faith in Him.

That fact really resonated with us. Houseparenting takes a lot of faith, and it does not really make sense to the natural mind. Working 24 hours a day, with someone else’s kids, for very little pay – those aren’t qualities that we would normally look for in a job. But, throughout the Bible, God is constantly asking people to have faith and follow His direction in situations that make no sense to the natural mind. And in all of those Bible stories that we know so well (Noah and the Ark for just one example), God provides above and beyond the human expectation.

There is a reason that God wants us in houseparenting, and what God ordains, He sustains.

I hope that some of this helps. It’s all stuff that we already know, but sometimes it just helps to hear it again before taking such a huge leap of faith. I know it has helped us! God bless you!

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emyboy

Thank you all for your responses. I am taking one step at a time. We believe with all of our hearts that God is calling us to be Houseparents. It is a big leap of faith, and I am glad there is this forum to help us in our decision process. The Lord brings into our lives forerunners that can help us in our ministry. To show us what to do and not to do. This is all new to us, so we will take any advice we can get. Thanks again.

Also please pray for God’s direction as we are fasting and praying for these next 3 days for this decision.

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bakergirl

Hey there! DH and I just secured our job so I remember these questions keenly. Here is what spoke to us about organizations (the one we almost got hired at and then found out later they had a bad rep for houseparents, and the one we accepted the job at)

In interview:

Do they want you to communicate with other houseparents? I’m talking more than meeting for lunch, are you allowed to hang out with a family and do activities (go to church, eat dinner) If you are allowed limited contact or no contact with houseparents- that’s a big red flag! Facilities that take care of their houseparents will be eager for you to see how happy their staff is! And don’t be afraid to ask either, a facility may not offer but once you ask to spend a day with them, will allow it.

Do they admit their problems? Do they let you know up front that some kids might be violent? (our facility admitted it could be a problem and provides non-violent restraint training but it has only had a few instances) Or do they deny it will ever be a problem and look at you like you are crazy? Denying problems that you know have to be an issue with troubled kids is a big red flag.

Do they let you check out the grounds and homes? We received a tour but were not allowed into the homes at one place and found out later that probably meant BIG red flag. Our current facility let us spend the night in a home.

Do they let you share your faith? One place that called themselves Christian would not allow hps to talk about God, just take the kids to the church on campus. I would have had a real problem with that since faith is the only way dh and I can handle this job.

Lastly, do you feel a connection with the people at the facility? DH and I didn’t know that would happen since we didn’t feel it the first place we interviewed at. Once we found the place God led us to, there was a huge difference, a feeling of rightness. A LOT of prayer went into our search and decision.

It sounds like you guys are approaching this exactly the way it should be- as a ministry.

Oops- forgot the burnout question. Our current facility (the main campus) has several hps that have been there 18 years. That spoke volumes to us. Then, the branch-off campus where we will be working has had the same hps, same director for five years and that’s as long as it has been running. You could see that the hps and the director liked and cared about each other (the hps were in on the interview). I think finding out the average time of turnover helps. The national average is 6 months. The place that had a bad rep w/hps had a 3 year rate so sometimes the statistics can lie.

Good luck and prayers!

More Food Service

webmaster
We have a food service at our facility that prepares many of our meals. They are an outsourced food services management company and it just seems to me that our meals are very institutional. I would very much prefer purchasing my own groceries and doing my own cooking.

Does anybody else have food service and if you do what do you think of them? For those that don’t have it, what are your thoughts? Would you like it or not?


dontlietokids.net
We have an on campus grocery store and we enjoy that, but next year we are going to an ordering system. I’m not sure which I prefer as I spent my first 12 years as a HP with an ordering system. Here, we will still have the option of ordering the food cooked or uncooked. That seems ok, but to me it’s all going to depend on that variety. With an ordering system, if there’s not a lot of variety you’re going to have that “institutional” feeling.

