Whip It Good!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A President Setting Court Case

I often get e-mails from people that are very frustrated with the Christian Facility that they work for because it is just not Christian enough for them.  I am sorry to say that the situation is only going to get worse. I have been following a court case for the last few years and it has reached its end since the Supreme Court has decided not to hear it.

The Case is: Teen Ranch, et al. v. Udow  I will give you links for the court documents so you can read it in detail, but it basically boils down to this.  Teen Ranch, a facility that has been serving teen through the state since 1966 sued the State of Michigan Family Independence Agency (FIA) because they issued “a moratorium on further placements” of children with the agency.  When they (the FIA) stopped placing children with Teen Ranch, Teen Ranch lost their major source of funding and eventually had to close.  I am NOT a lawyer, but it appears to me by reading the court documents, that FIA believed “that Teen Ranch coerced children into participating in religious activities.” and wanted them to stop the “incorporation of religious practices into its programming“. 

Teen Ranch felt that this was a violation of their “First Amendment” rights and filed a lawsuit against the FIA.  They also felt it was a violation of other consitutional rights, but the main point is the free speech issue.  Teen Ranch stated that they did not force the children in their care to participate in religious activities and therefore met their contractual obligation with the state and was unwilling to change its practices.

“On September 29, 2005, the district court issued an opinion granting summary judgment in favor of the FIA.”  On January 17, 2007 the UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT agreed with the District Court.  Teen Ranch then filed an appeal with the US Supreme Court, who decided not to hear the case in December 2007.  Apparently I am a little slow in getting up to date since it is now August 2008. 

Anyway, what I think all this means is that most Christian facilities (or any faith based facility) will continue to be allowed to care for youth in state care at state expense, provided they limit the “religious activities” in their programs.  I think in most cases, Facilities that want to include their faith or religious beliefs  as part of their program are going to have to be completely funded without any government subsidy.  In the facility that I work at, we cannot even have state placed children, period, even though we take NO government funding.  I think more and more faith based facilities are going to have to make choices between their faith and their budgets, because this case is only going to further restrict how faith based organizations operate if they accept government funding.

For further reading on this case check out the following links:

http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/07a0062p-06.pdf

www.nytimes.com/packages/other/business/20061210ranch.RTF

http://courts.co.calhoun.mi.us/05juv026.htm

http://www.scotusblog.com/movabletype/archives/TeenRanchSCPetition.pdf

Sk8 Or Die

Board, check. Sunglasses, check. Ipod loaded with gangsta rap, check. Helmet, don’t need it. Shoes, this is the South are you kidding me? Buddy to create major distraction while I grab the bumper of a car going by at thirty miles an hour, check.

The above is the thought process of a ten year old boy who actually believes that he will live forever as long as there are buckets of Neo-Sporin laying around for him to bath in after all major mishaps. He also lives in my cottage.

Back in my House Parenting greenhorn days, I use to think that kids I saw limping around on crutches or big bandaged heads were caused by a lack of proper supervision from the House Parents. Now I see a kid on crutches and think to myself that it’s just a stupid kid. Sometimes I even ask them what they did before I call them an idiot. 99.9% of the time I hear stuff like:

“I crawled out my window with a trash bag as a parachute. Jimmy said it would work”. (Actual quote from a boy living in Garrett County, Maryland. The hood he refers to was a mostly Mennonite community and the gang was an active hunting club, which I suppose could be considered a gang with strong Anabaptist traditions?).

“Dude I was doing a rail slide down the office hand rail when the board broke and I had to have my testicles retwisted(?) at the ER”.

“He said something about my mom. What? Oh yeah, I knew he was way bigger than me, in a gang, four years older and 65 pounds heavier than me. But you know I gotta represent my hood”.

The point is this, young males are morons. They have a sense of immortality mixed with just enough knowledge to kill themselves or at the very least brag about how many stitches they have had to endure. If you feel like a failure because one of the kids in your charge got hurt- don’t. It happens to all of us. Of course there is neglect. If your watching TV while Johnny is in the backyard doing donuts with the new cottage van that you left the keys in, chances are your getting a butt chewing, at the very least.

