About Launchpad

Motorcycles. I average about 1,500 miles a month. Anyone, anywhere up for a ride pm me. I am always up for a run, no matter what brand of scoot you got. Favorite movie- School Of Rock and Office Space. Favorite TV shows- House, Daily Report, Colbert Report, Discovery and History channel. Favorite Bands- Casting Crowns, Led Zeppelin, Matisyahu, Precho, John Boys Courage, Primus, POD, Dave Matthews, Dashboard Confessional, The Boss and Obadiah Parker. I am also a big fan of most 80's rock. Affiliation- Non-Denominational. How I hope to die- In a big glorious explosion. Favorite Food- Anything that is classified as a carb or drips with grease.

I Am The Greatest….

Allow me to introduce you to the most frustrating kid alive on the planet. Reginald (Name changed because he would enjoy reading about himself) is the most conceited and narcissistic 16 year old I have ever ran across. According to him he is always right, without fault, handsome, smart, great dancer and even better lover. In reality he never knows when to keep quite, cusses like a sailor, looks like a cartoon character, has the agility and grace of a bull in a china shop and is loathed by women young and old.

Reginald always has his hustle on and he is good. I have watched him talk a school administrator, a cop and a social worker into buying him clothes and bailing him out of every situation he has put himself in. Unfortunately, when Reginald doesn’t get what he wants he blows apart, which is how he came to our door step.

Reginald informed us upon our initial meeting with him that we would be informing us of his schedule when he needed a ride. He also was kind enough to let us know when he would eating and what the meal would be. He finished the conversation by saying he would just be doing his thing and everything would be nice and calm if we would be so kind as to accommodate his schedule. I just smiled and patted the young lad on the back and told him the next few weeks will be a bit of an adjustment for him….

Needless to say, old Reggie has had a heck of time adjusting to the fact that the world does not revolve around his self conceited little butt. For the first time in his life he is being forced to think of others and trying to blend into a peer group. At this point Reginald is doing better, but he still struggles with resisting the urge to hustle his peers and run scams on un-suspecting adults.

I have noticed that kids that come from a neglected backgrounds fall into two categories. The first is shy, withdrawn and soft spoken. They want attention but they believe they are not worthy of any one’s attention. Often when they are praised they become embarrassed, angry or ashamed. They want the attention, they just don’t know how to accept it.

The second group is boisterous, loud and often can be heard telling others how great they are. In extreme cases, like Reginald, they are the center of the universe. A complete lack of self esteem has lead them to the belief that they can only rely on themselves, no one will love them but them. It’s all about me, myself and I. Unfortunately, working with the second group can drive you mad.

Reginald has a long way to go. Humility is not exactly honored in our modern society and I think telling him he is a flipping jerk is probably against one or two of our facilities policies. So what to do?

Patience, love and grace are the only tools that will break past all the crap that he has thrown up around himself to feel safe. Understanding that he is coming from a place where being valued as a person was not an option available to him and letting him know that no matter how bad his attitude gets, we are still going to be there in the morning doing exactly what we did yesterday, being Houseparents.

We don’t pick the kids that are brought to us and the only rule is to give all we have to each one that we come across while hoping and praying it has made a difference. If your living the life of  residential child care it’s a ministry lifestyle, not a job and definitely not glamorous.

So in just a few hours I will be listening to Reginald explain why he is God’s gift to all the females in the Washington, DC metro area and how lucky we are that he chose to come live in our humble abode. I’ll then ask him to grab the cleaning supplies and scrub the toilets clean enough to admire his complexion in the porcelain…

Big City Living

Time to break the silence of my self imposed exile into the nether-world of Yankee city living. The move from South Carolina was traumatic to say the least. I go from being happy that I have unlimited access to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts to outright depression when I think of the friends I left behind.

My wife and I have also been able to see a glimpse of what God has in store for us. Shortly after arriving here my two sons from a previous marriage came to live with us and we moved into a house that was a little on the wild side. After a few weeks of cleaning house, searches, police reports and a nasty rash (long story) we are at the point where things are running fairly smooth.

