Shalom…

Many times before I have said the hardest part of residential childcare is the adults, not the kids. I can also tell you from first hand experience that none of us have all the answers. Relationships, both child and adult, are difficult and complex. What is the right answer now, will not be in twenty minutes. To sum up the last few days of my existence I would have to say that I truly do not enjoy being around any HP that does not approach our line of work as a ministry and as a professional.

Without dropping dimes on any particular individual that is really irritating me at the moment, I would like to share some of my pet peeves with you all that have all seem to have filtered down into a gooey mess the last few days.

1. Treating your “Biological kids” different from the foster kids.-There is nothing in this world that infuriates me more than double standards between staff kids and the facility kids. Before you dish out a consequence ask yourself if you would, or have, given the same kind of “Justice” to your own kid. Better yet, think about how you would feel if you were forced to live in a house with people that were not your family and to be reminded DAILY that you come in second to other kids in the house. Not a pleasant thought is it?

2. Griping about EVERY kid that is to be admitted- In residential child care we deal with behavior and psychological issues, IT’S WHAT WE DO. What did you expect coming into this job?

3. Competition- This ain’t the freaking Olympics champ. There is no ultimate houseparent challenge so please, next time you start throwing out how many years you have been a child care worker, ask yourself if your actually trying to make a valid point, or your just trying to be a self inflating jerk.

4. Fortune Telling- Maybe you do see dead people and can predict when it will snow, just don’t do it with the kids. To walk around and say to yourself or others that a kid is doomed to be a addict, sexual predator, inmate or doomed for the burning abyss of hell, is to set a kid up for failure. Think about it, keep reinforcing a kid with nothing but negativity and your going to get negativity back, with change.

5. Job -VS- Ministry- To do what we do has got to be a calling from God. It’s not a glam job, you will live in poverty, and the vast majority of kids you work with are very ungrateful for what sacarafices you and your family have to make to help them. You have to believe God has called you to to be here in this moment, at this time. Or you just have to be completely loco and love the emotional drain and pain.

So there it is, my top five. I really hope my week gets better and the blogging is a little more uplifting. -Launch

Civil War

I don’t need a calendar to tell you spring is here. It’s always this time of year when every kid loses their minds. Never fails, they know school is less than a month away from being dismissed for the summer and if they have even mediocre grades they can cruise for the last few weeks in school and not do squat. Not a pleasant time to be House Parenting.

It has been a rough morning. Rodney wakes up and decides that he wants to wear the jeans that looks like he just finished crawling across a coal strip mine. Then he decides that instead of picking up his room it would be better to break all of his toys and scatter them in a protective perimeter around his bed. That ensures no one, namely ME, will walk in his room without suffering some kind of plastic shrapnel wound to the foot. Glad I decided to strap on the steel toe boots this morning.

Then the rest of the children decide to get into some geo-political fight over breakfast and whether the Quaker Oats guy on the oatmeal box is actually alive. That conversation quickly turned into who had the fastest bike. We did manage to get to the bus without a fist fight this morning, but barely.

It’s easy to sit back and get frustrated by the whole house getting spun up into a civil war. But you still got to remember what it’s like to be kid with summer around the corner. For me, the last day of school was better than Christmas. Every year I would walk out of school and in one violent display of my feelings for the public school system, throw my notebook in the trash. I remember the feeling of pure ecstasy as I walked home with the knowledge of not having to go back to school for the next two months. Those were the days.

But for the kids we care for this is a mixture of emotions. On one hand, they are happy like any other kid over the possibilities of summer. On the other hand, it’s a time of change, and any change is scary for these kids. When you’ve had five or six different families by the time your twelve it’s understandable that small changes in anything would cause anger and frustration.

So instead of giving into the drama of spring fever I think we will spend the rest of this week going over the summer schedule with the kids and making sure they have a say in the things we plan. Hopefully this will calm the waters a bit and help to end our little in-house Civil War thats been brewing between the boys.

Now if I can only figure out why my 11 month old daughter is throwing her attitude all around… -Launch

Going Home

Everyone needs a place to escape, a place where they feel safe and welcome. For most people that place is home. It’s a place where you can walk in the front door and talk with the family, have a meal and kick it old school reliving memories.

