Another Saturday….

Every Saturday we clean the house and then head out for some kind of activity that is meant to motivate the kids to earn a fun day out with their behavior. This week it was to be a trip to the park followed by ice cream at Sonic and finally a trip to Wal-Mart to blow all of their allowance. All of the kids were looking forward to Saturday. A little house cleaning followed by fun, fun, fun. Instead, here is how our day of fun went down….

At 6:30 in the morning our two six year olds decided it would be a great idea to wake up our three twelve year olds by putting on a floor gymnastic routine in the hallway. At some point, I’m not really sure when, a hockey stick was introduced into the mix.  I ran upstairs just in time to see a kid holding his head while screaming about how the other kid was supposed to only hit the tennis ball off his head (William Tell style), not in the ear. 

After we resolved that issue, I thought it would be time for a nice breakfast to help everyone calm down and get the day back on track. My wife spent an hour cooking eggs, sausage and pancakes. While I thought it was a great breakfast, the boys complained about not getting to eat cereal. I figured this day was going downhill, fast. 

We went on to do chores. I took the two six year olds upstairs to clean the bathroom. I was showing Steve how to spray the cleaner in the toilet bowl while Jake was standing beside us watching. I handed the bottle to Steve to spray in the toilet bowl just as I had done. As soon as I handed the bottle to Steve he turned around and sprayed the cleaner in Jakes eyes. At this point Steve had officially ended any chance of breathing air outside of the house for the day. I got Jakes eyes flushed out with water and then called my supervisor to try and figure out an appropriate consequence. 

The great thing about having a supervisor to call when I need to is that they are outside of the immediate situation and are able to give sane and reasonable advice, especially when I am about to lose my mind. His advice of having Steve do a time out, an apology and loss of privileges for the day was better than my idea of shipping Steve to a orphanage in Yugoslavia. 

The other boys decided instead of cleaning their rooms and going out for a fun day, they would rather move all of their bedroom furniture around and redecorate. That was followed by me trying to explain why they were not allowed to turn the closet into a bed, hang their sheets as curtains, make the mattress a load-bearing wall, use the trash can as a place to store all their socks and underwear and why we prefer a vacum cleaner on the carpet instead of a mop. 

It seems that when there is something planned, especially something big, the kids tend to get more anxious and look for ways to sabotage any chance they have of being able to participate. I have come to a point where I believe the kids do want to take part in much anticipated events, they just believe they are not worthy of it or are not going to be going anyway. They expect themselves to fall short and fail.

The only way I have seen kids overcome any kind of self destructive behavior is letting them know that someone believes in them, which is very hard for someone that has come to view all adults as liars and frauds. Praise has to be constant, especially for a kid that has received very little in the past. Think about it this way, If your boss constantly expected you to screw up and never gave any notice to the things you did right, what would your attitude be? If you came from from a family that had little or no expectations for you, how much more difficult would your life had been? It’s a slow process. The praise has to keep coming and it takes a long time for most kids to start changing pessimistic thought and behavior patterns. If any of your kids are diagnosed with Attachment Disorders than the process is ten times tougher.

Learning to trust and open your heart to someone else after being devastated from prior relationships that were not healthy, is difficult for adults. For kids it’s just as bad, if not worse. We all deal, everyday, with the drama associated with a kid that has suffered broken relationships with family. Those behaviors tend to come out strong on days like a Saturday in the park, a trip to the mall, going on family vacations or anything else that involves “Family” time. 

Someday I’ll have a Saturday that will be stress free. I’ll probably be retired and fishing off a dock somewhere, but it will happen. Till then I guess we will be fighting the good fight. -Launch

Scouting

Another milestone on the way to Man hood, Scouts. Recently several of the boys in our cottage decided to take that step into the unknown, secretive world of Cub Scouts. Forget all that you have heard about the Masons or Skull and Bones, this is the real deal. 

Unfortunately scouting brings back painful memories of my own chubby child hood. I was a Scout up until the Pine Wood Derby. About two hours before the derby my Dad was able to sit down with me and put the car together. By that time I had already lost the axle wheels and was forced to use a couple of old rusted nails from my Grandfathers basement. We then pound the wheels on and headed for the derby. 

I had no hopes of winning, but I had no clue how humiliating my loss would be. As the gate was opened to let all the cars roll down the ramp, my car sat still. On the second run my car stopped halfway down the ramp, much to the amusement of the crowd. And then I ended my Scouting carer by yelling “Son of a #%!$@”. The next thing I remember was sitting in the car with my very embarrassed and very angry parents discussing where they should dump my body (maybe that’s a little dramatic). I was done with Scouts, an outcast. That is until now. 