Many facilities that have state placement kids live in almost constant fear of a lawsuit and do every thing they can to restrict the shear stupidity that testosterone does to a young mans mind. They do not allow sports, rough play or any physical group activity. I have seen and unfortunately, worked for such a facility. The kids became caged animals and reacted as such. With no creative outlet for frustration or aggression they became extremely violent. It was a case of the supposed therapeutic environment actually creating a behavior that was much worse than when the kid checked into the program.

Sports, physical play and work all play a part in helping to keep a check on adolescent behavior. Keep a kid inside all day watching Sponge Bob and you will surely have a mad man on your hands. I try to find at least one outdoor event to do every day of the week, even when it’s raining. For all intents and purposes it has worked, the only one with a weight problem in the cottage is me. Ironically I’m also the only person who struggles with pent up aggression, TV and Internet addiction and insomnia (It might be time for Daddy to start taking his happy pills). Yep, outdoor living will cure what ails you, unless your dealing with some kinda clinical depression brought on by dealing with adolescent behavior.

Boys are going to be boys, its been that way since the beginning and it will be that way till the end. Get use to it……. and the ER. -Launch

Sunday Message

I realize that the vast majority of people reading this blog would never even consider riding a bike, but this video has a great song and I gotta give some love to the bros out there doing ministry in many different capacities, including residential childcare.

There is a saying among many Christian Bikers that can just as easily be applied to all House Parents:
Some wish to live within the sound of church or chapel bells, we want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell!

Jesus the Biker– He was a lot like you and me. The government didn’t like him. The church thought he was weird. His friends were few. What friends he had, denied him. He was persecuted by hypocrites. He hung around people like you and me, not the goody-two-shoes Pharisees.

Yes, if Jesus were on this earth in the flesh he would be next to you on his Harley telling you he loved you……. enough to die for you.

BIKER’S PRAYER
God, I know you are real. Thank you for being in the wind with me even before I ask. Thank you for your son, JESUS that died for me. Forgive me of my sins; for I truly repent and turn to you.

JESUS, I ask you now to come in my heart that we might ride together daily.
I dedicate myself and my scoot to serving you. Thank you LORD for my salvation!

Thank you, for I am now “in HIS Wind”. Amen
Much love and peace to all the brothers and sisters out there representing the living God with their knees in the wind. -Launch

The Love That Dares Not Speak Its Name….

Working in residential child care has many challenges. Aggressive children, killer loads of paper work, nasty demeaning case workers, parents on crack (Literally), staff miscommunication and nails driven into your bike tires (Long story).

But nothing makes a mess of life in general than an elicit affair on campus. Stick around this industry long enough and you will run into the rumors, innuendos and eventual expose of a little dirty love on the down low. Unfortunately, most rumors about an affair on campus that go through the grapevine turn out to be true.

Most facilities that insist on hiring singles as House Parents, are fairly use to the drama associated with staff relationships. The facility I got my start in was such a place and was constantly dealing with relationship issues. They discouraged couples from working together and would place them in separate cottages to work with the opposite sex as a partner. When I asked why they did this they said “Married couples do not work well together”.

The problem becomes when you have a grown man and a grown woman, modeling family style living in a cottage to highly disturbed children that want both of you dead. Day in and day out you work side by side living in some kind of weird, pseudo, pretend marriage. Your doing everything a married couple does with the exception of sharing a bed, which starts becoming more and more imaginable as time goes on. It’s simply a mixture of stress, hormones, a little easy rock and a bad day. Pretty soon the kids are talking and the two of you are doing a lot of justifying.

Facilities that are promoting “Family Style” living without there being a family are deceiving themselves and the kids. No facility should ever try to run a residential child care program with live in staff that are not married. If hiring or finding couples is that much of an issue, a facility needs to seriously consider hiring individuals for shift work. And for the sweet love of God, do not call yourself a Christian facility and force your staff to work as a couple with other people of the opposite sex.

All of this may seem to be a no-brainer, but I know of quite a few people who have taken a fall because of some weak moments and a bad work set up.

