Pets in the House


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

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



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

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

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


Yep! No pets allowed where I am.

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



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



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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

Prospective Houseparents Former student looking to make a difference


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.



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. 



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.



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.

House parent rules and regulations…


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


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


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

Both Florida and California seem to have similair regulations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids in placement are nothing like your own children.

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

Some programs don’t allow for it either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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