Book Review – Kids Who Outwit Adults

 By: John R. Seita/Larry K. Brendtro

Disclaimer: This book review is my opinion of the book. If you have a different opinion of the book that is great. I know I have loved several movies and books that other reviewers have not liked and disliked movies and books that receive great reviews. I think we all have. If you would like to submit your own review, I may consider posting it. Otherwise feel free to share you reviews on the Forum. Thanks.

“Kids Who Outwit Adults” is my official introduction to “Positive Youth Development” the jist of which is rather than trying to control children and change their behavior you work to build a relationship with them and enlist their expertise about themselves to develop strategies for positive change.  It also focuses on recognizing the strengths of the child and building upon that, rather than looking at the negative behaviors and trying to change them.  In other words it is basically what I have always believed – Care about and build relationships with the children in your care and it will be much easier to bring about positive behaviors.

I think this is an excellent book and would be a good read for anybody working with or caring for youth in foster care or residential placement and everybody that might want to.  It is light on technique but very heavy on philosophy and theory and would be very helpful to build your foundation.  I wish it would have been available 11+ years ago when I became a houseparent.

It is also very good at relaying the perspective of youth in care.  The author – John Seita spent the majority of his youth in foster and residential care and brings first hand knowledge about the experiences of a youth in care and the things that make a difference in their lives.  The book also includes stories and insight from many other children that have been in placement and some of the techniques, both positive and negative, they have used to cope with their situation.

I highly recommend it for every program director looking to develop a program or looking for more positive things to incorporate into their program.  I also recommend it for all care providers and highly suggest you incorporate it into the care you provide.

The book is published by Solution Tree, Bloomington, IN.  Copyright 2005.  It is only available in soft cover and  is 147 pages long, though it is actually about 110 pages worth of reading. 

Click here for more information about this book at Amazon.com

I also have two other books on the same subject that I am reading: “Reclaiming Our Prodigal Sons and Daughters” and “no disposable KIDS”.  Check back for their reviews later.

 Click here to see other books

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Houseparent Salary Comparison

I have had several people contact me wondering about the average salary for houseparents.  The most recent thing that I can find was done by the Child Welfare League of America back in 2003 so I decided to make a comparison of my own of all the listed salaries found in the job listings on my website from January 1, 2006 to now (November 27, 2007).

 Let me start by saying that this is not a scientific sampling based on all the facilities in the country, but I think it is still a close representation of the average salaries throughout the country.  From 1/1/06 until 11/27/07 I had 168 job listings on The Houseparent Network.  Of those, 83 listings did not include a posted salary so I excluded them from the sampling, which left me with 85 listings. 

 Note: All salaries listed are per individual.  If you are paid as a couple multiply these averages by two to compare it to your salary.  Also many facilities listed a range of salaries, so I also express my averages as a range.  I am also making the assumption that the salary listed by the facility is the cash salary and not total package.

 The mean average (pure average) salary for a houseparent is $19,419-20,653 per year.  The Median average (half the salaries are less, half are more) salary for a houseparent is $18,500-20,000 per year.

 The lowest salary in the sampling was for a listing that listed a per couple salary of $1,000 a month.  The highest salary was for a listing in 2006 that listed a per couple salary of $75,000-$80,000 per couple per year (of course they were also wanting you to have a master’s degree in a social services field.). 

 I took my calculations a bit further and averaged the lowest and highest 21 salaries (25% of the sampling).  The Mean average for the lowest 21 salaries is $12,315-12,893 per year.  The Mean average for the highest 21 salaries is $26.988-29,412 per year.  I also tried a mean average by removing the 10 highest and lowest salaries to see if the salaries on the extremes had a significant effect on the results, but the results were insignificant when compared to the original calculations that included all the data.

I have also posted this in my “Members Only” section and included a pdf with a sorted list of all the salaries I used in my calculations. 

3 Pieces of Technology I Can’t Live Without

I was driving one of my children to a specialist in Tupelo, a city about an hour from our facility and also the birth place of Elvis, and I realized I had three things with me I wouldn’t want to do without.

1. My Cell Phone: I remember being a houseparent when not everyone had cell phones. When we started as a houseparent only our administrator had a phone and he carried it around in a bag about the size of my current notebook computer. It was so discouraging in the old days to get back to the facility and find out there was not enough milk for breakfast the next morning and you had to turn around and drive 20 miles back to town to get some. Or to find out the kid you were supposed to pick up in 4 hours was already done and finished 5 minutes before you left town.