Paperwork and government bureaucracy are insane, but that’s just the nature of Washington, DC. It’s never personal, just a lot of people with a lot of education and over-time enforcing redundant policies and regulations while trying to make a living.

Before coming here we were warned that the kids would be the most trying part of our job here. Honestly they have turned out to be the best. Our work with the boys here has been extremely rewarding, working with them is without a doubt the highlight of my day.

Then there is the down side. Paper work is insane. I have given serious thought to sending an email to Al Gore, Captain Planet or any tree hugging hippie that would listen to me complain about the 10 acres of trees we kill every day by filling duplicate copies of original copies. I spend more on printer ink in a week than what a family of four spends on groceries in a month.

I have learned that the office copier only works while you swear at it and the fax machine has developed some sort of Reactive Attachment Disorder. My 2 gig flash drive hangs from my neck like some kind of yuppie dog tag. I have nightmares about Excel documents refusing to open and cell phones that have no signal. Oh how I miss the south. 

On the bright side I have met some of the hardest working Social Workers and therapists I have ever ran across. For example, when was the last time you saw someone from the state after 5pm? It’s not uncommon to see ours at 6 or 7pm visiting with a kid. I truly admire people like that.

Finally, if by chance something did happen to me in the city, just remember I went out doing what I love and was called to do. Unless of course you found me dead at my desk with a self inflicted stapler wound to the head…..

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Another Saturday….

Every Saturday we clean the house and then head out for some kind of activity that is meant to motivate the kids to earn a fun day out with their behavior. This week it was to be a trip to the park followed by ice cream at Sonic and finally a trip to Wal-Mart to blow all of their allowance. All of the kids were looking forward to Saturday. A little house cleaning followed by fun, fun, fun. Instead, here is how our day of fun went down….

At 6:30 in the morning our two six year olds decided it would be a great idea to wake up our three twelve year olds by putting on a floor gymnastic routine in the hallway. At some point, I’m not really sure when, a hockey stick was introduced into the mix.  I ran upstairs just in time to see a kid holding his head while screaming about how the other kid was supposed to only hit the tennis ball off his head (William Tell style), not in the ear. 

After we resolved that issue, I thought it would be time for a nice breakfast to help everyone calm down and get the day back on track. My wife spent an hour cooking eggs, sausage and pancakes. While I thought it was a great breakfast, the boys complained about not getting to eat cereal. I figured this day was going downhill, fast. 

We went on to do chores. I took the two six year olds upstairs to clean the bathroom. I was showing Steve how to spray the cleaner in the toilet bowl while Jake was standing beside us watching. I handed the bottle to Steve to spray in the toilet bowl just as I had done. As soon as I handed the bottle to Steve he turned around and sprayed the cleaner in Jakes eyes. At this point Steve had officially ended any chance of breathing air outside of the house for the day. I got Jakes eyes flushed out with water and then called my supervisor to try and figure out an appropriate consequence. 

The great thing about having a supervisor to call when I need to is that they are outside of the immediate situation and are able to give sane and reasonable advice, especially when I am about to lose my mind. His advice of having Steve do a time out, an apology and loss of privileges for the day was better than my idea of shipping Steve to a orphanage in Yugoslavia. 

The other boys decided instead of cleaning their rooms and going out for a fun day, they would rather move all of their bedroom furniture around and redecorate. That was followed by me trying to explain why they were not allowed to turn the closet into a bed, hang their sheets as curtains, make the mattress a load-bearing wall, use the trash can as a place to store all their socks and underwear and why we prefer a vacum cleaner on the carpet instead of a mop. 

It seems that when there is something planned, especially something big, the kids tend to get more anxious and look for ways to sabotage any chance they have of being able to participate. I have come to a point where I believe the kids do want to take part in much anticipated events, they just believe they are not worthy of it or are not going to be going anyway. They expect themselves to fall short and fail.

