Second Generation Houseparent

I know of some people that are second and third generation houseparents.  We have a mother and daughter that work together as a team at our facility.  The mother has been here for 35+ years.  It turns out it may be a generational thing in my family also.

 I have a 14 year old daughter that left the day after Christmas to volunteer at a children’s home in Mexico.  She is very excited  about helping other kids and worked hard all fall raising money to make the trip.  As parents, her mother and I have been somewhat nervous with her being so far away, but according to the last E-mail we received, she is fine and having a great time.  I think it is kinda cool that I may have passed my passion on to one of my children, and hope she continues to develop it.  I will also be very thankful when she is home again on Thursday.

Putting The Beat Down On, Old School Style

Snowball fight

I taught Rodney today the art of snowball combat today. Being a boy from the South, it took him a few minutes to adjust to the temperature, climate and barrage of snowballs to the cranium. My brother-in-law even showed him how to fight dirty, Upstate New York style, by making ice balls from the heat and pressure of your hands. I followed up with a lecture of using yellow snow as the ultimate last resort weapon.

We taught him your opponents greatest weakness is his face, to be followed by the final blow of snow down the back of the shirt. I am convinced that it is these warrior skills that have prepared many a boy to become mercenaries or House Parents of the highest caliber.

We also went off-roading through the mountains and logging trails of Olean, NY. I was pretty sure my brother in law was going to roll us while Rodney kept encouraging him to “Step on it”. We all made it safely home.

We also went sled riding. So far that has to be my best memory of the trip so far. Watching a kid who has never seen anything more than a few snowflakes, go flying down a hill on a cheap Wal-Mart sled. These are the moments I thank God for blessing me with such an awesome job and ministry.

Tomorrow we head for Western Maryland to have lunch with my father and to show Rodney what a real fly fishing stream looks like. -Launch

Whip Me, Beat Me, I Need Love.

Flogging

My buddy Ned, who we have talked about before, called this morning and has came to a decision. He will continue to stay at his facility until they fire him or he gets divorced.

Ned has employed a bold technique I like to call the “Damn The Torpedoes” maneuver. He will in the next few months improve on his defensive position by holing up in his cottage and having as little contact as possible with anyone from the administration because they are after all, the enemy.

Part of this phase will also include cutting all contact with his fellow House Parents because he has a very difficult time accepting any feedback or advice. Besides they work for the enemy. Ned does to but that’s not the point.

Ned’s wife wants me and another HP to talk to him and get him to calm down just a tad. Nay, nay says I. Ned has a determination, passion and drive for this campaign that few men who have not been diagnosed with Schizophrenia, could ever know or begin to understand. After all, he is working in the worst child care facility in the United States, quite possibly the world or even the universe. Ned is going to document all transgressions and see that he cares just for the kids in his cottage (Which he is barely doing due to his “Stress”). He is a man with a mission.

Ned will get fired, or at least I hope he does. The only way it’s not going to happen at this point is if his stomach ulcer kills him first. The frustrating part is he thinks he will win this and everything will be just like he wants it.

I have seen this all happen before. When people start to lose sight of the fact that this is a ministry and lose all respect and commitment to their facility, they become either dead weight or a cancer. They walk around and spread gossip thru the ranks. They talk of nothing but the evilness of the entire system. But fortunately, what goes around, comes around. Hopefully someone with a purpose and calling can fill his shoes because guys like Ned gives us all a bad name.

Anyone interested in a ministry serving children PM me. We should have Ned packed up soon….

The Darker Side of Society

A couple of months ago I wrote a very passionate post in the forum about how frustrated and tired I was with things.  I talked about all the bad things I have experienced or seen since I have become a houseparent and how it had thoroughly depressed me.  I retracted it after a couple of days, because I just didn’t feel it was appropriate for The Houseparent Network and I guess just saying it made me feel better, but now I think it is subject that needs to be addressed, but probably in a much less emotional way.

For those that want to be houseparents I have to warn you.  You are probably going to see things you probably never thought about when you said, “Hey, I think I want to be a houseparent.” 