Our jobs became so much easier after we got our first cell phone. Needless to say, I was one of the first houseparents in the facility to get one. 10 years ago it saved us probably 400 miles a month worth of driving and today it saves us at least that much. I honestly can’t imagine being a houseparent today without one, especially considering how inexpensive they are and all the features they have now. I also figure there aren’t too many houseparents left that don’t have one.

2. My GPS Navigator: The price of the technology has finally come down enough to afford it, and as usual I am one of the first ones on campus to have one. Last month I bought a “Magellan Maestro 3100” on sale for $199 and I have to tell you it is one of the best electronic investments I have made.

A couple of days after I bought it, we had to take a group of kids to camp in North Carolina from our facility in Columbus, Mississippi. It directed me right through Atlanta and right up to the front gate of the camp in Hendersonville, NC. Afterward it directed us to our motel in a part of Greenville, SC that we had never been to, and back home with no incident. Today it directed me to the front door of that specialist, again with no problems.

The only downside I have at all with it, is that is looses some accuracy when you are out in the country. It was off by almost a mile in directing me to our church and a quarter mile to our house. Both are out on long country roads. I have found the more populated the area, the more accurate the navigator.

I will definitely dread driving to new places a whole lot less now that I have traded in my wife for a navigator that is much more accurate and doesn’t yell at me. I’m sure it will also help our relationship when we travel together, because we won’t be arguing over being lost or where my next turn is.

3. My Satellite Radio: Again I was the first on campus to have one and I can tell you I will never not have one again. It has been such a blessing to me with all the time I spend driving in the van. I am able to listen to my favorite music (without listening to commercials), or my other favorite pastime NASCAR radio.

The other great thing is when you travel you never have to change Cd’s or look for radio stations. When we traveled to North Carolina, we never had to change the station except to switch back to the NASCAR channel. It costs about $14 a month to have, but I would have spent that much on Cd’s each month anyway.

There you have it, three things I will always have with me when I am on the road, which I am a lot.

Book Review – They Cage The Animals At Night

: The true story of an abandoned child’s struggle for emotional survival

By: Jennings Michael Burch

Disclaimer: This book review is my opinion of the book. If you have a different opinion of the book that is great. I know I have loved several movies and books that other reviewers have not liked and disliked movies and books that receive great reviews. I think we all have. If you would like to submit your own review, I may consider posting it. Otherwise feel free to share you reviews on the Forum. Thanks.

I can honestly tell you that this book was life changing for me.  I have been a houseparent for over ten years and before I read this book, I was seriously looking for the exit sign.  I was tired; I was frustrated and I was thinking there had to be an easier way to make a living. By the time I was halfway through the book, I didn’t want to put it down and realized there was no other thing I could possibly see myself doing besides caring for the children I care for.

The book is a true story about a child that suddenly finds himself in and out of orphanages, institutions, and fosters homes over about a four year period while his mother was in and out of hospitals battling physical and mental illness.  He has to deal with abandonment as well as a great amount of abuse at the hands of many of those charged with caring for him.  His resilience and strength, as well as the love and influence of a few key individuals, helps him to make it through the ordeal.

This all takes place during the early 1950’s, so the techniques and programs are very different from what you would find today and it makes me thankful I don’t do childcare in the BAD old days.  Reading this book will not give you any new techniques to help you be a better houseparent or childcare worker but it will help you to see the different kinds of people that work caring for children as houseparents and foster parents, and to recognize the kind of person you should want to be.  It did for me.  Though I am convinced that the level of abuse described in this book would never be tolerated today, I believe there are still many of the same kinds of people still doing the work.

The Bad

  • Sister Frances – is a gruff, rough and very direct type of worker.  She is very physical and expects good behavior for convenience (to make her job easier)  She seems to be one those “you have to break-em and then mold-em” kind of people.  She does care about children and at times, shows great compassion but does not appear to respect children.
  • Sister Barbara – appears to not like her work or the children.  She expects perfection from the children to make her job easier.  She rules with fear and is very abusive.
  • Mrs. Abbott – is even more despicable than Sister Barbara.  Not only does she hate her job, rule with fear and abuse children, she also degrades them in such a way that is more damaging than anything physical.

The Good

  • Sister Clair – appears to enjoy her work and working with children.  She is compassionate and respectful to the children.  She is concerned about the problems of the children and takes the time to explain the rules and expectations to the children and why they are needed.
  • Sister Ann Catherine – is much like Sister Clair but more affectionate.