Last night I found myself sitting in a dimly lit church basement with thirty kids and a Den mother that bears a striking resemblance to my old Drill Sergeant, reciting the Scout pledge. The Den mother than covered the Scout handshake and a few other traditions that make Scouts sound dangerous to all young boys. 

I also learned that Rodney, the boy most likely to try and kill me, will learn to shoot a shotgun, start fires with a rock and some lint from his belly-button, and how to survive a night out in the wilderness of South Carolina when the temperature drops below 80 degrees. To a nine year old, this is Navy Seal type of stuff. To an old man like me, this is a homeowner insurance nightmare. 

Rodney was also charged to go and sell popcorn to all the civilians and raise money for the troop. Just a few minutes ago I received a call from his teacher concerned about the wad of cash Rodney was walking around with in school. I learned he has already hustled $120 in popcorn sales on his first day. I’m guessing he wants the Corvette they promise you win if you sell enough popcorn tins to cover the national debt. 

All joking aside, Scouts is a great thing and does more to promote personal and civic duty than any other activity a kid can do. It’s also a great way to get the kind of kids we have in residential childcare involved in the local community and to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Support your local troops and try to get your kids involved, just don’t let them use any rusty nails for their pinewood derby cars… -Launch

Book Review – Promoting Healthy Childhood Development TODAY

By: James R. Harris, Jr., Ph.D.

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.

This is Dr. Harris’ (The author of Respecting Residential Work with Children, one of my favorite books) second book.  It is basically a summary of childhood development. It is a short book that doesn’t cover any particular area in detail, but does a pretty good job of providing useful hints and tips in several areas of development.

My favorite chapter is chapter 8 “Families and the Future”  Dr. Harris describes how many families can let modern conveniences like cell phones, cable TV, eating out, etc. take away from family necessities even to the detriment of the family.  He goes on to encourage us to get our priorities right and be responsible in how we (society) raise our children.  He begins the last paragraph of the book with a most true statement, “If we believe that adult caretakers are the last remaining stabilizing force in American society, then all such adults must take their roles seriously, whether they are a biological, adoptive, foster parent(s), relatives, or out-of-home service providers.”  I think that is something we should all remember.

Other chapters include: The Challenges of Caring for our Children, Looking at Childhood Development (A brief history), Gaining Awareness of Common Childhood Behaviors, Addressing Issues of Adolescence, Developing Effective Communication with Children, Instilling Desirable Behavior Through Discipline, and Managing Anger and Stress.

I have started using some of his suggestions on discipline and it has already made a difference. This book is available directly from the publisher for $17, www.nearipress.org I am working on becoming a retailer and hope to be able to offer them at a discounted price in the near future.

The book is published by NEARI Press, Holyyoke, MA.  Copyright 2007.  It is only  available in soft cover and is 92 pages long.

 

 

You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me….

First off, I would like to state that there are many excellent facilities around the United States. Many of them are doing all they can to take care of kids. This post is not for you guys….

I have been through many of the listings on the job board and I have talked with many facilities in the past few weeks. To tell you the truth, I am humbled by what I have experienced.

Instead of listing all the nightmare scenarios that I have experienced, I have decided to make this an educational piece for those facilities that have seemed to of- lost their way. If you are an administrator that sits around gripping about finding good people, chances are you need to keep reading…

1. Do not lie to prospective employees. (Or current ones).

2. Do not advertise benefits and salary that you have no intention of offering. Many of the people I interviewed with said they needed to “Update their job posting” as to the amount they listed as starting salary.

3. Do not lie about what you offer in way of housing.

4. Do not sit a couple down in your office and tell them how bad your facility sucks. It’s ok to be a little optimistic.

6. When you take a prospective HP to visit one of your cottages, you really should coordinate with that cottage.

7. Try to get a couple on your campus that will give a positive and realistic view of your campus and program. (One lady asked us if we had any job leads for her and spent 10 minutes telling us how much she hated the facility and admin).

8. For an overnight stay, do not put your prospective employees in an ABANDONED SHACK THAT SMELLS LIKE A REFRIGERATOR IN AN ALLEY.

9. Do not claim to run a certain program when you do not. With the whole “Internet Thing” it won’t take long before an employee that has questions about what or how your doing something will discover you are full of Malarkey.