My very first day as a houseparent I cared for a young lady that was the very worst case of child neglect and abuse, the county had ever seen.  She lived for years in a abandoned camper out in the country, without electricity, water or sewage.  Her mother was a drug user and traded her food stamps for drugs causing the young lady to go for days without food.  Amazingly, she was not a little kid but was 14 years old.  She couldn’t go to a foster home because she didn’t have the ability to function in a normal household.  It took almost two very difficult years before she was able to leave and live with another family member, but there were days we really questioned if she would ever make it.

I cared for another child, that while she was in our care, her birth father went down to where her step-mom was signing up her step sister for day camp at a local park and shot the step-mom in front of about 30 kids.  She ended up a quadriplegic and he went to prison a for very long time.  This young lady struggled for the rest of the time she was with us, about a year, and continues to struggle today.

I have been at homes where a child has committed suicide twice, and have been involved at least 6 other times when birth parents, friends of the children and others have committed suicide.  I have known countless birth parents and many of the children that we have cared for that have been to prison or are currently in prison.  There are many, many times that I read the local paper and I actually know somebody in the weekly felony arrest report.

I have cared for many children that have horrible physical scars from the abuse they have endured.  Scars you can see that help to explain the behaviors that result from the emotional scars you can’t see.  I have cared for children that look at their birth parents as heroes and brag about all the crimes that they have helped their parents commit, like a nine year old girl that was proud that she carried her parents drugs, because they knew the cops wouldn’t search the children.  Or the children that helped their parents shoplift by distracting the attendants while their parents took liquor or smokes.

I have come to know, out of necessity, more about the various sub-cultures in our society than I ever wanted to know.

Becoming a houseparent means that your are going to be caring for children that come from the darker side of society which means you are going to see a lot of bad things, a lot of pain, a lot of hurt, and a lot of things you wish you never had to see.  It takes somebody that is truly a professional, somebody that wants to help children in spite of the challenges.  Those that do it for any other reason usually don’t make it very long.

Merry Christmas From The Heart of Amish Country!

Wow. I forgot what life was like on the far side of the Mason Dixon Line.

Anyway, we are leaving today for Pennsylvania. We are taking one of the kids from the cottage with us. No matter how you cut it, being the only kid left in the cottage without a family or sponsor to spend Christmas with sucks. So we are going to show him how we throw down Christmas yankee style, in Pennsylvania- with snow, ice and car wrecks.

One of our favorite family car games is counting road kill along the way. Deer are 5 points and more exotic animals are based on level of rareness. A Koala Bear for instance would be an easy 50 points, but a California Condor would be worth at least 200 due to it being on the endangered species list.

We will also fight over the car tunes. My wife would prefer to listen to an Avalon CD the entire 14 hours, whereas nothing says Christmas to me like Bad Company’s Greatest Hits. I’m sure Rodney will want something played that has a “Foshizzle” in it.

I am really looking forward to this Christmas. It will be the first time in 15 years I did not have to work. It will also be my daughters first Christmas.

So Merry Christmas to the other two people that read the blog and Happy New Year!!!

-Launch

Jesus loves you, I’d Like To Kick You In Your Head Though…

Merry Christmas

The hardest, and I mean the absolute hardest part of my job is keeping my cool. There are days and times when I see a case file, talk to a “Parent” or sit and listen to a story that a kid tells you about a nightmare that you know actually happened. It makes it real hard for me not to lose all compassion for those that choose to destroy the lives of their children.

The hard part is not trying to love the kids, thats the easy part. No, the toughest part is trying to teach unconditional love to a kid when you feel nothing but absolute loathing for the people that dumped on them. If you have been an HP for any amount of time, you know exactly what I am talking about.

My situation at the moment is one of absolute frustration. My faith dictates that I have to forgive and I must love my enemies as I would my closest friend. It just makes it difficult when I have to tell a kid that they have to forgive those that have put them thru hell and continue to do so at every opportunity.

One of the parents of our boys has had a very difficult time in actually showing up when they tell the kid they will be there. When the kid does go home on the rare occasion, they run the street because the parent refuses to provide anything close to a home for them. They than tell the kid they are working on getting a house, a car and a job. They will then say to the child that the next time they pick them up to go home it’ll be for good. Only problem is the drug habit takes up all the time and money to put the dream into action.