Just a piece of advice to my homies caught in a dysfunctional group home setting- save the Pina Coladas and moon lit strolls for the wife. It’s not worth being homeless for…. -Launch

Dress For Success

Morning routines are hard enough without having to deal with the drama of fighting over what the kids wear to school. I gave up long ago with trying to power struggle over trying to reason with a kid over a more appropriate shirt or pair of pants. So what do I do now? They either wear appropriate attire or they go nowhere, not even school.

Over the years the boys would “conveniently” lose belts, socks and shoe strings, with the intention of “If I ain’t got it, I can’t wear it”. They soon learned that My wife had ultimate control over their allowance account and they got real upset over buying the exact same belt, three times a month.

Anyone that knows me will tell you I’m all about personal expression and being yourself. My wardrobe consists of leather, flannel, a suit and one red crushed velvet shirt (everyone should own at least one). I have tattoos and a shaved head, I’m fairly certain a modeling contract is not in my future unless there’s a trailer park out there looking to put out a calendar. But this is who I am and unfortunately for my wife, this is who she married. Having said that, there is also a time and place for my personal wardrobe expression.

When conducting a meeting, doing tours of the cottage and especially intake meetings, I dress business casual. Every time I am in a position to represent my facility, I will dress for the occasion. Just as when I am wearing my biker colors I represent my club. Likewise every time a kid steps out of your house and onto the school bus they are representing you and your facility. If you don’t take the time to teach them the appropriate boundaries when it comes to proper attire, you will be embarrassed. Nothing says “Skank” like a G-String poking out the back of a pair of jeans worn by your fourteen year old little girl. Let your boys go to school busting a sag with a T-shirt that’s four times larger than them and they will hang with the gangsta wannabe’s. Don’t believe me? Think back to your own high school career. What did the stoners look and act like? What about the red necks and all the other cliques? That’s my point, at this stage kids will act according to what clique they style themselves after.

There is little you can do if a kid chooses that lifestyle, but you still have control over the wardrobe, even if the kid is a state placement. I have threatened on more than one occasion to replace a kids wardrobe with Amish apparel.

I understand it is a battle, but teaching a child that you dress for the occasion will go a long way in helping them to succeed in social settings, long after they have left your care. -Launch

Thank God…..

Finally, the day has come. I have yearned and dreamt of this mos glorious day all summer, the first day of school. 

Events leading up to this day have been frantic to say the least. Clothes shopping, school supplies, open house registration and nervous kids. All have taken their toll on the emotional and physical well being of the wife and I. While shopping at Wal-Mart for clothes one kid tried to sneak a few extras into the cart only to find out that when we were checking out he went over his authorized limit. I then made him put all the other stuff back, at which point the young man decided to tell me how his Grandma was going to set me straight. He became further enraged when I started laughing. I may be out of shape, but I think I may still be able to hold my own in a fair one-on-one match with a 75 year old woman with emphysema.

Open house went as usual. The teachers sized us up and wondered what kind of buffoons they would be dealing with this year while we wondered if they actually learned anything in college between the beer bongs and Monster Truck rallies. We toured the class rooms, talked with all the office admin and gave my business card to the school cop for future reference. Pretty typical start to school around here.

To be truthful, most teachers we deal with are great. They are professional, caring and dedicated. But we seem to get one particular teacher every year that works on a different wave length then the rest of us earthlings and we got her again this year. But even that could not take away the anticipation of the first day of school for us.

Yesterday morning I jumped out of bed whistling and walking a little lighter than usual. I woke the boys up and stepped on some plastic model that cut my foot. I didn’t even grumble, just kept whistling. We got the boys pushed through morning routine and then we walked to the bus stop. 

I wanted to celebrate the occasion with something like a cigar or champagne, but I thought I might have a lot of explaining to do as my supervisor passed the bus stop on the way into the office. So I went with a cup of coffee and Irish cream loaded with sugar. Time seemed to stop as I kept looking for the bus to round the corner. After 15 minutes I was getting very…. frustrated. The kids, who were very somber, were starting to get very happy and seemed to think they dodged the bullet of the first day of school.

