Being a Good Birth Parent Won’t Make You a Good Houseparent!

As, I believe, the successful parent of two birth children I have to say that being a successful parent does not insure that you will be a successful houseparent.

I have spoke with many people that were interviewing to be first time houseparents tell me how being successful as parents of birth children will help them to be great houseparents only to come to me about three months later and confess how wrong they were. That parenting other people’s children is very different from parenting your own.

Unless you have successfully parented birth children that have been abused and/or neglected, lived in extreme poverty, been raised in a family where crime was not only condoned but encouraged, or had behavioral disorders you are probably going to have to learn a whole new set of parenting skills.

Additionally, the children you care for will not have the same relationship with you that your birth children have. Their blood bond will not be with you but with the abusive, neglectful or dysfunctional family they are not currently living with yet in most cases will continue to love.

Not that your previous parenting skills will be worthless either, they will be very useful in other areas of household management like scheduling, working with schools, etc. What I am referring to is how you will need new skills to deal with the many new behaviors that you probably never had to deal with raising your birth children.

The only solution is training. Either through your facility or on your own, but being a good houseparent takes training. Most facilities provide initial training that is very important. Pay attention and participate. You will also want to attend any additional training that they provide and if they provide reimbursement for outside training I would take advantage of all that time would allow for.

If your facility does not provide training or only minimal training and you want to continue to stay there, you need to get the training on your own. There are several books I can recommend: No Such Thing As a Bad Kid!: Understanding and Responding to the Challenging behavior of Troubled Children and Youth — By: Charles D. Appelstein and Respecting Residential Work with Children -By: James R. Harris Jr., M.A. are two very good books to start with. There are also several others that I have read and reviewed on my site. Buy them from me or from somebody else, but please don’t fall into the I don’t need any extra training trap. There are also usually several opportunities to attend seminars in the community. You can find them through local colleges, schools and family service organizations.

If you are thinking about becoming a houseparent and want to get a head start on training you might want to sign up for foster parent training either through your local family services department or through a private agency. Before my wife and I became houseparents we were foster parents and the training we received during that certification process has been invaluable throughout our houseparenting career.

Training and experience will make you a good houseparent!!


My in-laws retired a few months ago and decided to become houseparents. They raised a great family that lives for the Lord, now they are going thru quite a change up in how these kids behave differently from their own! I’m calling them tonight to have them read this it will definitely help them feel much better. Thanks!!!

I agree with you about the training and experience but, I think it also takes some natural ability (talent) and also patience, and a good spiritual life.

Not a Real Family?


In order to be effective at this job (long term residential care) you have to get emotionally involved with the children you care for, yet it almost always leads to getting your feelings hurt. Let me explain.

We have been in the same cottage for almost 6 years and most of the kids in the cottage have been here for several years and came at a young age. Some of them are getting to the age that they are really starting to fantasize about the relationship with their birth parents and believe that the solution to their happiness is to be back with them. They are starting to identify with the culture of their birth parents and rebel against our values. Most don’t even remember living with their birth parents so they create their own memories.

Some can’t even recognize their birth parents. We have a set of twins that just turned 6, they were two when they came and don’t even know what their mother looks like. This Christmas she made contact for the first time by sending them Christmas gifts. Now all they talk about is going to live with their “Real Mom”.

My wife really got her feelings hurt by this.

The question I have is this. Do any of you struggle with this? And if so, besides lots of prayer, are there things you do that help you feel better about it.



I think that all of know that to these kids “mom” is always going to be “mom” and “dad” is always going to be “dad.” It doesn’t matter what the parents have done these kids will always love them and talk about living with them again. However, when we are the ones with them every day and night. We feed them, love them, raise them, teach them, and nurture them, we can’t seem to understand why.

Our facility does not take emergency placements. The kids come for a pre-placement visit and they decide if this is where they want to be and we decide if the child will work in our home. Therefore, we often have contact with the parents or guardians of these kids. We encourage contact with the hope that with therapy this family can be civil at some point with each other. This is difficult because it does not allow the children to really attach onto us as “parents.”

