Whatever Dude…

Tired Writer/ Writers Block

  I was enjoying my 15th straight hour of sleep on my first day of respite (which I fully intended to sleep thru) when lo and behold my cell phone starts dancing across the night stand. I waited for the ringing to stop. I then began my slow decent back into my dream world where all the children loved me and I could fire anyone I wanted at my sprawling independent living facility, Lauchpads Home for the Academically Gifted, Well Behaved Trust Fund Children (My dream, my title). We ate BBQ everyday and I think there were puppies or something there….

  My message alarm starts going off EVERY TEN SECONDS (I really need to change those settings). So figuring that reality got the better of me yet again, I got up muttering some unholy words and checked my message.

  It was from a friend of mine, Ned. I have known him for a few years now and he is generally calm and patient. Today however he was very upset and talking very fast. It seems things have not been going well for him and his wife at their facility which they have talked about leaving for years now. Ned has worked up a very impressive ulcer and his wife who is in her mid thirties looks like she is pushing a hard 50. It has been a rough couple of years.

  I called Ned back to try and figure out what all the fuss was about. When Ned answered the phone he sounded very tired. He went on to tell me about how the Director was possibly the re-incarnation of Hitler and how they can’t take working for such an evil empire anymore. He may have said something about blood rituals, truth was I wasn’t in the mood to deal with this crap before I had my breakfast at 3:00 in the afternoon. (It is respite!) After Ned was done with his tales of woe and disparity, I asked him a few questions:

Launch: Ned, have you got on the Houseparent Network and started checking the job board and doing some research?

Ned: Naw, I really don’t get into that sort of stuff, you know that man.

Launch: Ah, I see. Why are you calling me then, on this glorious afternoon, Ned.

Ned: Because your always talking about this stuff and on that House Parent site. Besides, we never were this serious about leaving before. We love the kids and it’s our ministry. But we have to get out of here now, we are losing our minds.

Launch: Your an idiot Ned.

 The rest of our conversation was rather lively and I won’t bore you with all the details. Let’s just say I probably won’t be getting a Christmas card from Ned this year. Besides being half asleep, Ned hit one of my nerves with his complete lack of professionalism and his laziness towards providing for his ministry and his family.

  Allow me to explain. I am very happy at my facility. I personally believe it is one of the best in the country. I work nine days on, five days off. My employer listens, or at least pretends to listen, to my wants and concerns. The administration and Family Teachers get along, and we have some of the best academic support people for our kids that money can buy. BUT, don’t think for a second I won’t lay the smack down if this place goes completely loco on me. My wife and I keep our resumes updated and we are very committed to networking with House Parents and facilities across the country. Knowing someone that knows someone is a comforting thing when your back is against the wall.

  By using the resources that are on this site, you will have job security and peace of mind. If you talk with others on the forum you will begin to find and see what facilities may or may not be your cup of tea. You will find support during those hard times from others on the board who have already walked that road.

  When it is time to begin your career as a House Parent, or to continue your career at a different facility, research the job board. Get a list of possible facilities and ask questions about them on the forum. Sign up for the members only services. Post your resume on line and be visible to hundreds of facilities out there. I think our facility just hired a couple from the resume post section. Sign up for the job alert section and receive an email everytime there is a new vacancy open up. I probably get two or three job alerts a week.

 Once you get that House Parent job, stay connected. You really do not know what God has in store for the future. I fully intended to be buried at the facility we worked at in Georgia. I still love that place and all the kids and staff. I’m at a different facility now because financially I just could not make it there. Staying connected and working on building your network will help to ensure that should you need to get out of dodge, you will have a good idea of whats out there.

 ALL FACILITIES ARE NOT THE SAME. Just because your current situation has you working within a yard of hell, does not mean all child care facilities are the same. If you are truly miserable in where you are at and believe the facility is bad, why do you stay? If it is for the kids, are you really giving them the best care possible given your disdain for the facility? No one wins by you staying in a situation that is killing you. The facility, your marriage, and the kids, they all lose. Just think about it.

  Remember, this is a ministry. Like all other ministries, if you are in a position that it looks like God is slamming the door on you, look around. He may be wanting you to walk through the door he just opened. -Launch

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. 

Ego

Moms Minivan/ Soccer Mom

When I first started as a House Parent, I was thrilled to be a part of such an incredible ministry. I felt honored God would give give someone like me a chance to play such a vital role in so many lives. It did not take me long to realize this was to be my life’s work, and passion.

However, I was still lost in my image of what a man should be. Like most men, my identity came from my occupation and what I did for a living. Up to that point I could swagger into any social setting of guys and tell them I was a soldier, or truck driver. No one could question my manliness with such gunho occupations. In other words, my fragile ego was secure.

When I first got hired on in Maryland at a facility I went to a bank nearby to open a bank account. When I came to the part that asks for your occupation I put “Counselor”. To my ego it was a direct challenge to who I was, what I believed and what I wanted others to think about me. I loved my job and the kids, but I had a hard time imagining chilling with the homeys at the next BBQ and explain to them I was a House Parent- A guy that stays home all day watching kids. A far cry from grinding gears on a semi or playing rambo in some far flung country.