He also lived with three very different sets of foster parents:

  • The Carpenter’s – are the type of foster parents that saw foster care as a business or job.  They are abusive to the children and had no concern for them.  They were only concerned with the money and were pretty good with faking it with social services.
  • The Frazier’s – are the type of foster parents that seemed generally concerned for children.  They felt good about helping a poor disadvantaged child and generally tried to meet his needs.  Though their house staff was very connected, they themselves did not seem to be very emotionally connected to Jennings.
  • The Daly’s – are the type of foster parents that are very concerned with the children.  They are concerned about their emotional as well as their physical needs.  The thing that stands out most about them is that they are willing to make a personal sacrifice to help a child they are caring for.

For those of you that don’t work caring for children, you should know that some of the greatest and most positive influences for Jennings were people he didn’t live with, like:  teachers, a bus driver, a night watchman, policemen, etc.  There were also those that didn’t have such a positive influence on him, like: teachers, social workers, policemen, etc.  You also need to know that things are very different in 2007 than they were in 1952.  We don’t put bars on the windows or barbed wire around the top of the fence to keep children in.  We don’t let one person supervise 30 kids, assign them numbers like prisoners, or make them live in dormitories with 30 or 40 other kids. 

I would recommend this book for any person that works in the foster care system, especially houseparents.  I also think it is a very good to read to get the perspective of a child that has been in the system.  Even though it is dated, I believe most of the children in care today experience many of the same feelings and fears that Jennings did over 50 years ago.  Feelings of loneliness, sorrow, fear, shame, abandonment, and depression are just as painful today as they were back then.  Finally, I also noticed that many of the people that had a positive influence on Jennings were never able to to see the results of their influence.  This is no different than how it is today.  When you are working with disadvantaged children and caring for other people’s children, you may never see the results of your labors.  Being able to see how it has worked for others should help you to keep doing it anyway.

The book is published by Signet, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group, Inc., New York, NY.  Copyright 1984.  It is currently only available in paperback, but hardcover copies can be found used on Amazon and other places.  It is 293 pages long. 

Click here for more information about this book at Amazon.com

Don’t Count on Technology!!!!

If you are concerned about the things your children see on the Internet and want to try and protect them from it, don’t count on technology to do it for you.  I work at a children’s home that uses the most current filtering software to try and protect our children from the bad influences of the Internet.  I found out today how easy it is to defeat.

You would think that since I work with the Internet everyday that I would know about these things, but I had never heard of tunnel proxies until today.  Tunnel proxies are what our children use to access blocked sites such myspace.com, penthouse.com, and all the other sites that our filtering software is supposed to block.  Type in “unblock myspace” or “tunnel proxy” in a search engine and you will get listing after listing of different sites that offer a free tunnel proxy to allow your children to access material you thought was being blocked by your filtering software.

Using several of these proxies I was able to view several of the sites that our filtering software was supposed to be blocking.  Just so you know, we use top of the line filtering software installed on our server and updated daily.  I am sure there are other programs that can be used to stop these proxies but I am also sure it will just continue to be a tit for tat game of cat and mouse that will continued to played with us putting up blocks and somebody else writing software to defeat it.

So the realization that I came to today as did our administrators is that protecting our children from the Internet comes down to good parenting skills; you can’t rely on technology to do it for you. 

So what can you do?

  1. Be clear with your children and explain to them your expectations and under what conditions they will be allowed to continue to use the computer. 
  2. Keep the computers in the public parts of the house.  Children are less likely to view offensive material if they have to do it in a public place.
  3. Do not be a afraid to look over their shoulder when they are viewing the internet.  Accountability goes a long ways in helping somebody make good choices.  If they suddenly close the browser as you approach, don’t be afraid to look at the history and see what they were viewing.  There are also programs that run in the background that can record sites viewed and everything typed by the user.
  4. If your child continues to view inappropriate material don’t be afraid to block them from the computer.  There are several good programs that can be used to limit access to the computer and internet.  At the facility I work at we use “Computer Time” and I highly recommend it. 
  5. Don’t bury your head in the sand and think your children are immune from the garbage on the internet, turns out every kid on campus over the age for 13 knew how to do this.  Be proactive, and most of all spend time with them, get to know them, and know what they are doing (have a relationship with them).
  6. Continue to use filtering software, it still works great for protecting younger children from the perils of the internet.

I believe these measures can be effective  whether you are a birth parent trying to limit the offensive material your children have access to are a houseparent trying to do the same for the children in your care.

CDELA (Colorado Distance and Electronic Learning Academy)

I received information on the school the other day asking me to include a link to them on my website.  I have done that, even though only people that reside in Colorado can use this resource, mainly because I think the concept is awesome and I want to ask, “Why can’t every state have something like this?”