At my first HP job we had a central kitchen that made all meals. I certainly didn’t like that because you got what they made and could request no variety at all. More times than not the kids hated what was made no matter how hard you tried to teach them to appreciate it. I know I hope I never see that where I currently work. VARIETY is the name of the game in regard to working with kids and meal preparation.


momofmany
We have to cook all meals by ourselves. We get some of our basic groceries from the commissary here on campus (meat and fresh fruit is not too good) and have a budget of $75 per month per child for groceries bought elsewhere. We have 11 kids, it gets hard sometimes. There is almost always someone who does not like something. Our kids range in age from 1 to 14, so factor that in. Things I never would have done before working as an HP (buying frozen lasagna instead of making it from scratch) I do quite often. Between 4H, sports, appointments, school, church, scouts, and then just being tired, it is hard to cook every meal. We get two days off a month, so we cook every day. We are trying to show a family model, so that is what we do. I get to plan my own menus, which I like. We have found that is the best time to get one on one time with a single child. One adult and one child prepare the meal for everyone else. We try and teach the older ones basic kitchen things, and just listen to what they want to talk about. The younger ones can help in some ways, and it is a way to just have quality time with them.
Since my husband and I alternate, our way works well for us. But there are days I could never cook again – especially like this past holiday break. We have to serve three meals and two snacks per day. I do try to do the Cook it once, serve it twice way – but that don’t always work.


glidenhi
My wife and I often wished we had had more control over what the kids ate. We did the cooking in our separate homes, but most of the food was donated so we didn’t get to select it. Several of the kids that were on behavior altering drugs probably could have done without them if we had been able to avoid certain food additives and dies.

http://www.feingold.org/

Our youngest son was diagnosed ADHD. We put him on the fiengold diet and within three days we noted a marked difference. His grades went from C’s and D’s…..to A’s….and the school teachers couldn’t believe the difference in his social skills. After about a week…he told my wife…..”mama…..I didn’t realize how much I hurt.”


teacher
My husband and I are responsible for preparing dinner every night. During the school day, breakfast and lunch is provided by the school. Lunch is also served on Sunday after church. There are funds for an occasional pizza night or going out night. Sometimes restaurants are generous and donate meals. (Rarely though) I prefer cooking over prepared meals. There is room for variety.


rachel
At our facility, there is a set menu that consists of mostly frozen, prepared meals. (Lucky for me, my husband happens to be the person in charge of setting the menu!) There really aren’t too many options to put on the menu though. To add a little variety (and food with flavor and fresh ingredients), we just got an alternative option for Saturdays approved. Every Saturday, one girl gets to be in charge of making up dinner. The girls are really excited about this. Most of the girls have some old family recipes that they want to show off. (This coming Saturday we will be having lasagna pizza.) For the girls that don’t know any recipes, they are excited about using cook books and online recipes. Usually our food is pretty mundane, but hopefully this new idea will help to spice things up a little bit.


TexPop
We’ve got a budget of $525/mo for our cottage of up to 8 kids plus the H/Ps. This is for consumables only. We have a commissary that supplies a lot of canned goods, hamburger, eggs, etc. plus an additional budget for “household items” such as toiletries, cleaners and paper goods. We cook all of our cottage meals ourselves and then turn in a menu history sheet every month for licensing purposes. I’m very blessed to have a wife that loves to cook and is GREAT at it!


Launchpad
We just moved to a new facility- Here they a cafeteria during the school day for breakfast and lunch. We prepare meals at night and on weekends.
We get a budget for food about $1000 a month. My wife does the shopping while I push the cart, otherwise it would be porter house steaks and grape soda every night.

Do you let kids drive your car?

webmaster
This question is mostly directed toward those that work in long term facilities. The facility that I work at can be the home of children from the time they are young until they finish college. The policy is that they can get their learner’s permit when the reach 15 and they can renew it until they are 18. As long as they don’t have a driver’s license they can drive one of the designated training cars with an adult. Once they get their license they are no longer allowed to drive because our facility’s insurance won’t cover them. Once they turn 18 and can purchase their own insurance, we (the facility) will help them get a car.

However, many of the kids get their license at 16 because some go home on visits and family members let them drive or they have sponsors that let them drive. I know some houseparents that will let the children drive their personal vehicles. This is something that I have never done, 1) because I am somewhat of a stickler for following policy and 2) I am terrified of my insurance company.

My vehicles are not insured to use for work and I think that allowing a home child to drive it while I am on duty would constitute using it for work. Frankly, I don’t make near enough money to take on that liability. I was wondering what others thought. Have you ever allowed a child in your care to drive your personal vehicle. Either way, why?


Launchpad
The older teen cottages here are allowed to drive a HP’s car if the HP is with them and they have shown enough responsibility to drive and meet all the local licensing laws.

I have let some of the boys I have worked with at other facilities drive my vehicle, but only on the ranch in an open field with nothing to hit but cow patties. Even then I was real nervous.

I agree with you on not making enough to assume the liability. One bad accident and my family don’t eat, and we like to eat.