Hip Replacement Surgery

Beginning tomorrow the website will be running on autopilot for at least a week.  I will be going into the hospital at 5:30 AM for total hip replacement surgery in my left leg.  I have never been a big fan of being normal and when it comes to joint damage I have continued that trend.  I am told that it is not normal for a 47 year old to have Osteo Arthritis so bad to need a replacement.

I gained 50 pounds my first two years as a houseparent and I wonder how much packing around that extra weight for all those years had to do with the rapid decline of my joints. (I will probably need surgery in my right hip within the next 5 years).  Having done this for all these years I have seen over and over people that become houseparents and pack on the pounds in very short order.  We really need to find ways to eat and live healthier.  It is my vow that starting today, I am going to eat healthier and when I am able to walk again without pain I am going to put on some serious miles and see how quickly if can wear out walking shoes.

I hope others will join me and if you have ideas for exercise and eating healthy please start a discussion on the forum.  I will let you all know how I do.

You Are Not in Control

I am probably going to offend somebody with this post but it is something that really needs to be said.  Whether you are a houseparent in a huge organization or a one home community group home you are not the boss of your cottage, home, cabin or whatever you call it.  I have been doing the houseparenting thing for more than 15 years now and I have heard more than a few times the following statement, “If administration (or whoever) would leave us alone and let us run things the way we want, out kids would be better off.”

I can honestly tell you that in everyone one of those cases the houseparents that said it were either strongly encouraged to resign at some point or were fired.  In many cases, they will resign before they are fired and bounce from facility to facility trying to find the control they will never have.

Houseparents need to understand that they are a member of a team, a link in a chain, or whatever metaphor you want to use, that have to work with many other people to provide the best possible care for the children they are responsible for.  For starters, there is always going to be an administrator or social worker that is going to have a huge say in how your home is run.  You are going to have relief staff that you have to learn to work with.  You are also probably going to have birth parents that you for sure are going to have to learn to work with, and who may even have a say in the way you care for their child.  There may also be judges, attorneys, probation officers, school administrators, etc that you may have to work with.

Here is the meat.  If you are one of those people that think you need to have ultimate authority, your best bet is to find another line of work.  You probably aren’t going to find a facility that will give you the authority you are looking for and if you do it will probably be such a crappy one that you won’t want to stay there for very long anyway.

Houseparent Theme Song

I again apologize for being so bad at posting and again I promise to do better.  This here is something I have been meaning to post for a while.  It is my pick for the official houseparent theme song, because I truly believe you are an average everyday SUPER HERO!

Research Project

For my first post in a very long time I would like to share a link to a research project that was sent to me by a grad student.  I hope you will participate.

Dear Colleague:

I am asking for your participation in a research
study on Secondary Traumatic Stress symptoms and coping styles in child and
adolescent residential treatment centers.  The study involves completing four
questionnaires.  This will
take no longer than 25 – 30 minutes of your time.

To participate, please go to the following
website:  http://RTCstress.net.  You will need to enter the password
(rtcstaff) in order to complete the assessments.  Each of the questionnaires is
copyrighted and may not be copied or printed without permission from the author
or publisher. Thank you for your participation.

Sincerely,

Richard
A.  Stapleton, M.C.C., N.C.C., L.P.C.

Synthetic Drugs (Plant Food and Incense)

As our society becomes more and more technologically advanced, so does the war on drugs. It seems like we have synthetic versions of everything these days including drugs, so I definitely think it is something we should be knowledgeable about.  I highly recommend you spend an evening surfing the Internet and see what is out there, you will be amazed at what you discover, for instance.

“Molly’s Plant Food”  really isn’t plant food, and even it it could be used as a plant food, not many people would pay $20-$50 to fertilize one plant.  It really is a chemical that causes a high similar to ECSTASY.  Not only is it available online, but it can also be found in smoke shops, gas stations, and convenience stores.  I have also heard of this being marketed as bath salts.

There is also synthetic or herbal marijuana type products that are usually marketed as incense.  They go by names such as: Spice, K2, K3, K4, K(whatever), Mystic Monkey, Krypt2nite, etc.  A lot of these have been sprayed with a chemical (JWH-018, JWH-073, JWH-250, JWH-200)  that produces a cannabis type high.  Many states and communities have made these chemicals illegal and there is rumor that the federal government is planning to take action, but as of today they are legal in many places.

Being knowledgeable about the drug culture and what people are using to alter their states of mind will help you be a better houseparent.  At our first facility (14 years ago) we had a young lady that always walked around with an infants pacifier tied to a string around her neck.  Everybody thought she was just immature and used the pacifier to comfort her.  My wife and I spent a lot of time watching programs on drug use and crime, and while watching one of those programs, learned that people that used Ecstasy sucked on pacifiers to prevent them from grinding their teeth when they were high.  Apparently that is a side effect of the drug.  Needless to say, once we mentioned that to our administrator, the pacifier quickly became contraband.