I had a lack of conviction for my ministry. More importantly I was ashamed of telling my family and friends I was one of those Christians that “heard” a calling from the spirit. In the crowd I ran with people that got religion were freaks. The fact that I worked 18 hour days really did not impress them much.

A friend at the facility I worked at helped me with this issue. He sat down and read this verse to me;

2 Tim 1:8-10 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

I realized I was trying to live my life as two separate persons. I began to realize that I did sell out to Christ, I was bought and paid for. My life as a House Parent was WAY more hard core than anything I had done in the past. In the space of two years at that facility I watched close to twenty people, who were supposedly called, come and go.

I spent close to 18 hours a day doing paper work, cooking meals, counseling, running errands, restraints (rough facility) and cleaning. I patched enough drywall to make Bob Villa jealous. I had to research and build my own alarm system to keep ahead of the kids. I had to work on the house van twice a week just keep it running.

I learned how to counsel. Suicide attempts, hospital runs, sexual incidents, contra-band and fights. That was an average week there.

I witnessed what “Trench warfare ministry” was. Believe me, prisons and group homes are about as gnarley as it gets when you are fighting for someones soul.

Life has calmed down a bit for me these days. I work at a much calmer facility. Through the years I have learned better techniques for keeping the peace and have the peace of mind of having this network at my disposal for advice, job opportunity’s and research.

Most importantly, I am not ashamed. Not of Christ, and not of what he has called me to do. I am a House Parent. Whatever we are calling ourselves these days; Family Teacher, Teaching Parent or House Parent remember we live and work in a medium that only the truly hard core last. So bring it.- Launch

Black Friday!!!

Hell Mart

This is it!!! Today is the day millions of lemmings dressed in FUBU and 501’s will storm the gates of Wal-Mart. I like going just for the simple hedonistic pleasure of watching grown men and women lose all sense of civility and letting that primal animal come out.

Nothing beats watching a 64 year old Grandma take wrapping paper out of another persons hand and walk off with a gangsta limp. Or how bout the 8 year old kid that throws a tantrum in the check out line with mom while everyone behind her is secretly wishing she would lay the pimp hand down.

Yep, tis the season ya’ll. We have to go bankrupt and act the fool to prove not only to our kids but to the world that we love them and are great providers. I think Jesus wanted it this way, what do you think? Every year in honor of his birthday, we let all of that greed, lust and nastiness come out in a day proclaimed as “Black Friday”.

We normally take this time to teach our kids that this is a day best left alone. If God wanted me to spend 4 months worth of salary and max out my credit to give stuff to my kids that they will break within 72 hours, he would have made me into Bill Gates or at the very least a trust fund kid.

Alas, poverty is to be my lot in life. My daughter will get a stuffed animal (From the thrift store), and some boxes to play with. My wife will probably get some slippers and a bathrobe. I will once again get some socks and another pint of Old Spice to add to the 5 gallons worth I have sitting in my closet.

We can afford a little more, but we won’t. We have discovered we enjoy being together and going to the ice rink more than hitting the shopping circuit. We don’t want our daughter growing up thinking of Christmas as some sort of payday. It is meant for our family as a holy day.

Every year we also battle with all the facilities kids getting more junk than they know what to do with. Most is broken or traded to another kid before the new year even starts. Most people donating these toys think that by loading them up with toys it makes everything better for them. They seem to think the kids will remember all the gifts and parties and be okay. It’s a great thought, but come December 26th, they will be waking up in the same situation they were in last week. The toys will not last long. I have a kid that breaks magnets. Seriously, this boy should get some kinda honorary nuclear physicists degree or something. I don’t know how he does it.

Next time a sponsor asks what they can do, tell them to become a resource family and let some of these kids spend some time with them and their families. Heck, for the truly hardcore tell them to become a foster family. There are no shortages of kids, people to donate toys or toy drives.

I wish there were more people that were invested in helping make a difference in the kids life year round, not just during the holidays to make themselves feel better.

Anyway, here is my list of things I’d rather be doing on “Black Friday” than casting my shadow across the threshold of Wally-World.

1. Watching “Anne of Green Gables”. All eight hours.
2. Shaving Houseparent Network on my back so I can do some Guerilla advertising (Pun intended) at the gym pool.
3. Watch the golf network with the surround sound cranked all the way up.
4. Scrap the McDonalds Happy Meal off the roof of the mini-van.
5. Watch the Life Time channel with my wife without being able to make comments about how every show revolves around a man doing a woman wrong.
6. Finish editing my power point slide show on the different stages of my ingrown toenail infection. (I’m trying to get my pic in the New England Medical Journal)
7. Prostate exam.

You get the idea.

So best of luck to all you holiday shoppers on this glorious day. -Launch

Thanksgiving Blues

I have to admit, in the past I despised all holidays from my earliest memories. All the big family holidays seemed to be a drag after our family disintegrated after I was eight. So Christmas and Thanksgiving usually were not high points.

