What If I Stumble

This life is a funny thing. I can live as as saint, feed the homeless, develop the longer lasting light bulb and cure Aids. But if I streak naked down main street liquored up and jump in the town fountain, all I will be remembered for will be as the fat hairy guy that lost a bet and wound up sitting in the county lock down.

Why am I pondering this? I am reminded by my own short comings and poor decisions from the past. I am glad that most people who knew from not so long ago are not an everyday part of my life. Not because of the embarrassment, but because I know forgiveness is not a part of their vocabulary or lifestyle. Besides, there is only so much groveling and apologizing one can do. Life is hard, but it is much harder when you know that when you fall, there will be no one there to help you up.

It was one of the most important lessons of my life. Only now has it truly become apparent of what the lesson was.

Most kids I have worked with have this crazy back and forth dance they do with whoever the care giver is. One minute they love you, the next they are pouring hair removal cream all over your cat. I have had them help me wash my car and then after an hours worth of male bonding and a high polished wax job, they scratch thier initials into the hood.

I would like to say my response in those situations was textbook. But it wasn’t. With the cat, I laughed and grounded them for like, a weekend (Have you ever seen a bald cat- it’s hilarious). With the car, I threw the bucket across the field, grumbled several un-holy words under my breath and walked off from the teenager, least I wipe the smirk from his face with my Ninja like skills. I’m not proud of the response, but what concerned me most is the grudge I carried. I also forgot where it is I came from and how I have done the same Reactive Attachment Disorder dance with not only those close to me, but also with Christ. The grudge never went away until I was able to humble myself and forgive them- completely, without constantly reminding them of the mistake.

Most kids I have worked with get close and then try to see if you will quite on them, just like everyone else in this world has. They will push the absolute limits of your patience just to prove your love and so called “Faith” is phony. Especially when you tell them God can, will and has forgiven all their sins.

This past weekend I had some nails driven into the tires on my motorcycle, probably by a young man from another cottage that I caught smoking in a campus parking lot. I know this kid is going through a lot of issues at the moment and is angry not at me, but the entire world. Today as I was paying a three hundred dollar tire bill I was reminded at all my youthful indiscretions and acting out. For some reason today it just hit hard that Christ has forgiven me for things that I could never forgive some else for doing. Somehow a couple of flat tires just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. Right now I’m wondering in what way I can best serve this kid and let him know when you fall, God will always be there, ready to dust you off and help get you back on track if your only willing to listen.

Thankfully I have a God who has been there when I stumbled. Hopefully he will continue to remind me of that every time I see one of the kids do the same. -Launch


This was originally a post in the Christian Houseparent forum. Not much of my opinion has changed on this and I still feel a little overwhelmed by the sheer amount of prescriptions consumed in the US. I still feel enraged that it is common practice to give a child medication to mold them to our will instead of consistent, decent parenting.

Lately I’ve been doing some research into some of the meds that are prescribed to kids and a lot of adults. Primarliy because I was amazed at a kid I recently met during an interview. He didn’t have an unusual amount prescribed, just some weird combos that made me think “what is going on?”. So after a little research over the last few days I concluded that every man, woman and child on this planet is clinically insane. If your not on psychotropic meds your missing out. The majority are.

In fact western nations take so much, highly concentrated dosages are found in some fish. If you live in the Mississippi Delta region and need a Prozac fix, go get ya a pan fish or nice Bass. That is how much anti depressant we consume.

Honestly I have seen some kids (and Adults) that need psych medication to function in society. It has improved their quality of life and is a good thing. But EVERY kid I have worked with has been on at some point psychotropics.- EVERY ONE. I have gone to literally hundreds of psych appointments with kids. 90% of the time the good Dr. asks how the kid is feeling, with little regard to overall history and starts writing scripts.

I am fortunate enough now to have Doctor for our kids that does work with us to get the kids off of meds that need to. But I think we have a crisis of epic proportions. I talked to a kid the other day that had four or five combo meds. The kid needed boundaries and some structure in his life rather than a drug cocktail (shaken not stirred). Listening to his family history and lack of any responsible parenting resulted in one angry little boy with some serious identity issues. Duh.

I really believe every time we walk outside of Gods plan we suffer the consequence. Why have we become so complacent that instead of dealing with kids issues and the absolute horrid mess caused by people who are no doubt in need of help and Gods love, we prescribe “anger medicine”. If Johnie has a hard time concentrating in school or reading, a sprinkle or two of Adderall will set him straight. Never mind his brain has been fried from ten years worth of Tele Tubbies and a parent who never read to him.