In your situation it must be unbearable to have someone contact the kids after 4 years of nothing. You are right though, prayer is the best thing that can be done. Also, I would suggest that you remember your ultimate mission in this job is not to turn yourself into these children’s parent, but to raise them in a way that gives them a chance to have a successful life unlike the one they came from.


Craig Bridges

This is a great topic and one that doesn’t have any clear cut answers. It is hard to help kids identify with their parents while at the same time breaking behaviors and cycles from those very same people all the while trying to incorporate them into your family. Developing healthy bonds can be very confusing for these kids and even more true when they hit the crazy teens years.


For my children

I am in a facility that runs like a real home, our kids go to private school (my husband has taught part=time and coached at this school). We have a lot of input on their care and lives. All of my kids do not have family contact, because they are not around. One of my older boys, we have had for 7 years got married in Oct. on campus. It was beautiful. We had 200 guests and it was on campus under one of our oak trees. (We have 24 acres and only two houses on the property). It was so awesome to see on their invitations the name of our agency, he was proud of his home. My husband and I were the parent figures. Yes even with these amazing bonds there still is times you feel that hurt. But I have found the joys and blessings have surpassed those little disappointments. I think real biological parents also have those twinges at times. My husband and I have been richly blessed.



Oh the “real” mom and dad stuff really bugs me sometimes! I know it shouldn’t – we are here for these kids, not for our own feelings. But I especially hate it when they get mad and say “you’re not even my real mom!”. Hey now, aren’t I the one who holds back their hair when they puke, the one who attends all their school plays, the one who’s bedroom door they knock on at midnight when it’s thundering outside?? Man, it sure can be irritating sometimes!

All that said, when I feel myself getting frustrated about this whole “real mom” thing, my wonderful husband lovingly reminds me that we will always be second best, and that is okay. No matter how awful their “real” parents are (and believe me they are awful), our girls have this undying loyalty and admiration for their biological parents. We just always need to remember that that is the way it is. And because of that, we should be especially thankful for those precious family moments we have with these kids – when they introduce you as mom to their friends, when they slip their hand into yours during praise and worship at church, when they remind you (even though you do it every night) to tuck them into bed before they fall asleep.

When you look at the whole picture, I know we are all blessed beyond measure by these kids!!

Routine for bio kids in a family setting??


I am in a facility where it is family style but they still have single HP’s and HP’s without children. For the families out there with small children, do you have a routine or are your bio kids just having to “deal” with living in a facility.

Right now I hate it because I am trying to have my own kids nap before the residents come home and b/c there have been trainings etc. on random days they have no routine. We stress that the residents thrive on routine but who cares about our own kids! Grrrr… 



When we became houseparents my youngest was 3. We tried to have a routine, but the fact was that we had things that disrupted that like training, court hearings, school meetings, etc.

It is the nature of what we do, and the price we have to pay to do. The way that I see it my kids could either deal with the disruptions of their parents being houseparents or have the routine of being in daycare while their parents worked other kinds of jobs.

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


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


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 



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.

Names How Are You Addressed


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?



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



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.



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.



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.



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!)



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. 



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!



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.

Just Getting Started

My husband and I are 44 years old. Our daughters are all married and grown. We have been working with teens for about 15 years. We really see God’s gifting in our work with the teens.
Now that our girls are grown, we’ve been talking about what we would like to do. Most of our 25 years were spent making decisions around the family and the girls. This is the first time we can choose what we’d like to do.

We’re very interested in becoming house parents. We have a proven track record in our own family and very positive relationships with teens in the last 20 years. We have finally allowed ourselves to admit that we’re just not materially oriented. We have a passion for relationships, not things.

My husband has an engineering degree and I’ve worked with Josh McDowell’s ministry, Living Alternatives and in various professional positions over the years.

How do we begin this journey?