So, we step into the void. We are the ones that are left to deal with the tears and the rage. I find myself on many occasions wishing I could fix what cannot be fixed. It’s heartbreaking to watch a kid that finally has stabilized and for the first time had consistency in his life, be thrown into a tail spin when the insanity and chaos of a dysfunctional family creeps back into his life for short periods of time.

It’s times like these that I have to remind myself that in many of these cases the dysfunction has been a part of that family for probably many generations. The hope and prayer is that dysfunction, can and will be broken by this generation we are raising.

Many of us have heard or said that many of the kids are doomed, they will be in jail or dead shortly after they age out of the system. I have seen HP’s even tell a kid that in the middle of a behavior issue trying to “Shock” them into behaving better. So much for positive reinforcement.

The few who read this blog can probably remember somewhere in their own past, a time when someone close to them told them they would fail. It could have been your coach, another kid or your own family. Imagine, or remember, what it is like to have those closest to you say you will fail at life. That kind of pain sticks around a long time and is hard to forgive in order to move on with a fruitful life.

Thats where forgiveness has to be a must. Wether you are religious or not, you have to find a way to teach a kid that, and at some point realize that you also need to do the same.

Much of my former life was spent not feeling that I was “Worthy” of forgiveness for real and imagined transgressions, even after giving my life to Christ. It was not until I met my in-laws did I realize what honest and real Christian forgiveness was. Unbeknownst to them I was set free from a lifetime of bondage from holding onto past anger towards others and myself by watching how they forgave others, myself included, and lived an authentic Christian life.

I really look forward to a day when I can pass on what they have shown me to the kids. I try, but somehow they make the whole forgiving thing look way easier than it is at this point when I’m dealing with a boneheaded parent I would love to set straight. -Launch

Hose Control

No Pee On Floor!

I have seen one of our boys pee his name, in cursive, on a public beach. It was and still is a matter of bragging rights for him, a major accomplishment for a young man that can barely write his own name. So you would think that by the time a boy hits the ripe old age of, lets say twelve, they would be able to direct all bodily fluids into the appropriate disposal device such as a big white ceramic toilet.

I am starting to believe that every time one of our boys uses the restroom they have a grand mal seizure. Seriously, how do you get pee on the ceiling?

I’m really not whining. I have cleaned my share of urine over the years. I have seen everything from the normal bed wetting problem to kids getting revenge on another kid by peeing on their pillow (My personal favorite). I have seen them pee out windows and on campfires, in the snow and in the hot, dusty Georgia red clay. I even saw a kid take a leak on an electric fence and thought we were going to lose him to a heart attack.

I thought I had seen it all until I saw it dripping from a ten foot high ceiling. Of course all the boys deny any and all responsibility for the serious off target misfire. I can’t even imagine how it was done, seeing as how it violates the law of gravity, not to mention superhuman urination skills. Frankly the only way I see how it could have happened is by throwing it somehow. The thought of what they could have used along with the fact my favorite coffee mug is missing is disturbing.

If I find out who the culprit is I’m calling Ripleys. -Launch

The Biggest Loser- (It ain’t me this time).

Corndogs

Someone at our facility came up with a great idea recently. They did a complete rip-off of the television show “Biggest Loser”. It is one of the few reality shows I can actually watch, mostly due to the fact that it is very positive and the outcome is always great with people losing massive amounts of weight.

So, many HP’s signed up to drop a few pounds. I debated actually doing it myself, but I refused seeing as how my figure makes others feel good about themselves. Kinda like the ugly fat kid in gym class- thats me.

My wife however decided to go for it, and man she went all out. She would head to the gym as soon as the kids left for school. Sometimes she hit the gym or track twice a day. Her and her band of sister House Parents have been knocking off the pounds.

Us men however chose to show our support from the side lines. We decided to stay home so we wouldn’t be in their way at the gym. Yep, matter of fact I decided to keep eating any and all snacks/ carbs/ sugar to keep my lovely wife from falling into temptation. Sure I look like Jabba the Hut, but sometimes ya just gotta take one for the team.

Over the last few weeks my wife has lost an amazing amount of weight. Last week she came in second place in the competition here. I wanted to reveal to you some real numbers such as starting weight and pounds lost, but I would really rather not spend the rest of our marriage in celibacy. Lets just say she has lost a bunch.