The only way I have seen kids overcome any kind of self destructive behavior is letting them know that someone believes in them, which is very hard for someone that has come to view all adults as liars and frauds. Praise has to be constant, especially for a kid that has received very little in the past. Think about it this way, If your boss constantly expected you to screw up and never gave any notice to the things you did right, what would your attitude be? If you came from from a family that had little or no expectations for you, how much more difficult would your life had been? It’s a slow process. The praise has to keep coming and it takes a long time for most kids to start changing pessimistic thought and behavior patterns. If any of your kids are diagnosed with Attachment Disorders than the process is ten times tougher.

Learning to trust and open your heart to someone else after being devastated from prior relationships that were not healthy, is difficult for adults. For kids it’s just as bad, if not worse. We all deal, everyday, with the drama associated with a kid that has suffered broken relationships with family. Those behaviors tend to come out strong on days like a Saturday in the park, a trip to the mall, going on family vacations or anything else that involves “Family” time. 

Someday I’ll have a Saturday that will be stress free. I’ll probably be retired and fishing off a dock somewhere, but it will happen. Till then I guess we will be fighting the good fight. -Launch

Scouting

Another milestone on the way to Man hood, Scouts. Recently several of the boys in our cottage decided to take that step into the unknown, secretive world of Cub Scouts. Forget all that you have heard about the Masons or Skull and Bones, this is the real deal. 

Unfortunately scouting brings back painful memories of my own chubby child hood. I was a Scout up until the Pine Wood Derby. About two hours before the derby my Dad was able to sit down with me and put the car together. By that time I had already lost the axle wheels and was forced to use a couple of old rusted nails from my Grandfathers basement. We then pound the wheels on and headed for the derby. 

I had no hopes of winning, but I had no clue how humiliating my loss would be. As the gate was opened to let all the cars roll down the ramp, my car sat still. On the second run my car stopped halfway down the ramp, much to the amusement of the crowd. And then I ended my Scouting carer by yelling “Son of a #%!$@”. The next thing I remember was sitting in the car with my very embarrassed and very angry parents discussing where they should dump my body (maybe that’s a little dramatic). I was done with Scouts, an outcast. That is until now. 

Last night I found myself sitting in a dimly lit church basement with thirty kids and a Den mother that bears a striking resemblance to my old Drill Sergeant, reciting the Scout pledge. The Den mother than covered the Scout handshake and a few other traditions that make Scouts sound dangerous to all young boys. 

I also learned that Rodney, the boy most likely to try and kill me, will learn to shoot a shotgun, start fires with a rock and some lint from his belly-button, and how to survive a night out in the wilderness of South Carolina when the temperature drops below 80 degrees. To a nine year old, this is Navy Seal type of stuff. To an old man like me, this is a homeowner insurance nightmare. 

Rodney was also charged to go and sell popcorn to all the civilians and raise money for the troop. Just a few minutes ago I received a call from his teacher concerned about the wad of cash Rodney was walking around with in school. I learned he has already hustled $120 in popcorn sales on his first day. I’m guessing he wants the Corvette they promise you win if you sell enough popcorn tins to cover the national debt. 

All joking aside, Scouts is a great thing and does more to promote personal and civic duty than any other activity a kid can do. It’s also a great way to get the kind of kids we have in residential childcare involved in the local community and to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Support your local troops and try to get your kids involved, just don’t let them use any rusty nails for their pinewood derby cars… -Launch

You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me….

First off, I would like to state that there are many excellent facilities around the United States. Many of them are doing all they can to take care of kids. This post is not for you guys….

I have been through many of the listings on the job board and I have talked with many facilities in the past few weeks. To tell you the truth, I am humbled by what I have experienced.