My last great memory of family gatherings was at my Grandma Browns house when I was eight. It would be the last time we would all be together as a family. Shortly after that time all the drama associated with divorce and dysfunction ruled supreme in our lives.

So the holidays would usually find me trying to escape the good cheer by going to the range and shooting Christmas ornaments (Hey, it was that or the mall, what do you expect?). Up until this past thanksgiving I would usually be a wreck until the day after when the fog of yesteryear was gone and life, as I wanted it, returned.

This year was very different. All of our kids, except one, went home with their families for the holidays. Kinda cool. I have never been in a group home with ONE kid before. Very awesome.

I have had the chance to get lots of one on one time with Rodney (Not his real name) this week. No points to worry about, no school or homework to fuss over and no sibling rivalry. Just my wife, daughter and Rodney.

I really felt bad this kid had no one to go home with or a resource family to take him out for the day. So we decided it would be his day. Whatever and wherever he wanted to eat was up to him. My wife was not really looking forward to cooking a holiday meal given my past behavior of going for a drive while the family gathers for the meal, so we left the choice of restaurant up to Rodney. He chose Ruby Tuesdays, actually he chose McDonalds first but even I have some standards for Thanksgiving.

After we got there I noticed something. Rodney was grinning ear to ear sitting between me and my wife. He got to eat a kids hamburger and drink enough soda to have him teetering on the edge of a diabetic coma. He talked about how this was the most awesome Thanksgiving he ever had. We talked about school and his favorite bands. It truly was the most awesome Thanksgiving ever.

It’s a time to give thanks. Thanks that I’m sitting in a Ruby Tuesday chilling with Rodney and not in Anbar Province dodging mortar rounds. Thanks that I get to be a full time dad to my daughter and not behind the wheel of a semi trying to make a buck. Thankful of a wife that shares the same passion of wanting to make a difference by serving Christ and going where he sends us. And VERY thankful for that same wife that understands what drives me to stay up till 3 am typing a blog that few will probably read.

Rodney has given me a different out look on the holidays. We all have some baggage from the past. But until we begin to understand that all of this holiday stuff is NOT about us, but serving others, we will continue to get the holiday blues.

I am definitely looking very much forward to spending Christmas with Rodney and my family. Hopefully by the grace of God, his caseworker and a break in global warming we will be able to take him to the heart of Yankee territory in Pennsylvania and he can see some snow. It just doesn’t get any sweeter.– Launch

And so it begins…

Every once in awhile there are moments that completely stops me in my tracks and say “Dude, what are you thinking?”

Last time this happened one of the kids was trying to explain why my wife’s cat was twitching on the kitchen floor and there was the smell of burnt catnip in the air (long story).

This past week I had another one of those moments. I received a phone call from our web master, Mike Hyde. My first thought was I had finally crossed the line in the forum area and there was a disgruntled House Parent out there burning down his group home while screaming my name at the top of his lungs.

Mike assured me things were cool. Actually he said things were going great and he went on to invite me to blog on the site here with my own little corner. The fact that he seemed to be mostly sober while he made this offer also confused me. I’m great at expressing my thoughts into the nether-world of cyberspace, but for someone to actually encourage this kind of behavior gives one pause to reflect on the situation. Mike is first and foremost a House Parent and therefore overworked and quite possibly due for a psychotic break (I had mine last week). Or he may be bored and just curious what deviltry I will conjur up if given a little freedom.

Whatever the cause, I will take the opportunity to throw down while I have the chance. Depending on how long of a roll I can hustle on someone else’s site (whilst they pay the bills) I will address many of the issues that all of us as House Parents (and potential House Parents) face on a day to day basis.

One area that is huge and often overlooked is House Parent and administration relationships. I will take you on a tour of my own warped reality of team concept and working as a unit to better our own lives and provide better care for the children we are entrusted with.

Behaviors of kids and staff, stress reduction, why I continue to get fatter, Social Workers, statistics’, child welfare issues and many other topics will be put on the table.

I will be trying to convince our gracious web master of allowing me to get out and about and do some facility reviews of those that list with the network while he is still in the mood to let me run amuck. To actually have a positive, first hand account of a facility will be a boost for anyone using the board to help find the right place at the right time.

You will hear me continue my rant from the forum on the importance of using this network and developing your own network further. From developing a professional approach to the entire foster care system to building contacts with facilities and peers.

Actually, I will blog about anything I think is of relevance to our field. The Houseparent Network has become the rallying point of child care providers from across the country. It really has blossomed into being a “One Stop Shop” for resources and support. I have personally talked with facility’s that were having difficulty finding qualified child care providers in their local papers, to having dedicated professional couples that stick around after having advertised on the network.

Our ultimate goal is for the children we serve to live a better life. We all pray that we will not be raising their children and the skills we pass on to them will hopefully make a difference. As long as this network continues on towards that goal I will continue spreading the gospel of the Houseparent Network.

-Launch