I am sorry for the rant. But I don’t think I can stand by and watch kids get doped up by a system that is more concerned with management than with treatment, love and protection. I’m sick of seeing kids that just want something real and me handing them 500mg of Depakote.

The place I work for is awesome. I have a supervisor that is more anti- med than me and a house therapist that is VERY involved with each kid. This rant is not about the facility it’s about the overall system and it messing with the kids- and my fishing. Please forgive my forwardness, and if you have a different angle on this issue please let me know. I believe we are facing something very dangerous and evil. If I am wrong (which is very often the case) please let us all know. If you support it, let me know. It will me make me feel better next time I go to scream at the Dr. -Launch

Giant Destroying Giants!!!

It has been five days since the Superbowl and I am still a little stunned by the result.  A number 5 seeded wild card team that last year was on the verge of imploding and having the coach fired, defeated the undefeated New England Patriots, a team considered by some as the best team in football history!!

So whats that got to do with houseparenting you might ask? A lot actually!!  What it took to turn around the Giants might also be what is needed in many of the homes we work at.  In my opinion last year the Giants were a mess.  The players couldn’t stand the coach and were almost to the point of rebellion.  Tiki Barbor decided to retire in the prime of his career and after starting his broadcast career didn’t have many great things to say about the Giants.  Read any sports page and you would see articles about how Tom Coughlin’s dictatorial style of coaching didn’t sit well with the players.

This year with essentially the same team, except for a new running back, things were completely different and I think much of it can be attributed to the fact that Coughlin stopped being a dictator and became a leader.  Instead of demanding that the team follow his instructions he became relational and built a relationship with his team and they followed him.  He treated his team with respect and they did their best in return.

Tom Coughlin was a successful coach, you have to be to coach in the NFL, and there are probably many coaches out there that use his previous style of coaching, but it wasn’t until he changed to a more relational approach that he reach the pinnacle of success in football. 

Here’s how this applies to houseparenting.  If you think of all the houseparents you know that are successful working with the kids in their care, they will all probably have one thing in common and that is a good relationship with the kids.  I can think of some of the less successful former houseparents I know and contrary to what they believed, these children can’t be fixed they have to be guided.  You can’t tear down or break a child and then remold them.  You can’t force them to do anything, because if you try they will show you how much control they have by crapping their pants and smearing it all over the wall, barfing in the middle of you favorite rug, punching holes in your walls, or trying to punch holes in your face.

I am not saying to throw out your rules, because I believe structure is very important and most children find it comforting not have to guess what is going to happen to them like they did in their previous situation, but rules without relationship are just rules and won’t help anybody.

Treat the children in your care with respect and you will be surprised at how much more successful you will be.  Pick your battles and realize these children are not going to change overnight.  If a child stole 20 times last week, but only stole 18 times this week you are making progress.  Many small successes add up to huge change. 

If things aren’t going so well for you, think about the “Giants” and decide if you have the same problem they did and then think about how they changed that and became “giant destroyers”

Old Jim

Everyone has their mentors or people they look towards for inspiration. For some it comes in the form of a President or General. Others look towards successful businessman or possibly even a dictator or two.

For myself it is Jim.

I first met Jim while working at my first facility in Western Maryland. I was brand new to House Parenting and to say I was wet behind the ears would be an understatement. Like most people starting out in this ministry I trusted all the kids and thought that all they needed was for someone to show that they cared about them. Naturally they would behave AND be appreciative. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that was not reality.

After my first night working in the shelter with Jim I thought he was a jerk. Better yet, I thought he had no idea how to work with kids. I based this mostly on the fact that he gave me a butt chewing for closing the bedroom doors when praying with the kids. I asked myself who was he to tell me what to do? After all I had almost two months worth of experience and sat through a one week class that taught me how to be the ultimate house parent.

As time went on I saw Jim in action. Particularly with one girl, Brenda, or as he called her, Buttercup. All the staff, including myself, thought this little seven year old girl could quite possibly be the devil. She would bite and urinate on everyone, except Jim.

Rumors flew around. She behaved for old Jim because he didn’t follow the program. We on the other hand did. We told ourselves we were right he was wrong. What I discovered was he had something we all lacked, experience and common sense.

I would watch Jim work with Brenda. He did something that no one else did with her, Jim treated her like she was his daughter. He read with her, talked to her calmly and saw her as a little girl, not the devil.