Instead of listing all the nightmare scenarios that I have experienced, I have decided to make this an educational piece for those facilities that have seemed to of- lost their way. If you are an administrator that sits around gripping about finding good people, chances are you need to keep reading…

1. Do not lie to prospective employees. (Or current ones).

2. Do not advertise benefits and salary that you have no intention of offering. Many of the people I interviewed with said they needed to “Update their job posting” as to the amount they listed as starting salary.

3. Do not lie about what you offer in way of housing.

4. Do not sit a couple down in your office and tell them how bad your facility sucks. It’s ok to be a little optimistic.

6. When you take a prospective HP to visit one of your cottages, you really should coordinate with that cottage.

7. Try to get a couple on your campus that will give a positive and realistic view of your campus and program. (One lady asked us if we had any job leads for her and spent 10 minutes telling us how much she hated the facility and admin).

8. For an overnight stay, do not put your prospective employees in an ABANDONED SHACK THAT SMELLS LIKE A REFRIGERATOR IN AN ALLEY.

9. Do not claim to run a certain program when you do not. With the whole “Internet Thing” it won’t take long before an employee that has questions about what or how your doing something will discover you are full of Malarkey.

10. You expect us to be on time for an interview, I expect you to have enough professionalism that if an emergency does occur, you will at least call the office and let people know that you will be late. Especially if it’s an hour or more.

If I had to sum it all up, be honest and be optimistic. All the facilities I have talked with have been “Christian”. I have walked away from most of them feeling like they were anything but “Christian”.

I sure hope things go better when we fly to DC in a few weeks. -Launch

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Networking 101

To say I run my mouth on here a lot would be an understatement. I guess that’s why when I’m taking a leave of absence from the blog or the forum area I start getting emails and phone calls asking if I’ve finally snapped. I use to be flattered, but I think a few of the guys out there have some kind of bet going as to how long it will be until I totally lose it and end up in the county lock down for smashing an Apple computer in the kids elementary school (Someone needs to save this generation from Apples plan of world domination). 

Anyway, I’m here. Actually I’m always here. I just tend to have a rather complicated life and seem to run in a hundred different directions everyday. For those of you that have kept up with the forum area on the Network you know my wife and I are in the process of trying to adopt a child. I can’t think of a single reason why this is a practical thing to do, because it’s not. We are in effect committing “Facility Career Suicide” by choosing to go this route. All of our friends and family believe we have lost our minds. Most of them thought we were insane in the first place for choosing the career path we have by becoming House Parents. So we really are not breaking any new ground in the “They are outta their freaking minds” category. Totally a God thing folks, sometimes you just have to trust him in what he is calling you to do and go with the flow.

So here we are, going with the flow. Late nights worrying about where to go and what to do. Worrying about leaving one of the best child care facilities on the East coast and venturing back out into the great unknown. I look around my three bedroom house with a fire place and solid wood floors and sigh as my wife tells me it will be alright….

And then my Blackberry goes nuts. A couple I sort of helped get a lead on a facility in Kansas called and was able to give me some great leads, a guy in Michigan hooked us up with a great lead on a opening in his facility. A couple we met at a conference gave us several amazing leads in North Carolina. It was like the flood gates were opened on us. The one really weird call was from England. I had to politely tell the recruiter there is nothing that irritates me more than children with English accents. He politely called me a few names in the Kings English and ended our communication. I learned my sarcasm really doesn’t translate well on international dialogue. 

I really was blown away at how far the Houseparent Network has come. For a long time there were only a few of us sharing information on different facilities and programs. It seemed most people stuck around the forum just long enough to find a job as a HP somewhere and then disappear, only to come back later looking for another residential childcare job. Without being experts, we became the so called “Experts” by just sharing what we knew. I’m still amazed when people actually ask me for advice, like I actually know what I’m doing. Scary world. 

