I Had a Revelation

The Houseparent Network is 5 weeks short of being 5 years online. In those 5 years my site has grown into a fairly large website in relation to all the websites on the internet. It will never be a Yahoo or a Monster, but I can live with that. It will however have over a quarter of a million visitors and over one million page views this year. Taking into account the number of people that visit my site, (here comes my revelation) not everybody is going to agree with everything I post on my website. Some people may not agree with anything I post on this website. I think I have finally reach the point that I can live with that too.

I also realize that those people that disagree with me may start their own websites and post things that I disagree with or even find offensive. Considering that more people will visit this site today than most of those sites all year, I really should have no reason to feel threatened. There is room on the internet for all views and people are free to share them.

It will however NOT change the way I do things here at The Houseparent Network.

I will continue to focus on helping facilities find quality staff and to help those looking to become staff have the greatest opportunity to find a position in a facility that fits them and is a good fit for the facility regardless of whether the facility is Christian or Secular/Private or Government run.

I will continue to work to grow the size of my facility directory and try to keep it and my state government directory up-to-date.

I will still try to maintain a positive focus in my articles, blog entries, and forum. I will not allow negative comments against any facility, person or residential childcare in general. I will leave that to the regular media that will put an abusive staff member or facility on the front page and the successful ones buried in the “News Around Town” section somewhere in the back or those websites that wish to focus on it. Though I do remove facilities that are found to be abusive from my directory.

I will still post information and resources that I think are useful to other residential child care staff, realizing not everybody will find it useful.

I would like to end by thanking everybody that has made the site such a success and hope you continue to find it useful as it continues to grow. And for those that don’t, I truly hope you find or create one that you find useful.

Working to Get Back in the Groove

Today is the end of Thanksgiving Vacation and all our kids will be back from visits with family and sponsors. Tomorrow everybody will be back in school and we have to try to get back into the groove and finish out this semester before Christmas Vacation gets here in three weeks. My most difficult time of the year.

For many of our children, they have spent the last week being indulged and generally goofing off with little structure and discipline. Which isn’t really a bad thing and I am glad they have an opportunity to experience things outside of the home and spend time with their birth families and others that care about them, but getting the structure and routine going again is a little difficult especially when the kids know Christmas Vacation is only three weeks away.

For those that are reading this and asking why are you so concerned with structure and discipline, I will explain. The amount of discipline needed to function as a group increases with the size of the group. This was a principle I learned in the military but is also something I have had confirmed from interaction with several large families (I have known several families with 8 and more birth children).

Basically the principle works like this. In a small group less discipline is required for the group to function. Two people can be walking down the street and talking without any real structure. It is fairly easy to tell when the other person is done talking and when it is appropriate for you to talk. It is easy to read non-verbal queues from the other person and you can easily account for the others where abouts.

On the other hand a large group requires a great deal of discipline and structure in order for it to function orderly. For example at a seminar or government meeting there has to be order. There is a leader that directs the function. There are rules for being recognized and having the opportunity to speak. There are rules requiring that individuals be quite while others are speaking, that you not be running around the room and causing a disruption, and that you treat others with respect. Without rules, procedures and agendas these situations would be chaos.

In a large family or in our case a family type unit we need structure and discipline for the same reason to avoid chaos. We have schedules, we have charts, we have chores, we have rules – not because we are mean evil people that want to oppress children, but because we need them to have peace and harmony.

And honestly we do, except this time of the year when it seems we are in a constant state of transition. Fortunately it only comes once a year and only lasts for about a month and a half.

The Tragic Past

I received a phone call today from a gentleman I don’t know and have never met, but he found my website and wanted to share his story with me. He was a resident of a children’s home several decades ago. He shared with me several stories about the things that happened to him, using very colorful language at times. He told me how the staff at the home would use severe consequences when dealing with what they determined to be inappropriate behavior. He said that he and other children were often referred to as losers and worthless. How he felt the staff allowed the youth to invoke prison yard justice on other youth and how they were expected to work long hours everyday on the farm in the name of therapy.

Very early in the conversation I realized there wasn’t much I could do to help him with his situation other than offer a compassionate ear and try to share some words of encouragement. I tried to tell him that childcare has changed significantly over the decades since he was in placement. That any abuse he received was wrong and that facilities that have staff that abuse children today usually remove them rather quickly. Also facilities that allow abuse are usually quickly closed by the state. That facilities are much more closely supervised by the state than they were 30 years ago.

After spending nearly 30 minutes on the phone with him, the greatest impression I received from our conversation is how bad this man was hurting decades after his placement. However, amongst his pain he also told me a story about a set of houseparents that made a positive impact on his life. How they were the only ones at this facility that he was able to build a relationship with and how they were the only ones he felt he could trust.

The point of telling you about this conversation is this: As you go about your day as a houseparent, or other youth worker, keep in mind that the things you do today could impact those children for the rest of their lives. Be the staff member that they remember as the one:

  • they could trust
  • they knew cared
  • that had compassion
  • that loved
  • they looked up to!!!
  • Houseparent Salaries!!

