When you’re off duty for respite how does your house run? The same, better or worse. We just took time off with new relief people and our kids ran our house, and not in a good way. Any tips on how you handle this?
I’ve dealt with this too. It makes it almost more stressful to go off-duty than staying on. In our situation, our off-duty apartment is attached to the cottage – so we’re always here.
We’ve made a cottage handbook, specifically for the Relief Houseparents, which includes our rules and practices as well as a handbook on the kids so the Relief knows what to expect from each child. This also includes things like daily cottage routines and generally-used consequences. On our very first meeting with the Relief we reviewed this handbook at length.
If the problems observed don’t pertain to the health and well being of the kids then I wait until our “changeover meeting” to discuss it with the relief Houseparents. Make a list with specifics and review them in your meeting. There may be a need for a “shadowing” period so the Relief can understand what you mean. All in all, it will depend on the attitude and receptiveness of the Relief. I would definitely be prepared to raise the issue with the campus administrator if problems persist. This is another good reason to document specific examples.
Also, I tell the kids that I will continue to hold them responsible for following the well-known rules of the cottage – even though I may be off-duty.
The guys know we hold them accountable, it just seems this time they went wild. I don’t know what it was. The notes from the people covering were not good, which I have taken up with my supervisor. I know I am a control freak, and that does not help, but the house was a wreck, the kids were horrible. Everyone on campus knew what my kids had done and that we were off. I think that coming back on was the most frustrated I had been. Our apartment attaches to the house, but we had made a quick trip out of town. It has been hard just trying to get them back on track.
Awesome tip with the cottage handbook Texpop!
If there has been serious problems with respite I have talked with the respite to find out what’s going on, (Maybe the kids are giving them an extra hard tim) try to resolve the issue and if that does not work, it’s time to take it up the chain with the supervisor for satisfaction.
I’m also a bit of a control freak so I’ve had to learn to just live with some stuff and recognize some people have different expectations. Just cause the cereal bowls ended up in the wrong cabinet does not mean I need to get ugly on the relief.
Kids (even your most trustworthy kid) will hustle any adult that is not with them full time. Kinda like substitute teacher day in school. A cottage handbook like Texpop is talking about should reduce much of the drama.
I use to really hate going on respite because it seemed like we had to start over from scratch every time we came back on. Anytime there is a flux in the schedule it sends a lot of kids into a tail spin. Unfortunately in this setting it is not possible for a facility to keep the same HP’s in the house 24- 7, 365 days a year without a break. So the house spinning up is going to be reality no matter what we do. The only thing we can do is try to minimize the spinning as much as possible. Set rules and very, well defined boundaries that are strictly followed by the respite help a great deal. If the respite is not willing to do that- It will be bad for everyone.
I have only worked with one lady that was absolutely horrible at being respite. Kids allowance came up missing and groceries would just vanish. She did not last long. Most of the respite couples I worked with were awesome. Glad I don’t live that life!
Relief is a necessary evil of residential childcare, which by the way I am very much enjoying at the moment, and will always cause some disruption with the children and staff when it happens. I used to be really uptight about everything being perfect with the kids and relief staff but have come to realize it’s not going to be.
I do however very much agree with Texpop that holding the children responsible for their behavior whether or not you are there goes a long way in helping the situation. Our kids know that if they try to manipulate the relief staff and do things they are not supposed to we will give them consequences on top of whatever relief staff gave them.
It’s also much better when you have consistent relief staff. Our kids don’t try to get over on regular relief staff near as much as they do, when we have vacation relief staff covering the cottage. I think familiarity with the children is one of the top stabilizing factors with the children. When relief staff knows the children and what the rules are things seem to go better.
You also have to consider the frequency that there seems to be chaos. Even with good relief staff, fair and consistent rules, and great relationships between the kids and staff, there are going to be those times when the kids seem to just flip out and that’s when you hammer them when you get back. Our kids seem to do it about once a year. If it’s happening every relief then there is probably a problem with staff (either you or relief), or the program.
Our kids love testing relief. They will pull stuff that doesn’t even sound like them. It’s pretty sad. I just consistently tell them “we know what you did” and give consequences. I think it will eventually settle down when the relief has been here for awhile.