You need to have an idea of what kind of care you wish to get into. Behavioral Modification, Basic Care, Maternity. And what kind of facility State Funded or Private funded. There are advantages and Disadvantages to both. There are hundreds of places to work, it is just a matter of finding what fits.

Then start inquiring with facilities that meet your criteria, their websites are a great resource in figuring what type of facility they are. Before you accept a position spend as much time as you can at the facility. We like to stay at least over night, to get a good idea of how the facility operates. Most facilities will accommodate that.


Please be fully aware that houseparenting doesn’t always carry the bonds that regular parenting provides. Often people come to the field expecting the children will be thankful, happy to have them and loving – Instead, when often the new limits are so shocking to the child, they rebell.

In nearly all houseparenting settings you can expect to be yelled at, possibly hit, threatened and in some cases you can be hurt. I have not seen a killing in houseparenting though.

No one will tell you in an interview that these things might happen with the teens you’ll encounter. They will hint at it, but….

The training you get will tell you how to deal with such happenings, but it is hard the first few years to remember the training when your heart is thumping and you are afraid.

If you stay in houseparenting long enough, you’ll get very good at handling these things. Sad, but most folks don’t stay long enough in this field to “get good.”

The webmaster here has an amusing little cartoon on being a houseparent that is EXTREMELY accurate.

Read it and believe it. If you see nothing that upsets you (including the little bomb under the houseparent’s seat) then this might be for you.

Houseparenting and large families


In the Old Forum there was a question about houseparenting and large families. Recently I have found locations that will allow houseparents to have four, sometimes even five total family members.
…and there are facilities on the other extreme that do not allow any kids.

No kids at all, marks the contradictory nature of houseparents. You want a stable married couple, completely devoted to children and yet with no children of their own.


I have two children that have basically grown up in childcare (my daughter was two when we became foster parents and three when we became houseparents, my son was 7 & 8)

I can honestly say that in a therapeutic houseparent setting it is sometimes very difficult to have your own children. They are exposed to things you really don’t want them to see, although I believe it is easier when they become older. We started in a Behavioral Program and I know my children saw things I didn’t want them to.

However in a basic care setting I believe it can be a very good thing most of the time. They tend to be a reflection of you, and many times model the behavior you are trying to help the other children learn. Also they allow you to model appropriate family affection to the children in your care. We have worked the last 6.5 years in basic care, and our children have many times had a calming effect on the cottage just by the behavior that they modeled.

1. – How did you cope with your children being exposed to bad things?

2. – Did your kids benefit for being ‘houseparent kids’, if so how?

Homework due for tomorrow


How did you cope with your children being exposed to bad things?

The worst thing my children have had to experience was a returning run away girl that ended up coming down off a 4 day meth binge. She became violent and trashed her room. She punched a mirror that was on her wall breaking it into several pieces while at the same time cutting her hand and getting a good amount of blood everywhere. Her climax was when she picked up a chunk of mirror and started walking around the house describing to my wife how she was going to slice our children’s throats. Shortly after that the director and counselor arrived and removed her from the house for two days so that she could come down in a more private setting. One week later she ran away again and ended up in the State reform school.

We almost stopped being houseparents THAT NIGHT. Instead, we calmed down, sat our children down and explained to them how meth changes your personality and causes you to do things you normally wouldn’t. We also explained that we would never have allowed her to hurt them, and that we were going to start looking for a different situation. Two months later we moved to a basic care home in Texas and have been doing basic care ever since.

In other less severe situations, we would always sit down with our children and debrief (I was nine years military) the situation and explain to them how the behavior was inappropriate and why people should not copy it. We were always open and honest with our children, and although this may have taken away from their innocence, I think they understood what was happening around them.

Did your kids benefit for being ‘houseparent kids’, if so how?