    One of the hottest topics of discussion among houseparents is their salaries. After running this website for almost 5 years I have come to a conclusion about houseparent salaries: There is no average salary. Salaries vary so much depending on the type of facility, where it’s located, who runs it, the type of kids, and what program they use that you really can’t come up with an average salary. You simply have to find a facility that has one you can live with and meets your needs.

    One thing that doesn’t help at all is when you sit around and complain about how much you are not payed. Every position I ever accepted, I knew what the salary was when I accepted it, so I really had nothing to complain about, even though I did. You would not believe how many times I have heard, and said, “the pay sucks – I don’t even make minimum wage.”

    For many of us, if we were to sit down and figure the total hours that we work and what we would get paid for overtime, we wouldn’t make minimum wage. However the salary of a houseparent is much more complex than that. For example, how many jobs will pay you for the following activities:

  • Playing a game of basketball with the kids?
  • Going to a movie?
  • Going fishing?
  • Going to Church?
  • One of my favorites, Watching a NASCAR race on Sunday afternoon with the kids?
  • etc. ?
  • How many places will pay you for:

  • Cooking & Eating your supper? (in addition to providing you the groceries)
  • Doing your laundry?
  • Doing homework with your kids?
  • Taking a shower?
  • etc.?
  • You also have to figure in all the extras that you get as a houseparent. I realize that every facility is different but at the facility I work at we receive things that you would never get with a “Normal” job.

  • My birth children are allowed to attend camps and benefit from camp scholarships the same as the home children.
  • My birth children receive gifts at the parties we attend the same as the home children.
  • We are allowed to participate with our birth children when ever there is a sponsored activity (Bowling, rollerskating, water-parks, etc.)
  • The almost $100 a week I save in gasoline because I don’t have to commute to work everyday.
  • The money I save because I am allowed to use the homes shampoo, soap, toothpaste, etc.
  • The groceries we don’t have to buy, because we are eating with the youth we care for.
  • Though I choose to provide my own place for relief, I wouldn’t have too if I chose not to.
  • I would like to end with this. If you are truly being under paid do something about like finding a place that will provide for your finacial needs. However, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. If you don’t figure in all the extras, or the things you would have to do anyway (like shower) but you otherwise wouldn’t be getting paid for your comparing apples and oranges. It took me a long time to learn that.

    Upcoming Book Review

    I have started reading a new book that I am planning to write a complete review on. It is: “No Such Thing As a Bad Kid!” by Charles D. Appelstein. He also wrote “The Gus Chronicles” which I thought to be a little cheezie, so I was worried I wouldn’t like this book.

    However, after reading the first three chapters, I honestly think he nailed it. So far it has been very informative and the information has been very practical. I honestly think it will become my number two recommended book for houseparents and residential staff. Right after: Respecting Residential Work with Children by James R. Harris Jr.

    If you haven’t read the book, I think it is worth the investment to read. It will give you techniques that will help you work with troubled youth.

    Birthday Bust

    Today one of the young men in our cottage had a birthday, he turned 8. I wanted to make his day start out on a special note, so I got up 20 minutes earlier than normal so I would have time to make pancakes and sausage for breakfast. I usually just serve cold cereal on Tuesdays.

    I even put special effort into these and added sprinkles. After breakfast the young man came up to me and said, “you know Mr. Mike, pancakes aren’t my favorite food!” I replied, “really, you mean if I would have just slapped a bowl of cereal in front of you, it would have been better.” He said, “Ya!!, I really like cereal.”

    Mental note for next year – sleep the extra 20 minutes.

    Lies, Lies & More Lies

    I have come to a conclusion. After 10 years working in residential childcare I have decided that the behavior that drives me the most crazy is lying. In those 10 years I have worked in both therapeutic behavior modification programs and basic residential foster care and have cared for over 150 children though 7 of the 8 I currently care for have been with me for over three years. I honestly can’t remember a time in any of the programs when there wasn’t at least one child that you were pretty sure was lying because their lips were moving.

    I have had children that you could catch with cookie crumbs all over their room and holding the cookie jar tell me that they didn’t steal the cookies, it was johnny in the next room(who is currently gone on a home visit) that took them and ate them in their room. It really makes me wonder if the children I care for lie any more than other children or that because I care for so many children I am just naturally going to be subjected to more lies. I do know that when the children are in a period when they lie more than usual, it becomes physically draining.

    I would like to offer some advice on how to deal with things when the children lie more than usual, but I really don’t have any new insights. I guess this is one of those posts where I simply share my feelings. I do know know that like everything else, this too will pass…..

    An Appropriate Apology

    For those of you that are familiar with sports, there have been an awful lot of apologies taking place these days. The most recent with a famous receiver from Philadelphia got me to thinking about what a good apology is. When I first got into Residential Childcare I didn’t know much about apologies and I didn’t receive much training, so I had to learn on my own and from others. I realize this should be basic knowledge for a childcare worker, but if I didn’t know it when I was new, maybe somebody else doesn’t either.