Seeing what I have seen in the years I have worked in residential childcare, and working with children that have struggled greatly in traditional school, I think if every state had a program like this it would be one of the top resources for residential childcare providers.  It would be the perfect resource for some of those kids that are doomed to be dropouts or are unable to attend traditional school.

Here is some of the information they sent me about the school:  We are a K-11 tuition-free, public charter school that services the entire state of Colorado.  We supply free computers and fax/scanner/copier units to our students. Our entire curriculum is online.  Students and parents can access the Learning Management System 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We also provide licensed teachers and academic advisers for grades 7-11 from 7:30am to 5pm, Monday through Friday.  After hours tutoring is provided for those students needing additional help.  We are an accredited institution; thus allowing students who wish to attend college the opportunity to do so.

Their website address is: http://www.cdela.com/ If you are in Colorado you might want to check them out.  According to their website there are also programs in Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Just 47 more states to go.

I would be interested to hear what others think of this concept and if you know of anything like this in other states.

Secure Your Networks

Here is a funny story that has a point.

There once was an individual that worked at a children’s home.  (NO, its not me)  He decided we wanted to have a wireless network so he could work on his laptop anywhere in the house.  He bought a router, plugged it in, and got everything hooked up and working.  A knowledgeable person (Me), told him for months that he needed to secure his network to keep other people from using it, but of course he didn’t listen.

Anyway several people on campus and in the neighborhood have been using his Internet connection.  In fact about a week ago, one our college kids came back for the weekend and brought her notebook computer with her. She and several other girls proceeded to access the Internet and view large quantities of inappropriate material.  The housemom caught them and contacted administration.  Needless to say, that individual came and asked me how to secure their network today.

Moral of the story is, if your going to have a wireless network make sure it is secure.  Wireless devices are easy to get and can be used with any computer.  A smart kid can get hold of a USB network device and use it to connect virtually any computer to your insecure wireless network without your knowledge, even the old donated desktop unit they use to play games on.

Securing a wireless network is real easy and is explained in the manual or quick-start guide you get with the router.  Things to remember are:

  • Change the ssid.  Anybody that knows anything about wireless routers, knows that the default ssid is “default” 
  • Do not broadcast your ssid.  Unless you own a business that offers wireless access, there is no reason to broadcast your ssid.
  • Encrypt your signal.  The easiest way to keep somebody off your network is to require a key.  This will also provide some protection to the personal data on your machine.  There are so many insecure networks out there that a hacker will most likely leave your machine alone and move onto easier pickings if you require a key to log on.

Lets not make it easy for our kids to get in trouble – secure that network!

The Choking Game Resource

I have been a houseparent for 10 years and in that time I have had to experience two boys hang themselves at the facility (not in our house) we worked at.  At the time of each of their deaths we the staff thought they were suicides.  I have since come to believe through research that they were probably playing “The Choking Game” by themselves like so many children are doing today.

I think as houseparents this is one of the important topics we should be educated about.  Many of the children that we care for are very susceptible to play “The Choking Game” as well as many other risky behaviors.  We need to be prepared to deal with these behaviors.

Yesterday I received an E-mail about a non-profit organization (Stop the Choking Game Association) that is working to educate children and adults of the dangers of this behavior.  Their website has many resources about “The Choking Game” also known as the Passout game, Space Monkey and Black out, including down-loadable brochures and “Powerpoint” presentations, statistics, stories about victims, recommended books and links to other resources.

I think every person that works with children as well as every parent should learn about the dangers of this behavior.  Maybe we can prevent the death of a child we love.

Their website is: www.DeadlyGamesChildrenPlay.com

Are You Looking for a Placement for Your Child?

I receive several phone calls and E-mails each month from parents in a difficult situation that are looking for a placement for their child.  Their children may seem to be out of control and/or be bipolar,  have ADHD or depression, using drugs, running away, ignoring curfew and/or exhibiting delinquent behavior, etc.  If you happen to be one of those parents right now looking, the only real assistance I can give you is to point you in another direction.

One place you may look is with your local government agency that deals with human services and foster care.  They go by several names depending on what state you are in:  Department of Family Services (DFS), Child Protective Services (CPS), Health and Human Services (HHS), etc.  They may be able to assist you in finding a placement and/or direct you to other services to help your situation.

You may also want to visit another website Woodbury Reports, Inc A resource for parents & professionals trying to help at-risk teenagers. Online since 1995 Includes a directory of various programs throughout the country. http://www.strugglingteens.com They visit and review programs as well as maintain a directory of programs available for placement.