When the other shift came on duty, Brenda would be restrained at least two or three times a day. She broke windows and dishes. She would cuss like a sailor on shore leave in Bangkok. To this day I still bear the scars of her baby teeth in my elbow. We also looked and treated her as a bad kid. We would give Brenda directive statements instead of compassion, none of us read to her at night. Eventually it sunk in we were the ones that were wrong, not Jim.

Since that time, I have learned to pay more attention to those that have a little more time and experience working the front lines of a residential facility, even if it goes against the status quo. I have also learned that although a good program helps, ultimately it is the personal relationship you build with a child that makes a difference. The kids see us, not the program. I don’t know if I would have ever learned that if it were not for Jim’s example.

Presently Jim and I work at the same facility now. It seems kind of ironic now as I look back on my first impressions of Jim and where we are now. Whenever I need a cup of coffee or someone to go ride a 100 miles on the bike with before the kids get home from school, I call Jim. Anytime I feel like looking for a good fight I call Jim and tell him I think Hillary Clinton may would be a great Commander-In-Chief (Last time I said that he ended up in the hospital. He said it was ammonia, but I know his pacemaker couldn’t take the stress). When I feel like all is lost and I can’t possibly make it another day, Jim is there to slap a little common sense back into me.

He has become like a father to me. Every minute I get to hang with him I learn more about this life and about where I hope to end up in the future (Minus the pacemaker).

If you end up reading this Jim, God Bless you and all you have done to make this world a better place. Your still a jerk, but I love ya anyway man. -Launch

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

Day 1: After 8 months of waiting for a sponsor to donate a video game system, I received a phone call from the office to come and pick up a Playstation2. Immediately I am overcome with the joy of surprising the boys with such a generous gift. I skip to the office and return to the cottage to install the system in the special area of the living room we have set aside for this moment.

I am also reminded of the fact that I challenged the webmaster of our beloved network to a video game timer build off. I can taste the sweet victory of my obvious man skills surpassing that of the webmaster. First I must research (play) some of the games to make sure they will be appropriate for the kids.

Day 2: The kids have completed all chores in record time. Their bedrooms even have the pleasant smell of pine. They seem to be very motivated by earning the privilege of playing the Playstation.

I have gathered materials at Home Depot and Radio Shack to build the timer. I draw up plans using a variety of crayons for the different components. I marvel at my genius and stick like drawing skills.

The boys are having difficulty taking turns on the game. There is tension in the air. I need to hurry and finish the timer project to keep the peace.

Day 3: I stayed up until 5-am researching the game “Medal Of Honor”. My wife asked my why I would play a game that long, I tell her it is for the good of the boys that I make sure it will be appropriate for them to play. She shakes her head and walks off to the other room saying something under her breath about me being full of something…

The boys had a fist fight over playing time. I started using the egg timer to keep time limits fair. Meanwhile my video timer is not coming together like it should. I need to hurry, I feel as though something really bad is going to happen soon.

The boys have figured out that when I’m not looking they can turn the dial back on the egg timer and get more playtime. At least they are working together for a common cause now.

Day 4: In a fit of rage, frustration and tears, I threw my plans in the dumpster and all the components to the timer in the attic. As I came down the stairs I could hear my wife and the boys quietly giggling. As I feared, she is with them now. I am all alone.

On the plus side my research on “Medal Of Honor” is going well. To date I have killed well over 600 Nazi’s and single handedly won the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Day 7: I have not slept in two days. The boys cannot even turn on the game system without arguing about whose turn it is. They have time limits, but they have organized themselves into a battle hardened group of brats. While one of them plays the Playstation, the others create distractions that cause me to run around the cottage putting out fires, sometimes literally.

I would throw out the game system, but I fear it would cause out right mutiny. I turn to the web for help. I come across a Video Game system timer that works with tokens.

I bought it. Now I pray that we can hold on until our logistical support (FEDEX) arrives with the timer. Unfortunately delivery will be delayed if the temperature in South Carolina goes below 35 degrees and the entire state shuts down. Bread and milk disappear from the shelves of stores and it becomes mandatory for everyone to drive their SUV’s into ditches and telephone poles.

I fear I may never see our off duty quarters again…

Worst part about all of this- The webmaster wins our build off. I can’t even plug in a soldering iron with out having medical support on site. Obviously I need to finally recognize I have absolutely no technical proficiency.

I will post when the timer comes in (If I’m still on this side of eternity) and give a review. -Launch