Yes, I believe they have a better understanding of our modern culture. I also believe it has made them more compassionate. They have lived with hurting children most of their life. They have seen how abuse and neglect affects the innocent victims: the children. They view the kids we have cared for as brothers and sisters. My son (now 14 and in high school) just finished a school project that required a family photo. The photo he chose to use was not one of his birth family but of his entire cottage family. He could have chosen to use a birth family photo, because we usually do one every year at Christmas for the grandparents.


Those last experiences sound similar to what kids see at school. I am a full-time teacher, and when I used to teach in public schools, my daughters saw many things I wish that they never would have.

My husband and I work at a Christian boy’s ranch and we have 5 children whom we have adopted. We were welcomed with open arms and open minds here.

New, negative remarks from friends/family


Hi, my husband and I just had an interview yesterday in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a parent/teacher live in. All went well and after a background check and clearances seems a go. My question is, did many of you get negative responses from people, family and friends about what you were going to do. Especially if you have children of your own, and if so how do you respond?
I am really hurt at how people come back with nasty comments about what you’re going to do (even a church member made some nasty remarks, like “if it was me I’d think real hard about how this will affect your children, did you really think this out good, etc). I mean come on, why do people have to come back with negativity and doubt? My family (My mom and dad, grandmother and brother plus his wife and daughter are all that I really have as family) already are 2 hours away from us, I did not tell anyone about our interview because I knew how they would react. They are the type that believes family needs to stay within 30 miles of each other, visits every weekend all holidays spent together etc. Well I told my mother today what we were going to be doing, her reaction is “well I’M not happy about that at all, this means I will NEVER get to see my grandkids. Can you even handle a job like this? I don’t think you’re making good decisions……” My husband and I believe strongly this is what God is calling us to do, yes it’s a MAJOR change and will be very hard work. But 1st of all this is OUR life and what WE want. Does anyone have good responses on handling the negativity? For me it’s hard because I always have tried to please my parents (gee stayed married the first time only so I would not hurt their feelings going through a divorce). What do you say to people when you tell them what you’re going to be doing?
Sorry so long, just really frustrated and we have not even got a defiant yes yet. Also I did not tell my mom that if they say yes they want us in the UP by Oct. 31st for 2 weeks training. Decided to leave that one out


hang in there you’re not alone our family and friends do the same thing to us whenever we have an opportunity to be house Parents, they say things like so you are leaving us , I will not get to see my grand kids at all now ,are you sure this is what you are supposed to do or a great one like you know it gets colder there than it does here.
Sometimes people may mean well but they could get into your way and Hinder what the Lord is calling you to do, Satan will use even family members and those very close to you to hinder and try to cause obstacles in your path but do not listen to anything but Gods call they will get over it eventually they always do .it is just shaking some foundations up if these people would open up their hearts to what God is wanting to do they would be much to their surprise what God wants them to do it usually shakes a person’s comfort zone.
You are on the right track follow y’all’s hearts and let it lead you and not people.

We will keep you in our prayers


Thanks, glad to hear others here the same thing. Yes I heard the “you know it gets REAL cold and TONS of snow in the U.P.” Well yeah duh, there is also less people, the air is so clean and fresh, with tons of opportunities for our outdoor life we love so much. My girls thought it would be awesome to take kids fishing and camping if they have never gone. Anyway, thank you made me feel a lot better.


When we first became houseparents, many of our friends thought we were joining a cult because houseparenting is a lifestyle not a job. When we told them about it and what it entailed they became suspicious.

Our family was fairly supportive. I only see my mother about every 3-5 years anyway, because I moved far away when I was young and can’t afford to drive 3,000 miles round trip all the time. We talk by phone when we can, and send cards.

As far as how you handle it, I would say you need to follow your heart. But, you also have to be 100% committed to being a houseparent if that is what you choose to do. If you are not committed, the first time things get tough, and they will, you will most likely call it quits. I have seen it happen several times.


My biological children showed quite a bit of jealousy as well as some resentment that I could take time for “strangers” that I was always too busy to spend with them because of my work.

My mother simply thought we were nuts.

We worked through it all though.



