The date was June 2, 1997, my wife and my first day as houseparents. We had just sold virtually all our personal belongings and moved 500 miles with our two children (son-age 6, daughter-age 3) to follow this new career that to us, was a calling. We arrived the evening before and with the help of the youth at the home unloaded the U-haul in about 30 minutes. The same truck that took me almost 9 hours to load. We spent most of that evening and night unpacking boxes and trying to get settled into what would be our relief quarters (the place we went on days off). Unpacking at the group home would be fairly simple, the four of us would spend each of our 10 day shifts living in a bedroom that was 10′ x 11′ (110 square feet); add the 40 square foot bathroom for a total of 150 square feet of personal living space.
I am sorry for all the background information, but I don’t think you can truly grasp the situation without it. I would also like to add that our only previous experience was as Foster Parents to two sets of kids for a total of four children all under four years old. We were now going to be working with 7 teenage girls usually from 13-17 years old.
Back to that first day. We arrived at about 8:00 am to start our shift. We were relieving the boy’s house mom. The home we were working at was extremely short staffed, at the time we were hired there was only one set of houseparents, in a facility that required three. During the week the director’s wife would work the Girl’s house and on the weekend the Boy’s house parents would split with the man staying at the boy’s house and the woman going to the girls house; this they did for about two months before we were hired.
Our training consisted of about a 40 minute briefing from the Boy’s house mom as she went over a 5 page hand written note she put together for us. It briefly covered their level system, schedule and a short biography on all the girls. I am however very thankful for that because she could have just as easily handed us the keys and said, “see ya!”. It was not her responsibility to train us. (I would also like to add that they have since started training new house parents more thoroughly.) We spent the rest of the day experiencing the honeymoon period with our girls. They helped us learn the rules, at least how they interpreted them. We later found out that their interpretation was somewhat wrong in most cases, and they got over on us several times that day.
The real fun began that night. The house used an alarm system to discourage the girls sneaking out in the middle of the night while the houseparents slept. At about 11:00 PM the alarm went off. My wife ran upstairs to see what the commotion was. Of course nobody had any idea why the alarm went off, so we reset it and went back to bed. About 30 minutes later the alarm went off again. Again my wife ran upstairs, this time they said the pet cat jumped up against the special alarmed window screen in the bathroom and set it off. We didn’t know any better, so we didn’t think to question it. This time however the alarm wouldn’t reset and we had to bypass that window to get the alarm to set up. It was about 20 feet straight down to the ground through that window so we didn’t worry about them climbing out. We later found out what the real story was, but you will have to come back for day two to find out.