Then I heard it. There is no mistaking the whine of a big Detroit Diesel engine being driven by a very irritated and underpaid county employee. That yellow- that beautiful, bright, tacky yellow bus, gleamed like the halo of an angel as it rounded the corner. I started getting all misty eyed at the thought of being able to catch up on paperwork, work on the blog, clean the house and all of the other wonderful things I could do without having the boys home all day and chasing them around. This was my moment, a moment that I worked and slaved all summer to make it to. Oh how sweet this victory.

I hugged the boys, wished them the best of luck and sent them onto the bus. For a moment I caught the drivers eye. He had the same look I did when he dropped them off for the last time before Summer vacation. I guess I looked like he did that day, all happy and bubbly. As he closed the door I gave him a salute and then lifted my coffee cup in a toast to him as he rolled his eyes and hit the gas. 

Happy back to school!!! -Launch

My Twenty Hour Day!!

School is back in session which is something I thought I would be very thankful for, however the new dynamics of the kids in my cottage has totally changed the routine of the school year and made it into a very physical challenge.  Let me explain.

We are going through a lot of transition here at the facility my wife and I work at.  Like virtually every other charity in the country, the tanking of the economy and the spike in fuel costs has had an effect on donations.  As a result we have had cutbacks and have had to close a cottage, which resulted in the other cottages having a higher census.  We also had two boys go to live with their birth mother right after school got out.  Boys that had lived with us for 6 years, that were familiar with us and were very capable of doing many things for themselves like bathing, dressing, etc.  In their place we got a 3 and a 4 year old, one of which we have had to potty train.  I have lost count of the number of children we have had to potty train, but I can tell you I am very tired of doing it.  To make things more difficult we also got two older boys (15 and 18) one of which is a senior that plays football and does other things till all hours of the night.

That should be enough introductory material, let me describe my Friday and part of Saturday:

  • 5:30 AM – Wake up, make coffee, shower, dress.
  • 5:50 AM – Start breakfast (made Sausage Biscuits and Gravy)
  • 6:20 AM – Wake up children so they can start getting ready for school.
  • 6:30 AM – Wake up children again.
  • 6:40 AM – Serve Breakfast.
  • 7:00 AM – End Breakfast and encourage children to get ready for school.
  • 7:10 AM – Wife leaves with daughter to taker her to school.
  • 7:20 AM – Herd all the children out the door and take two youngest with me on my school run.
  • 8:15 AM – Return from school run, clean up from breakfast and help the two little kids get dressed.
  • 8:45 AM – Go to the office and get computers I need to finish setting up for the college kids that start school on Monday.  Return back to the cottage so I can watch little kids while wife goes to the business office.
  • 10:00 AM – Finish Computers, wife returns from business office and takes over little kid detail.  I go to my office to work on a cottage computer that has been severely infected with a virus.
  • 11:05 AM – Return to the cottage to make lunch for myself, wife and little kids.
  • 11: 35 AM – Serve Lunch.
  • 12:05 PM – End Lunch, Clean up and Wash Dishes.
  • 12:30 PM – Return to office to work on Computer some more.
  • 2:00 PM – Leave office and prepare for my PM School run.  Check Mail, go to bank, stop and get a drink (Diet Pepsi, though I considered something else).
  • 2:45 PM – Arrive at School to wait in line for children to be released.
  • 2:55 PM – School lets out, children start loading.
  • 3:05 PM – Finally get to the front of the line to load children.
  • 3:25 PM – Arrive back at the cottage and unload children.
  • 3:30 PM – Depart for second PM school run.
  • 3:45 PM – Arrive at school to pick up child. Depart 5 minutes later.
  • 4:05 PM – Arrive back at cottage with child. Visit with wife and children.
  • 4:20 PM – Begin preparing supper.
  • 5:30 PM – Serve Supper
  • 6:00 PM – End Supper, supervise children do evening chores.
  • 7:00 PM – Sit down at computer to check e-mail and website, post job listing while supervising the children while they watch TV.
  • 8:00 PM – Send children to prepare for bed under the threat that they will be sent to bed if they don’t stop wrestling in the TV room.
  • 8:20 PM – Go and check on children that have not returned from getting ready. Find them bouncing on the bed.
  • 8:30 PM – Send first child to bed
  • 9:00 PM – Send the remainder of the younger children to bed.  It doesn’t matter if I send them to bed at 7:00 PM or Midnight, they will still be awake at 7:00 AM Saturday wanting to watch cartoons.
  • 9:10 PM – tuck in all the children and encourage them to go to sleep.
  • 9:20 PM – check on children, again encourage them to go to sleep.
  • 9:25 PM – Again check on children and again encourage them to go to sleep.
  • 9:30 PM – Again check on children and again encourage them to go to sleep. 
  • 9:45 PM – Young children are finally quiet and wife arrives back at cottage with young man that had evening activities.
  • 10:05 PM – Send middle aged children to bed.
  • 10:15 PM – Check on middle aged children all is quiet.
  • 10:20 PM – Sit down to watch TV and visit with my wife.  I would normally put on PJs at this time, but day is not nearly over.
  • 11:00 PM – Send older kids to bed.  Lay down for a nap only to be awoken 5 minutes later by call from senior at away football game.
  • 11:15 PM – Lay back down for nap.  Doze in and out.
  • 11:45 PM – Receive another call from senior saying he will be back at the school in 40 minutes.  Doze for a few more minutes.
  • 11:55 PM – Try to wake myself up and drive to his school that is 20 minutes away.
  • 12:20 AM – Arrive at his school and sit in parking lot with other parents waiting for bus to return.
  • 12:35 AM – School bus arrives.
  • 12:45 AM – Boys finish unloading bus and load up in van.  I have to drive a second boy to the ranch which is 12 miles past our campus, because his houseparents are on relief and the single relief staff can’t load up the whole cottage to go get him.
  • 1:10 AM – Arrive at Ranch to drop off boy.
  • 1:15 AM – Depart ranch en-route to my cottage with my football playing senior.
  • 1:35 AM – Arrive back at my cottage and finally go to bed.
  • Approx 1:55 AM – Fall to sleep only to be woken up at 7:20 AM by the young children I sent to bed at 9:00 the night before.  Only Nine more games to go until Basketball season.

I’m not sure I am going to like the routine of this school year.

Battle Of The Bulge

I was really looking forward to the Houseparent Network retreat this past week, partly to socialize a little bit, but mostly to see how Mike was doing with his diet. The last I had seen Mike he had already dropped a lot of weight, this time he looked like a different person. Standing next to him I felt like a fat girl at a beauty pageant. It was down-right disparaging to be standing next to a guy that was as fat as me less than a year ago. 

Not being one to sulk to long, I figured he would party like a rock star during the retreat and suck down enough smores and soda to plump back up by the end of the weekend. No man can live off of tofu, and yogurt for long, at least not a real man. But all my hopes were dashed at dinner that night. 

Old Mike fixed steak. Good bloody, hair on your chest steak. Apparently that’s what he eats all the time. No green grass and dandelion shakes, no yo-plait or organic dill-weed. This is the kind of diet I could do if I can convince my wife it’s actually not going to kill me in a year of a heart attack. Whatever he is doing, I need to do it. 

I listened to him talk about having more energy to keep up with the kids, how he felt better and just how much less stressful he feels. To say I felt convicted is an understatement. A big part of long term survival in residential childcare is decent health and lets face it, most of us haven’t missed a meal in a long time. 

I am determined to drop 70 pounds. Using Mike as my inspiration and convincing my wife I need to eat steak three times a day, I will make it happen (Well, maybe after I get a second job to pay for the steak). One way or the other, this big old gut has got to go. 

I think the real change in any behavior such as eating, drinking, substance abuse and gambling starts when you are just sick and tired of doing the things that are hurting you. I’m at the point that my own gluttony is making me sick, I am more than ready for that change. 

Mike- You are definitely a role model for the rest of us heavy weight lovers living the dream in residential childcare facilities across the nation. Just please don’t post any pics of you flexing in a speedo…. -Launch