Hi again, ok, reading some of these posts are giving me serious doubts!!! We have 2 boys, 2 1/2, and 11 months. I would NEVER forgive myself if something ever happened to them (abuse). I need some serious reassurance that my kids will be ok. I don’t want to take his job, and be on edge every second thinking something bad is going to happen to them. Also, how the heck is my 2 year old supposed to adjust? All of a sudden he goes from his happy little life with mommy and daddy and baby brother to his world being turned upside down. I believe that we can really make a difference, but don’t your biological kids need to be your first priority? How can we possibly give them the attention that they need at such a young age, and also be effective houseparents??? Part of me thinks this would be a great way to help make a difference, but part of me thinks we would be getting in way over our heads. What will my 2 year old think/feel if a kid freaks out on me and starts cursing me out right in front of him? I would think he would be so scared! Anyone who can give me some thoughts on their experiences on how their young children adjusted would help!!


You had 9 months to prepare him for the arrival of his baby brother.

It will most likely be quite an adjustment for a young child to have to see his “family” explode in size overnight and his “mommy” and “daddy” all of a sudden sharing their time with others.

Personally, I would not consider being a House Parent if I still had children at home.

That’s just me though.


My children have basically grown up in residential childcare. They have done much better in basic care than they did when we were in Behavior Modification.

Even in B–mod there was only one time I was at all concerned with their safety and that was more me than the situation.

Having done both types of childcare, I prefer basic care with our children, but I have seen several families that do just fine in Therapeutic care.

Spend as much time as you can visiting the home and ask lots of questions. Be specific about concerns that you have with your children.

As far as our children adjusting to residential life, there was no problem. In fact, we got out for a while and they wanted to go back. Having grown up in residential care, they prefer it. Additionally we are able to spend more time with them and do more things with them than we could in a more traditional employment situation.

Hope this helps.

Make sure you follow your heart. If you are in doubt about the situation when you start, you most likely will bale the first time it gets really tough and that wouldn’t be good for you or the children you are caring for. It would be better not to start in the first place.


My kids are 2 years old and 8 months and my 2yo LOVES being at work. She loves to “see the boys” and is kinda bored when it is just her family at home. She has 8 big brothers to dote on her all the time. There are some adjustments but overall, I think it makes life fun for my kids.

Hope it works out!


We have two girls and one on the way-we are just fine-gotta be careful that you don’t have the US and THEM attitude. If you take the job you have to go into the job thinking it as a lifestyle change. This is going to be your lifestyle-you will need to incorporate your kids into the program.

12 Year Veteran

I would NEVER forgive myself if something ever happened to them (abuse). I need some serious reassurance that my kids will be ok. I don’t want to take his job, and be on edge every second thinking something bad is going to happen to them. Also, how the heck is my 2 year old supposed to adjust? All of a sudden he goes from his happy little life with mommy and daddy and baby brother to his world being turned upside down. I believe that we can really make a difference, but don’t your biological kids need to be your first priority? How can we possibly give them the attention that they need at such a young age, and also be effective houseparents??? Part of me thinks this would be a great way to help make a difference, but part of me thinks we would be getting in way over our heads

Personally if these are thoughts that are really troubling your mind, then you’re best to not get into houseparenting at this time. No facility anywhere can give you a guarantee that your own kids will never have something happen to them. Kids in care come from many different backgrounds and you’re going to encounter a lot of things if you stay in childcare. Have we (my wife and I) ever encountered the problems in our longevity…absolutely? I had my wife remove our kids to our quarters while I dealt with the kids in the cottage.
If you have doubts don’t get into it..wait..there is nothing wrong with waiting till your ready. Lord knows I’ve seen many people start with good intensions and real want to..but they were not totally ready to take on the lifestyle and they quit shortly after beginning.


I have been a houseparent for almost 8 years. I have been at my present home for almost 5. I have a daughter that is 16 months old. One thing I always remember that God loves her more than I do and that if he directs me to do something that he has a plan that even if I do not understand He does. Just tie into a support system