Other sites that may be useful are:

National Association of Christian Child and Family Agencies (NACCFA)   www.naccfa.org 

The Mission of National Youth Network is to educate parents of troubled teens on child behavior including attention deficit disorder, ADD, ADHD, drug abuse, teen depression, behavior modification or intervention programs such as wilderness programs, boarding schools, residential treatment and other adolescent programs.   http://www.nationalyouth.com 

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) is the only US-based, non-profit educational organization exclusively serving boarding schools and students. Large Directory of US & Canadian Boarding Schools http://www.schools.com/ 

The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) According to their website NATSAP is an organization created in January of 1999 to serve as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people beleaguered by emotional and behavioral difficulties. http://www.natsap.org/

Finally you may want to visit my directory and find a facility that is close to where you live and contact them directly.  If they are unable to help you with placement, they may be able to direct you to local resources.

I truly wish I could be of more assistance but the purpose of my website is to help houseparents and others that work in residential childcare find positions and other resources to help them with that position, I just don’t have the expertise or resources to help with placements.

For the regular visitors of this site that are wondering why I have chosen to post this here it is because I am hoping to make a very stressful situation for a family a little less stressful. I don’t want them to waste their time, looking on my site for answers I am unable to give.

Some More Numbers

Just thought I would share some more numbers with you from most recent AFCARS Report:  You will note from the bold print that there are about 96,000 children that live in a residential setting out of the 523,000 children in foster care.

 What were the ages of the children in foster care?

Mean Years 10.2  
Median Years 10.9  
 
Under 1 Year 5% 25,070
1 thru 5 Years 25% 129,470
6 thru 10 Years 21% 108,500
11 thru 15 Years 30% 154,970
16 thru 18 Years 18% 93,810
19 Years or More 2% 9,690

What were the placement settings of children in foster care?

Pre-Adoptive Home 5% 24,650
Foster Family Home (Relative) 23% 121,030
Foster Family Home (Non-Relative) 46% 239,810
Group Home 9% 45,700
Institution 10% 51,370
Supervised Independent Living 1% 5,570
Runaway 2% 10,560
Trial Home Visit 4% 19,700

What were the lengths of stay in foster care?

Mean Months 31  
Median Months 18
 
Less than 1 Month 5% 23,950
1 to 5 Months 18% 93,900
6 to 11 Months 16% 84,110
12 to 17 Months 12% 63,640
18 to 23 Months 9% 45,850
24 to 29 Months 7% 35,860
30 to 35 Months 5% 27,030
3 to 4 Yrs 12% 64,810
5 Years or More 16% 83,920

What were the case goals of the children in foster care?

Reunify with Parent(s) or Principal Caretaker(s) 48% 246,650
Live with Other Relative(s) 5% 24,090
Adoption 20% 103,460
Long Term Foster Care 8% 43,250
Emancipation 6% 31,370
Guardianship 3% 15,470
Case Plan Goal Not Yet Established 10% 48,530

What was the race/ethnicity of the children in foster care?

AI/AN Non-Hispanic 2% 10,260
Asian-Non Hispanic 1% 3,280
Black-Non Hispanic 35% 184,480
Hawaiian/PI-Non Hispanic 0% 1,540
Hispanic 17% 91,040
White-Non Hispanic 39% 203,920
Unknown/Unable to Determine 3% 13,360
Two or More-Non Hispanic 3% 14,310

NOTE: Using U.S. Bureau of the Census standards, children of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Beginning in FY 2000, children could be identified with more than one race designation.

What was the gender of the children in foster care?

Male 53% 274,820
Female 48% 248,150

 What were the lengths of stay of the children who exited foster care during FY 2003?

Mean Months 21.7  
Median Months 11.9  
 
Less than 1 Month 18% 51,120
1 to 5 Months 16% 45,810
6 to 11 Months 16% 44,870
12 to 17 Months 12% 33,720
18 to 23 Months 8% 23,290
24 to 29 Months 6% 16,770
30 to 35 Months 5% 12,650
3 to 4 Years 10% 27,770
5 Years or More 9% 24,110

What were the outcomes for the children exiting foster care during FY 2003?

Reunification with Parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s) 55% 151,770
Living with Other Relative(s) 11% 30,570
Adoption 18% 49,340
Emancipation 8% 21,720
Guardianship 4% 10,700
Transfer to Another Agency 2% 6,420
Runaway 2% 4,070
Death of Child 0% 570

NOTE: Deaths are attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and homicide.