To be fair, I know what I’ve heard. I take the gossip, rumors, local legends and geographic locations of facilities, mix it all together and regurgitate it back to anyone asking. Somewhere in all that mess may be something of use to someone. It is the very foundation of what the Houseparent Network is about, information. Want a job? look at the job board. Want a job where you will be happy and fit in at? Talk to people here and ask questions. Even once you have found that “Dream” facility where you swear you will die at and be buried in the front yard of the cottage, stay connected. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Staying connected with a community of fellow residential childcare providers is not only smart when it comes down to finding a decent facility, but it helps you to improve as a professional and to help you, as well as others be more effective with the kids as knowledge is shared. 

I will admit that the Network has a long way to go. There is much more information out there that needs to be shared and the level of professionalism industry wide still needs some work. But it’s coming, especially with the new crowd of House Parents as they enter the ranks and stick around. The “Thirty-something crowd” is more likely to look to the internet to connect with others, they are also more likely to take advantage of all this newfangled technology that scares all the old timers out there. Times are changing, for the better.

My advice, get connected. Talk, share information. Make it a point to learn about other facilities and programs. Learn a few names and use the Network to make friends around the country. Show up for the next blasted Houseparent retreat. Get a membership in the Members only area to take full advantage of what the site has to offer (And so Mike will give me a kickback). Also if you get a call from an English dude don’t mention my name if you want the job. 

I hope you all get a chance to experience what I have in the last few weeks when it comes to searching for a new home and having a little help from your friends. -Launch 

Revenge

 

Anger and frustration are expressed in many different ways in a group home. Sometimes it’s as simple as a clipboard or chair that levitates across the floor and smashes into the wall or some good old fashioned passive aggressive behavior that may take weeks to discover. Trying to teach forgiveness, grace and mercy to a bunch of kids that are almost always trying to even the score is a daunting task to say the least. Here are some of the finer moments over the years that I have seen the kids pull off. 

1. Using buddies towel as toilet paper. 

2. Greasing up wood stairs with shampoo. 

3. Peeing on peers pillow. 

4. Peeing in peers room to get them in trouble. 

5. Roofing nails in motorcycle tire.

6. Scratching genital area with House Parents toothbrush while taking a picture with his disposable camera. (HP only found out after he developed the film a year later). 

7. Sugar in the gas tank.

8. Shaving House Parents cat. (I think they actually dumped a bottle of Nair on the cat).

9. Putting a bumper sticker on MY truck that said “Sorry girls, I’m Gay”.

10. Coffee can filled with urine in top of closet that dumped on my supervisors head during a room search. (It really was funny, I guess you had to be there).

11. Icy hot in peers jock strap.

12. Younger peer paid older peer in house to burn a CD copy of some gangsta rap. Older peer burned a copy of some southern gospel songs instead. (Boy that was a long night). 

13. Hiding fish from Long John Silvers in the top of his buddies closet, over 4th of July weekend. (Try getting that smell out).

14. Pouring the whole bottle of hot sauce into the ketchup bottle. 

15. Greasing all the toilet seats in the house with vaseline.

16. Super gluing the cottages plastic mailbox shut.

17. Advertising the House Dads cell phone number on craigslist as a gay, lonely college gymnast. (The house dad went clinically insane).

18. Dumping talcum powder in the defrost vents in the house van. 

19. Super-gluing math book shut.

20. Duct taped to the bed.

One things certain, there is never a dull moment….-Launch

Pimp My Ride

I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to wheels, a man just can’t leave well enough alone. After all these years of watching kids strip, bend, paint and destroy perfectly brand new bikes, I believe it is an issue of genetics. If your a dude, you just can’t fight the urge to tweak your ride. 

For example, lets take one of our boys. Rodney is a perfectly normal nine year old boy with an active imagination and a tool kit that contains one pair of pliers, a screwdriver that is bent like a horseshoe, duct tape he stole out out of my tool box and an empty can of WD-40. Rodney choses to keep his tools where any sane 9 year old would, which is 20 feet up in the tree in the front yard tied to a branch. 

Just a few weeks ago Rodney received a brand new bike for his birthday. All the boys were impressed, it was sweet. Immediately following the party, Rodney rushed out the door and up the tree to grab the tool box. Him and his cronies then went to work. 