I know that everyone has complaints about relief – including myself – and how the house is messy when you come back and the kids are a struggle, but think about it from the kids perspective as well. When we are at the home, the kids feel safe, protected, and structured. Each of these is the EXACT OPPOSITE of the life that they have come from. Each of these kids have been abandoned, abused, left, ripped out of homes and thrown into new ones. They finally start letting their defenses down with us because we have provided a safe and structured home environment for them. They can learn to be the “responsible” kids that we see each day. Well, when we up and leave every month or two weeks or whatever our schedule is, it is just like when mom left or dad left or those foster parents they were with for two days that they were never able to trust and build a relationship with. OF COURSE all those old behaviors – that we don’t see anymore – start coming out again. It’s their way to cope – they are putting their defenses back up. This is especially true if the relief is inconsistent or constantly changing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m NOT excusing the behavior AT ALL. We do give consequences when we come back for things that might have happened, but ‘s sometimes good to think of it from the kids perspective as well.
Well I guess I feel mostly for the kids, cause they are the ones that have multiple bosses. They are the ones that have to switch gears if there isn’t consistency. Have you ever worked in the business world and had two bosses who do things differently? I have…and it’s the pits!
I believe the secret to a wholesome household…be it a regular family or a group family….is unity among those that run the house. It is rare. Just like a wife and husband are one in marriage and better present a united front to the children; houseparents….all of the houseparents…had better be married in purpose and understand each other and come up with a compromise/unified plan that works for the household. The main houseparents should have an outline of each child’s character traits and strengths and weaknesses and a plan for building/redeeming each child with progress reporting. All other houseparents should add to and maintain the outline/plan/progress. Part of the completion of any stay at the house should be an update to the plan and a meeting in the changeover to assure that the plan is still unified and on track. If that takes meeting in the office on the morning of the changeover, then so be it.
Too often, I saw no plan and no unity and no coordination going on. I saw a lot of turf protection and keeping of secrets, though. I saw kids that were being punished for bad behavior with no explanation of how they could repair the confidence of the houseparents. They weren’t given satisfactory encouragement when they demonstrated the type of behavior that would lead to their redemption. As a result, kids that already had little hope of being well thought of would despair quickly. I believe that a clear visible path to redemption with help and encouragement along the way is the only thing that will bring hope and results. In my opinion, duplication of punishment by houseparents just destroys credibility for the other houseparents.
I’ve seen what happens when kids have to make changeover under those circumstances…..after being full of life and joy, …..about an hour before the changeover, ….they would all go quietly into the living room and sit down and become silent. As you would go in to bid them goodbye, they would be as stiff as a board and not even respond. How could you not have compassion for them.
At times we hate to get off. we only ask to have off one weekend out of the month. As we like to stay on duty. and in our home. as that is what it is and every time we leave it is like leaving our home, bed, stuff… etc. The Kids will always try to play the houseparents for the weekend. Getting away with anything and everything. We have just gotten a family who fills in when we are away once a month we have started to trust and enjoy and fill better with leaving and knowing that the house will not be burned down when we get back. We still have a few days when we get back getting the kids back on track but things are getting better.
Sometimes I wish I had not even taken off because it takes DAYS to get the house back to “normal”. Please pray for our new respite; there fruit isn’t producing a good crop.
It’s pretty much a given fact that it’s going to happen. Sometimes the kids do things just to see how we react. Usually after a couple of days things return to normal and then you can start worrying about the next time your going to be off. I’ve worked with good relief and also with the bad. I’ve found that if you try not to make too big of a deal out of it the kids seem to do better. Try to find something good that the relief did and praise them for that. Don’t let the kids know your feelings or they will play them like a cheap banjo! Hang in there and try enjoy your time off. If you’re worrying while you’re gone then you’re not really getting the rest that you need.
It really isn’t the kids, it’s the house. Everything is moved, including our stuff on the computer being deleted. Our ministry only allows Christian music, which our boys love & our respite is listening to 80’s heavy metal & even told our kids that’s what we had the radio on but, they knew better. 30 minutes after we leave the petty cash is spent on food that they, not the kids, like. They also live close by & I don’t think they even go to church. They have stated they would never be full time houseparents but are respite for 2 homes with 12 + days off a month. Please pray for all of us.