10. You expect us to be on time for an interview, I expect you to have enough professionalism that if an emergency does occur, you will at least call the office and let people know that you will be late. Especially if it’s an hour or more.

If I had to sum it all up, be honest and be optimistic. All the facilities I have talked with have been “Christian”. I have walked away from most of them feeling like they were anything but “Christian”.

I sure hope things go better when we fly to DC in a few weeks. -Launch

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Reply

Question #25 – 9/19/2008 – Another Question About Salaries?

Mike,
I have been looking on your website and have an interesting question. We have a maternity transitional home that houses pregnant and delivered moms(only the ones who relinquish babies) through our crisis pregnancy center. I was told that we couldn’t pay our “house-parent” a salary because we are a non-profit organization. Is this correct? From what I’ve seen on this site, people are getting paid a good amount and these agencies are listed as non-profit. We do provide a stipend(small) for the person to pay off one of their bills….BUT they do not have a set salary. Could we get in trouble for not paying them, or is Room and board considered a salary? Thanks sweet mama

Mike’s Response 

I am not a labor attorney and I CANNOT give legal advice.  You would need to contact your local State Labor Department, The US Department of Labor, or a Local Labor Attorney for your specific situation.

However, in general, I think it is pretty clear that under Federal Labor Law rulings that most houseparents in non-profit organizations are not covered under the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA).  They may be individually covered under FLSA when they participate in more than an occasional amount of interstate commerce.  (What an occasional amount means can only be answered by the DOL.)  I think that is why there is such a huge difference in the salaries that are paid by facilities and why some pay less than $10,000 a year, there is no set minimum wage in most cases.

There is also far more to consider than federal law, because states and local governments have their own laws and regulations that can greatly effect how a facility does business.  I spoke with an administrator at a facility in Oregon.  According to him, they were not allowed to mention salary at all when referring to houseparent compensations because of state laws.  They instead paid a stipend.

So in a round-about way I am saying is, I am sorry, I don’t have an answer to your question.  Regulations vary from state to state so each facility needs to consider their local laws and regulations in addition to any federal labor laws and need to consult with a local attorney familiar with those laws and regulations.

 If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments. 

Networking 101

To say I run my mouth on here a lot would be an understatement. I guess that’s why when I’m taking a leave of absence from the blog or the forum area I start getting emails and phone calls asking if I’ve finally snapped. I use to be flattered, but I think a few of the guys out there have some kind of bet going as to how long it will be until I totally lose it and end up in the county lock down for smashing an Apple computer in the kids elementary school (Someone needs to save this generation from Apples plan of world domination). 

Anyway, I’m here. Actually I’m always here. I just tend to have a rather complicated life and seem to run in a hundred different directions everyday. For those of you that have kept up with the forum area on the Network you know my wife and I are in the process of trying to adopt a child. I can’t think of a single reason why this is a practical thing to do, because it’s not. We are in effect committing “Facility Career Suicide” by choosing to go this route. All of our friends and family believe we have lost our minds. Most of them thought we were insane in the first place for choosing the career path we have by becoming House Parents. So we really are not breaking any new ground in the “They are outta their freaking minds” category. Totally a God thing folks, sometimes you just have to trust him in what he is calling you to do and go with the flow.

So here we are, going with the flow. Late nights worrying about where to go and what to do. Worrying about leaving one of the best child care facilities on the East coast and venturing back out into the great unknown. I look around my three bedroom house with a fire place and solid wood floors and sigh as my wife tells me it will be alright….

And then my Blackberry goes nuts. A couple I sort of helped get a lead on a facility in Kansas called and was able to give me some great leads, a guy in Michigan hooked us up with a great lead on a opening in his facility. A couple we met at a conference gave us several amazing leads in North Carolina. It was like the flood gates were opened on us. The one really weird call was from England. I had to politely tell the recruiter there is nothing that irritates me more than children with English accents. He politely called me a few names in the Kings English and ended our communication. I learned my sarcasm really doesn’t translate well on international dialogue. 

I really was blown away at how far the Houseparent Network has come. For a long time there were only a few of us sharing information on different facilities and programs. It seemed most people stuck around the forum just long enough to find a job as a HP somewhere and then disappear, only to come back later looking for another residential childcare job. Without being experts, we became the so called “Experts” by just sharing what we knew. I’m still amazed when people actually ask me for advice, like I actually know what I’m doing. Scary world. 