The first thing to go was the hand brakes, after all that whole stopping thing is highly overrated and definitely not cool. Next thing was to cover the brand new seat in two inches of duct tape and to then draw some logos on it (I think this increases speed and overall performance). 

The next morning as I walked the boys to the bus stop I happened to look at Rodneys new bike which looked more like a World War One messenger bike than the trick bike it was designed to be. I also took note of the valve stem covers that had skulls on them and the dusty saddle bags that somehow found their way from my motorcycle to his ghetto cruiser. 

I started getting a little upset and was about to make this moment a very memorable, and tragic, childhood experience for old Rodney until a picture of my Dad flashed through my head. Growing up I destroyed more than my fair share of bikes (and a few cars) and snuck enough tools and parts off the old man to start my own pawn shop. That whole “What goes around, comes around” thing was catching up fast. 

When the boys got home that night, we sat down for a family conference and talked about putting all the bikes back together, in original configuration and not taking off any more parts or changing the bikes in any way. I thought everything was going well until the whole conversation was flipped around on me, much to the sheer delight of my wife. They asked, “Why is it ok for you to take the fender, windshield and brake lights off your motorcycle”? So how is different from you taking the muffler off your bike and putting on those LOUD pipes”? 

I tried going with the “I’m an adult, your not” line, but Mrs. Launch was taking the kids side and not being very supportive of how I thought the Family conference should go. I finally had to relent and admit that my example of chopping parts off my motorcycle was on par with Rodney cutting his brakes off. 

Why do we do it? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because every guy has to add a personal touch his wheels to make a statement. Maybe it’s to make the world take notice of an otherwise unremarkable existence. Or it could be that every guy has a bit of a NASCAR fantasy running through his mind. I’m sure there is more than one lawn mower in Mississippi that has a Jeff Gordon sticker stuck on the hood. 

Or as my wife puts it not-so-delicately, “Boys will be boys, wether they are five or thirty-five, you all act the same”. -Launch

Whip It Good!!!

I recently talked with one of the Alumni here that grew up in our facility during the 1970’s. Our conversation was about how much our campus has changed from when he was a kid up to the present day. Overall he was very impressed by the program and overall atmosphere of the entire facility.

Back in his day, corporal punishment was an everyday part of life. How punishment was dealt out completely dependent on what cottage you lived in. One cottage in particular was infamous for the spankings/ beatings the old lady dished out. Other cottages seemed to be fair when it came to receiving a whipping.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m the first guy to start cheering when I see a mother spanking the daylights out of a four year old throwing a tantrum in the check out line. Spanking, when used with calmness, love and straightforwardness is an absolutely wonderful tool that should be used with every child growing up in a healthy family.

In residential child care, corporal punishment is almost a thing of the past. I have only met one couple that worked at a home where spanking was still allowed under special circumstances. Thankfully, spanking is not acceptable in most places. I say that because it takes responsible adults to properly use corporal punishment as a behavioral correction tool. But in residential child care, any corporal punishment administered to a child without clearly defined guidelines and supervision would lead to outright abuse. Not to mention one really pissed off kid that will someday qualify for a handgun permit and an axe to grind.

I’ll admit, there are several times throughout the day that I say to myself “All this little snot needs is one good spanking to reallign his attitude”. But as much as I know it would do a certain five year old a world of good, I know that for the greater good residential child care can never return to those days.

As for my kids, I will most definitly spank them. Do you remember the expression “This will hurt me more than it hurts you”? Not me. Daddy don’t play games when comes to laying the smack down. I have never regretted a single spanking that I gave my boys or daughter, because I know that establishing clear and well defined boudaries is essential for them to develop healthy social skills.

Any thoughts or discussion on this topic are encouraged. I understand that many people who read this blog will not agree with my thoughts or practice. So I encourage discussion, till then, whip it good…. -Launch