Suggested search terms for doing your research:  Molly’s Plant Food, Spice, Legal High, Herbal Marijuana.  I could provide links to sites with more information, but I don’t want to promote most of them.

Been Around 10 Years!!!!!

It was 10 years ago today that I launched The Houseparent Network.

I am so thankful to be able to celebrate this, especially when you consider all the websites that have come and gone over the last ten years, and the fact that I had NO idea what I was doing when I started it.  At the time I was a fairly new houseparent that new Nothing about websites but realized there was a need for houseparents to have a place to find resources or be able to network with other houseparents.  We are such a unique group that I thought there should be a place for others that share the struggles, concerns and rewards of being a houseparent/residential childcare worker to be able share those experiences.   

I started work on The Houseparent Network the previous September when I bought the domain name houseparent.net and some cheap website editing software at Walmart.  At the time it seem fashionable to name your website “whatever dot com” and my plan was to just have “Houseparent.com” but somebody had already registered that domain.  I was extremely disappointed and pondered things for a few days, then I realized what a blessing that was.  My vision was a place where houseparents and other residential childcare staff could share resources and network, so I registered the domain houseparent.net and decided there was NO better name than “The Houseparent Network” which fit perfectly with .net domain. 

The look sure has changed.  Here is what it looked like back then:

 Looking at that first page, I realize I didn’t fulfill every vision I had for the network and probably never will, but I am still thankful for all the good that I have been able to do through my site.  I hope that in this next decade, the network will continue to grow into a bigger and better resource for houseparents as well as the facilities we work at.

I would like to thank everyone that has helped to make it a success over the last 10 years:  The millions of visitors that have viewed the site, the facilities that have posted your job listings, all of you that have shared on the various forums we have had, Launchpad for all the work you did on the blog (I still love reading your entries), my wife and family for putting up with me during the early days when I spent every free moment I had working on the website, the authors of HTML and Websites for Dummies which helped me when I knew nothing, and everyone that sent me ideas, encouragements, and even complaints because you helped make the site better.

The New Houseparent Network Forum

After over a year and a half without a forum I am pleased to announce that it is back.  The life of being a houseparent is ever changing, so it only makes sense that so does the conversation and information.  After you have finished checking out the blog I invite you to come over to the current forum to see what is there.  You may even want to sign up and join the conversation.

www.houseparent.net/forum

I am Finished with the New Website Design!!!!

After several months of working on the new design for the website I can finally say that I am finished.  It is 10:00 PM local time and I don’t have enough time to upload it tonight so I will do it in the morning instead.  There may be times when much of the website will be inaccessible and if you have bookmarks to specific pages, besides the blog and forum archive, I assure they will no longer work.  I am using a different technology for some of the content that required renaming every single page.

I am real excited about the design and I hope everyone will enjoy it and find it more useful than before.  To give you a preview I have gone ahead and activated the new theme for the blog and forum archive. 

I have done a great deal of testing, but I would not be surprised if I missed something, so if you come across a broken link send an email to houseparentnetwork@gmail.com so I can fix it.  Thanks.

They Did What? Trends in Foster Care Incidents

  I often hear complaints from houseparents about all the regulations and paperwork we have to deal with.  It is true that less regulation would make it easier to do our jobs and allow for more time building relationships, however as long as there are people like those described in the article below we are going to continue to get more regulation.  Your response might be that we need to do a better job keeping those people out but the problem is that it is easier said than done.  I have met new houseparents that I thought were going to be great turn out to be total psychos.  You often have no idea what your getting until after you got them.

The only hope we have to slow future regulation is to do our job and do it well.  Think about the things you do and how that might possibly effect the children or perception of others. If you know someone is doing things they shouldn’t, you need to report them.  It sucks to be a snitch, but it sucks more to have more regulations to live with as consequences for their actions.

(The article was written for foster parents, but it could just as easily been written for houseparents.  In fact, I have seen some similar things in my years as a houseparent.)

They Did What? Trends in Foster Care Incidents

By Michael F. Quinn M.A. SSW Fair Oaks Office

In October of 2008, I attended a Southern California foster care conference featuring members of Community Care Licensing (CCL) division of the State Department of Social Services, the people who provide oversight for private foster and group home agencies operating throughout our state.

A keynote speaker from the CCL Legal Division informed the several hundred in attendance of recent incidents involving foster care agencies, including foster parents and agency staff, that ultimately wound up being reviewed for administrative action by a battery of CCL lawyers. When an unusual incident in private agency residential care is brought to the attention of the CCL legal staff it is due to the serious nature of the incident, and is investigated to help legal staff understand how issues are evolving.