To be fair, I know what I’ve heard. I take the gossip, rumors, local legends and geographic locations of facilities, mix it all together and regurgitate it back to anyone asking. Somewhere in all that mess may be something of use to someone. It is the very foundation of what the Houseparent Network is about, information. Want a job? look at the job board. Want a job where you will be happy and fit in at? Talk to people here and ask questions. Even once you have found that “Dream” facility where you swear you will die at and be buried in the front yard of the cottage, stay connected. You never know what tomorrow will bring. Staying connected with a community of fellow residential childcare providers is not only smart when it comes down to finding a decent facility, but it helps you to improve as a professional and to help you, as well as others be more effective with the kids as knowledge is shared. 

I will admit that the Network has a long way to go. There is much more information out there that needs to be shared and the level of professionalism industry wide still needs some work. But it’s coming, especially with the new crowd of House Parents as they enter the ranks and stick around. The “Thirty-something crowd” is more likely to look to the internet to connect with others, they are also more likely to take advantage of all this newfangled technology that scares all the old timers out there. Times are changing, for the better.

My advice, get connected. Talk, share information. Make it a point to learn about other facilities and programs. Learn a few names and use the Network to make friends around the country. Show up for the next blasted Houseparent retreat. Get a membership in the Members only area to take full advantage of what the site has to offer (And so Mike will give me a kickback). Also if you get a call from an English dude don’t mention my name if you want the job. 

I hope you all get a chance to experience what I have in the last few weeks when it comes to searching for a new home and having a little help from your friends. -Launch 

Revenge

 

Anger and frustration are expressed in many different ways in a group home. Sometimes it’s as simple as a clipboard or chair that levitates across the floor and smashes into the wall or some good old fashioned passive aggressive behavior that may take weeks to discover. Trying to teach forgiveness, grace and mercy to a bunch of kids that are almost always trying to even the score is a daunting task to say the least. Here are some of the finer moments over the years that I have seen the kids pull off. 

1. Using buddies towel as toilet paper. 

2. Greasing up wood stairs with shampoo. 

3. Peeing on peers pillow. 

4. Peeing in peers room to get them in trouble. 

5. Roofing nails in motorcycle tire.

6. Scratching genital area with House Parents toothbrush while taking a picture with his disposable camera. (HP only found out after he developed the film a year later). 

7. Sugar in the gas tank.

8. Shaving House Parents cat. (I think they actually dumped a bottle of Nair on the cat).

9. Putting a bumper sticker on MY truck that said “Sorry girls, I’m Gay”.

10. Coffee can filled with urine in top of closet that dumped on my supervisors head during a room search. (It really was funny, I guess you had to be there).

11. Icy hot in peers jock strap.

12. Younger peer paid older peer in house to burn a CD copy of some gangsta rap. Older peer burned a copy of some southern gospel songs instead. (Boy that was a long night). 

13. Hiding fish from Long John Silvers in the top of his buddies closet, over 4th of July weekend. (Try getting that smell out).

14. Pouring the whole bottle of hot sauce into the ketchup bottle. 

15. Greasing all the toilet seats in the house with vaseline.

16. Super gluing the cottages plastic mailbox shut.

17. Advertising the House Dads cell phone number on craigslist as a gay, lonely college gymnast. (The house dad went clinically insane).

18. Dumping talcum powder in the defrost vents in the house van. 

19. Super-gluing math book shut.

20. Duct taped to the bed.

One things certain, there is never a dull moment….-Launch

Pimp My Ride

I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to wheels, a man just can’t leave well enough alone. After all these years of watching kids strip, bend, paint and destroy perfectly brand new bikes, I believe it is an issue of genetics. If your a dude, you just can’t fight the urge to tweak your ride. 

For example, lets take one of our boys. Rodney is a perfectly normal nine year old boy with an active imagination and a tool kit that contains one pair of pliers, a screwdriver that is bent like a horseshoe, duct tape he stole out out of my tool box and an empty can of WD-40. Rodney choses to keep his tools where any sane 9 year old would, which is 20 feet up in the tree in the front yard tied to a branch. 

Just a few weeks ago Rodney received a brand new bike for his birthday. All the boys were impressed, it was sweet. Immediately following the party, Rodney rushed out the door and up the tree to grab the tool box. Him and his cronies then went to work. 

The first thing to go was the hand brakes, after all that whole stopping thing is highly overrated and definitely not cool. Next thing was to cover the brand new seat in two inches of duct tape and to then draw some logos on it (I think this increases speed and overall performance). 