    The typical scene when I was new went something like this:

    ME: “Jane – apologize to Suzy for taking her money.”
    Jane: “I’m sorry Suzy.”
    Suzy: “That’s OK.”

    I have since learned that would not be an appropriate apology. An apology should always contain a “because” or something similar. And if something happens that needs an apology, it’s not OK.

     

    1. An apology should always contain “because” or something similar. Unless there is more to the apology than just “I’m sorry”, the only thing Jane could be sorry for is the fact that you are making her apologize.

  • Jane should have said something like, “I am sorry I took your money because it was wrong and it hurt you, and know you don’t now have enough money to buy your mother that gift you were saving for. I will pay you back when I get my allowance next week.”
  • For a hitting incident – Jane could have said, “I am sorry I hit you; I now feel bad that it caused you pain and left you with a bruise.”
  • When you are teaching a child how to apologize, at first, it will take a great deal of prompting. But the more they do it or see it done the easier it becomes.

    2. If something happens that needs an apology, it’s not OK. The person receiving the apology should never respond with, “That’s OK.” If somebody hurts you, it’s never OK. The person receiving the apology should respond with something like:

  • “I accept your apology, next time please don’t take my stuff without asking. I probably would have shared with you had you asked.”
  • “I accept your apology, and I forgive you.”
  • If the recipient is still hurting and not ready to forgive they could say something like, “Thank you for your apology, but I am not ready to forgive you right now, please give me some more time.”

    Giving a proper apology allows the giver an opportunity to reflect on what they did and the pain they caused, while allowing the receiver to heal and to be able to express their emotions and pain.

    Final Note: You may have to allow Jane some time to reflect before she gives an apology so that when she apologizes it can be sincere. If Jane never reaches a point of sincerity or refuses to apologize you may be left with the task of helping the victim heal. You could say something like, “I feel bad for you that Jane won’t apologize, I know what she did hurt you and hope you can heal and move on.”

    Three Kinds of People

    In any civilized society there are basically three types of people and laws are needed for two of those types.

    The first type of people are self-disciplined, compassionate, caring. They would make the appropriate choice in a situation because it is the right thing to do. If there was no law against murder, they still wouldn’t kill people because they realize the value of life. If there was no law against stealing, they still wouldn’t steal because taking some body’s stuff hurts them.

    The second type of people are less self-disciplined, compassionate, and caring. Laws work well for these people; it gives them the additional motivation to stay within society’s boundaries because they don’t want the consequences of stepping outside those boundaries. A person on one edge of this group might know that stealing is an inappropriate behavior, and though tempted to steal would not because they don’t want to deal with the embarrassment of an arrest and trial or do jail time. Someone on the other edge, may not care that stealing is an inappropriate behavior, yet still won’t because they don’t want to live with the consequences.

    The third type of people couldn’t care less what the boundaries of society are and have no problem stepping outside of them. For these people laws generally work as a way to provide methods to remove them from society so that other citizens can live in relative peace. You can simply look at the prison population for examples of this group of people.

    Workers within residential childcare (and I suppose any field) mirror society. There are those that do what they do simply because it is the best thing to do for the child, for the organization and for society. I wish that I was always in this group and I think most of the time I am, but I have been known to enter the second group.

    For the second group of people policies, rules and programs were created. Though they want to do the best for the children and program without policies, rules and programs they might lose their way. The second group of people will include those that think administrators have no idea what they are talking about, but will still do what they say because they don’t want to be unemployed. This group includes those that may think a rule is stupid, but will still follow it to avoid the consequences of not following it. It also includes those people that think some program, rule or policy isn’t very important, but again will follow them to avoid a trip to the big office.

    Like society the third group couldn’t care less what the program, rules or policies are and continually step outside them though they usually interview well. Fortunately, these people usually don’t last long and are quickly discovered and terminated but usually not before causing the creation of additional programs, policies and rules.

    My challenge to those that work in residential childcare, including myself, is to try very hard to be in the first group of people. Do the very best you can at caring for these abused, neglected, troubled and often times unwanted children because it is the right thing to do. Besides, do you really want more Programs, Rules and Policies?

    Open Source Online Residential Case Management Software

    From what I know about the Residential Childcare Field, this blog entry will not be a lot of help to many people, however Residential Childcare resources are so limited that I try to get the word out whenever I come across one.

    While I was checking out the website of a recently new facility to The Houseparent Network, I discovered that they were working on an Open Source Web-based Case Management Software Package. Freemed-YiRC is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL). This means a user has complete FREEDOM in using, copying, modifying, installing, and distributing Freemed-YiRC.

    Under the GPL license you are free to modify it and adapt it to your specific facility. For those facilities on a limited budget and with the technical expertise to take advantage of open source software, this could be a very useful resource.

    You can find out more about the software by going to : Freemed-YiRC