There are some examples of recent trends in issues and incidents that bear mentioning. These include:

  • A foster parent in Southern California posted pictures of herself on MySpace.com that included shots of the provider holding a foster child while dressed in gang attire and flashing gang hand signs. One picture had the foster mother holding a marijuana pipe and a handgun.
  • A Central California-based foster family agency social worker didn’t check in on a provider who was bedridden from a debilitating illness. The foster mother turned her daycare and foster care child supervision duties over to two teen foster girls who gave grapes to a daycare child as a snack. The child nearly suffocated from a single grape that blocked his windpipe and he has permanent brain damage as a result.
  • A Northern California-based foster father was arrested at an airport in Miami, Florida for possession of drugs. A routine search of the man’s laptop computer revealed a marijuana growing operation at his California foster home.
  • A Southern California duallicensed care provider had combined daycare, foster care, biological, and adoptive children under the same roof, for a total of 27 children.
  • A Northern California agency social worker was arrested for armed robbery.

While recognizing that unusual incidents involving foster children occur daily in California (the sheer number of kids in care guarantees this reality), those listed above revolve around two common themes: improper use of technology and poor oversight.

It’s not just immature adolescents who are using cell phones, laptops, and personal websites for inappropriate or illegal ends, it’s adult care providers! As a technology (see tool) is incorporated into our society, sadly, it’s oftentimes used to further both positive and illegal agendas. For every advance in communication technology, it seems there likely will be advances in bad human impulses finding their way online or onto portable hard drives.

Other incidents revolve around a familiar industry theme; poor agency oversight. This is why agency staff must inquire who is living in a foster home and determine if there are any changes in the family composition. That being said, no one can justify 27 children under one roof , that ’s a bit too many!  The CCL speaker speculated that the downward trend in the economy has resulted in many new foster care applicants who see an opportunity to house needy relatives or ensure income levels via taking foster or daycare children into their homes.

What will the recent incidents described lead the oversight agencies to recommend?

Regulations are in the works to prevent dual licensing of providers (daycare and foster care). So is a system for monitoring any changes in the criminal background status of care providers and agency staff members. Plus, more mandated paperwork is likely to ensure that agency social workers visit foster and daycare facilities as mandated by agency charters.

Finally, the incidents reaching the CCL Legal Division underscore that foster and residential group home care is a dynamic industry reflecting changes in our society in terms of technology and the struggle to use it responsibly.

As the former district attorney and CCL Legal Department representative summarized it, all those forces combined are what keep “CCL lawyers gainfully employed.”

Mr. Quinn has been a social worker and foster family agency supervisor for 25 years in residential foster care and group home settings. He has authored handbooks for foster parents, group home staff, and private agency caseworkers and is a contributor to the Foster Parent College online training catalog. He is currently a Supervising Social Worker for Nepenthean Homes FFA in Fair Oaks, California.

This Article is reprinted with permission from “Foster Parent College Connections” and directly from the author.  You can find out more about foster parent college by visiting their website www.fosterparentcollege.com.  They have some great resources for foster parents and houseparents 

Case Management/Information Management Software

This article is more for administrators than houseparents, unless you know your facility is looking for case/information management software in which case pass this on to your administration.

Measuring outcomes, keeping records and managing the piles of information that has to be reported to social workers, licensing agencies and even board members is becoming more and more important in modern residential care.  Many agencies are discovering the flat paper file is not the best way to manage information and are turning to computer based systems.

I have been helping my agency look at different systems and have looked at some very good ones.  However, the problem with most of them was that they are so far out of our agencies budget we will never be able to implement any of them.  I am pretty sure there are other agencies out there like ours that can’t afford many of those systems.  The good thing for us and for them is that there may be an alternative. 

Back in 2005 I posted about an Open Source Case Management System called Freemed-YiRC, yesterday the developer of that package released a new updated version.

Freemed-YiRC is a software project which provides a fully-integrated, web-based, secure, modular, and customizable web-based product capable of providing Child Caring/Residential Care/Foster Care agencies with a fully functional internal case management/information management system.

Freemed-YiRC is FREE/OPEN SOURCE SOFTWARE.

  • The software/source code is freely available for download from the FMYiRC site.
  • Freemed-YiRC is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL)
    • In short, the GPL states that you are allowed to freely download, use, copy, and modify this software.

I am still fairly early in my research of this system and there is a lot I still don’t know so there isn’t a lot of information I can give.  However, there is a great deal of documentation as well as a live demo available on their website.  For those facilities that don’t have the technical expertise to implement it themselves or need modifications done the publisher is available for consultation and programing.  He can be contacted through the website.