The next morning as I walked the boys to the bus stop I happened to look at Rodneys new bike which looked more like a World War One messenger bike than the trick bike it was designed to be. I also took note of the valve stem covers that had skulls on them and the dusty saddle bags that somehow found their way from my motorcycle to his ghetto cruiser. 

I started getting a little upset and was about to make this moment a very memorable, and tragic, childhood experience for old Rodney until a picture of my Dad flashed through my head. Growing up I destroyed more than my fair share of bikes (and a few cars) and snuck enough tools and parts off the old man to start my own pawn shop. That whole “What goes around, comes around” thing was catching up fast. 

When the boys got home that night, we sat down for a family conference and talked about putting all the bikes back together, in original configuration and not taking off any more parts or changing the bikes in any way. I thought everything was going well until the whole conversation was flipped around on me, much to the sheer delight of my wife. They asked, “Why is it ok for you to take the fender, windshield and brake lights off your motorcycle”? So how is different from you taking the muffler off your bike and putting on those LOUD pipes”? 

I tried going with the “I’m an adult, your not” line, but Mrs. Launch was taking the kids side and not being very supportive of how I thought the Family conference should go. I finally had to relent and admit that my example of chopping parts off my motorcycle was on par with Rodney cutting his brakes off. 

Why do we do it? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because every guy has to add a personal touch his wheels to make a statement. Maybe it’s to make the world take notice of an otherwise unremarkable existence. Or it could be that every guy has a bit of a NASCAR fantasy running through his mind. I’m sure there is more than one lawn mower in Mississippi that has a Jeff Gordon sticker stuck on the hood. 

Or as my wife puts it not-so-delicately, “Boys will be boys, wether they are five or thirty-five, you all act the same”. -Launch

Houseparents and The Department of Labor

It always seems that salaries, minimum wage, and the “Fair Labor and Standards Act” are always topics of conversations with houseparents so I am always looking for information to share. I was doing some searching of the Internet for more information relating to houseparents and I came across two more “Department of Labor Opinion Letters”.  They are both from 2004. 

The first deals with wages and having to stay on the facility during sleep hours.  For most of us,  this is not an issue because we are not going to waste what precious sleep hours we get by wanting to leave (Humor!).  I am posting it as a general resource for those that it may apply to, keeping in mind that the DOL considers all situations on a case by case basis, so it may not apply to your situation directly.

Department of Labor Opinion Letter “FLSA2004-7”

The second one deals with the Fair Labor and Standards Act (FLSA) as it applies to workers/houseparents in a residential facility.  As I discovered in another “Opinion Letter” (FLSA2005-2) it confirms for the vast majority of us, we are not covered by the FLSA under the “enterprise” condition because we work for Non-profit organizations and don’t do enough interstate commerce to be covered individually under the FLSA.

Department of Labor Opinion Letter “FLSA2004-29NA”

Disclaimer:  This is posted for informational purposes only.  The DOL considers all cases individually so this information may not apply to you or your facility.  If you have questions concerning you status under the FLSA you would need to contact the Department of Labor (DOL)

Question #24 – 9/4/2008 – What About Working in a Maternity Home?

My wife and I are empty nesters who are prayerfully considering becoming first-time houseparents. We feel called to work in a Christian maternity home. Can you offer advice for this particular ministry? We have about 9 months to prepare. Are there any courses or books that would help prepare us? We would love to contact other couples currently working in this field to ask some questions.

Thanks,
gotime

Mike’s Response

“Can you offer advice for this particular ministry?”

I am afraid you caught me outside of my specialty, all my experience is working with youth.  You will hear this again, but I strongly suggest joining theHouseparent Network Community”  You can post your question on the forum and hopefully somebody that has experience with maternity homes will have an answer.

“We have about 9 months to prepare. Are there any courses or books that would help prepare us?”

 I don’t know of courses specific for maternity homes but I can recommend taking foster parenting classes.  They are usually offered for free through the state.  I still use much of the information I learned in classes we took almost 15 years ago.  As far as books go, there are a few I recommend for all houseparents:

“They Cage The Animals At Night” isn’t a training resource as far as techniques go, but it is extremely helpful in giving you an understanding of the feelings of children that are in placements.  It also gives you a perspective for the kind of worker you don’t want to be, as well as examples of the kinds of people that are great workers.

“We would love to contact other couples currently working in this field to ask some questions.” 

Second verse same as the first!  Join the Community and post your questions and comments.  I am pretty sure somebody will have some information for you.  If not, at the very least they will have some encouragement!

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.