The effects of her working out has been obvious to everyone. She has more energy and has been much calmer when dealing with the kids behaviors. She looks better and hasn’t had a sick day the whole time she has been doing this competition and even though she looked great before, she is definitely getting back to the pre pregnancy hottie status she held.

The biggest draw back to the whole fitness thing has been the menu change. It’s been a lot of green stuff and enough fiber to make a horse jealous. I have found shelter and comfort in the arms of McDonalds though. They stuck by my through the good and and bad times. Always there and always ready to give something in the ballpark of what I actually ordered.

I guess it’s time to get motivated and follow her example. I am very proud of her. -Launch

Come on People, Lighten Up a Little!!!

I am sure the people that need to read this will probably never see it but I have to say it anyway.  Anybody that knows me, knows that the Christmas season is one of my least favorite times of the year.  I don’t like the over commercialization of Christmas, that now starts in August and that more and more people expect you to spend a years wages on buying gifts for everybody you know. 

On top of that I have come to dislike it even more out of empathy for all the children I have cared for over the years.  Christmas is supposed to be a time of celebration with the family, but for many of the children I have cared for and continue to care for that is not a possibility and for those that are able to spend it with their family it is rarely a positive experience. 

I’ll freely admit that I get a little grumpy during the Holidays, but I have run into some people lately that make me seem like the spirit of Christmas cheer.

Yesterday, I was peacefully driving my 15 passenger bus down the road in the right lane.  Exactly where I should be when following the speed limit and traveling with a load of children.  There was a guy that was merging on to the highway in the merge lane to my right.  Rather than speed up and merge in front of me or slow down and merge behind me, that individual felt the need to lay into their horn for two or three seconds, I guess to signal me to move to the left into the other lane, because my presence in my current lane was inconveniencing him.  What he didn’t know is I have about a million blind spots and don’t change lanes unless I absolutely have to.  He eventually slowed down and pulled in behind me just before he ran out of lane. He stayed behind me just long enough to smash the accelerator like it was a restart at a Stock Car race passing me in very short order, finishing off the pass with the famous one fingered salute. 

Today I received a phone call from a lady in Georgia, the reason I know she was from Georgia was because I googled the phone number when I got home.  Anyway I answered the phone like I always do, “Hello, this is Mike.”  She seemed confused and responded, “uh, I was looking for The Houseparent Network.”  I replied, “Yes, you found it” in a pleasant casual voice to which there was only silence. So I followed up with, “How can I help you?”  She responded in a very rude voice, “I don’t think you can” and as she was hanging up the phone I heard her say, “Very unprofessional.”  I thought to myself, “now what’s up with that.”  My only conclusion is that it must have been somebody that found my website doing a websearch because they have the desire to help poor little orphans during the holiday season, but only if they can get some special recognition or special treatment from it.  What she didn’t realize is that the purpose of my website is to help children by trying to help facilities find good competent staff and helping people that want to serve children to find a position that matches their strengths.  Had she stayed on the phone long enough, I would have been more than happy to explain to her that I wasn’t an orphanage and would have gladly directed her to an organization that probably could have used her generosity.  When I answer the phone I will always be pleasant, I will always be courteous, if that isn’t enough I don’t know what to tell you.

I realize I am making an assumption here, but it really doesn’t matter.  If it was an administrator, which I don’t think it was, she is way too up tight for me to want to work with, and if she was looking to be a houseparent she is way too up tight to be a houseparent in the first place.  I can only imagine what her reaction would be the first time a kid called her a dirty #%$&#$%^%#$.

There really is a point to all of the rambling and here it is.  The next time you get annoyed with somebody else’s behavior and you feel like you have been wronged, say to yourself, “I probably don’t know the whole situation so I am just going to lighten up and go with it.”  That is what I am going to try and do!!!

This is why you can’t play guitar…

Yes, Andy McKee has destroyed many a young Coffee House rockers dream. I realize there are not enough hours in a day or double espressos for me to even come close to this level of awesomeness.

I was teaching some of the kids in our house how to play some chords until we stumbled across this guy. We sat with awe and watched the video. Immediately after watching this the kids wanted to play just like Andy. I sold the guitar in a fit of depression.

If you have any of your kids taking lessons or play guitar, show them the video. If there is enough interest we can start a support group or something… -Launch