For my wife that place is Upstate New York, land of ice and snow. It’s a place she can get together with her family and friends and enjoy the presence of each other. It helps her to re-affirm family roots and to re-charge and reconnect to who she is. The time she gets with her family is essential to help define her past and future.

On the other hand there is me. My family roots are more or less non-existent and is just a part of reality I have had to come to accept. It’s actually not as depressing and tragic as it sounds, I have been blessed with an amazing wife and children. I have friends across the country that truly are salt of the earth and most importantly, I have Christ.

So once I loaded my wife on plane heading North, I drove our mini-van 90 miles-an-hour home, power slid into the parking slot in front of the house and fired up the bike. I ran inside the house and grabbed the saddle bags, a change of clothes and my super high speed sunscreen (80 SPF) and hit the road. Destination- Waleska, Georgia.

As I cruised across the South Carolina/ Georgia border I felt like a million bucks. And then the drama that accompanies pretty much any task I undertake, hit. At a gas station outside of Atlanta, I jumped off the bike and ran inside to use the restroom, least everyone behind me would think the bike had a radiator leak if I continued down the road. When I came out- my saddle bags were gone. Someone in the hood snagged them.

In my bags I had a digital camera, an ipod, digital recorder and my Crackberry cell phone. I also lost my sunscreen which resulted in third degree burns later on in my travels. Anyway, being the hardcore biker houseparent that I am, I pushed on. Soon I was driving up the driveway of Goshen Valley Boys Ranch to have lunch with my old supervisor, Craig.

We had a great lunch, caught up on facility happenings and kids, and other HP type of stuff. After lunch I got an invite to a ranch BBQ that night. No way I’m passing free food up. But first I needed a phone.

I headed into town and stopped into some Mexican store/ laundromat/ check cashing/ unemployment agency and bought me a little pre-paid phone. There was a bit of a language barrier and ultimately my cell ended up being programmed in Spanish. I swear I heard the clerk laughing as I walked out the door. Whatever, I had a BBQ to hit, I’ll think about calling INS later.

As I pulled up to the ranch I was hit with a mixture of emotions. In my life there have been very few places that felt like home to me. Goshen is one of those places. I saw many of the boys that I use to work with and was amazed at how big they have gotten. I sat and watched the kids playing with dogs and playing tag out in the field. I can’t think of a better place to grow up as a boy.

After eating there was praise singing and prayer to cap off an already awesome night. I headed down the road that night feeling very content and very thankful for the fellowship I experienced with great kids and some of the best staff I have ever worked with. For me it was a homecoming.

For everyone at Goshen- God Bless all of you guys. To Craig and John- you both have developed something special that is not the norm in this field, keep on rocking guys cause something this good has to be of God. The impact and ministry the ranch has done in the lives of boys is immeasurable. The BBQ is pretty decent also. -Launch

Born To Be Wild

So it begins- respite. My wife and daughter flew to upstate New York to hang and visit family. I just got a phone call and she said it was snowing up there. Hope she enjoys making snowmen in May.

As for me, I have waited, dreamed and yearned for this moment all month. A chance to jump on the bike in 70 degree weather, take a trip and visit a few places and let go of all the pent up frustrations from the past few months.

First I’m heading towards Georgia to have lunch with a friend and then I’ll flip a quarter to see whether to head South or North, either one is just fine with me as long as I’m in the wind.

I’m a firm believer that every one has to find an outlet to relax and recharge your body and soul. Especially if your in a line of work that consumes your every waking moment, such as residential child care. You need some activity that rolls back the years and makes you feel alive. Something that makes you feel like life is not only sweet but worth living. So for those of you out there that may want some ideas on living on the edge your next respite here is a list.

1. Skinny dipping- A public pool will probably end your life as a HP but a nice quiet creek somewhere would be safe for you and the wife. Watch out for crawdads.

2. Sky Diving- Nothing will make you appreciate life as much as hurling yourself out of a little Cessna that sounds like a super charged lawn mower after a one hour “suicide” class on how to be a sky diver. Be sure to buy the video they sell of you throwing yourself out the door so you can relieve the moment for years to come. Now that I think of it, that would work for #1 also…

3. Get a bike- Call me. I guarantee after a weekend of rolling with me and trying to witness to bar full of bikers, you’ll feel better and probably have a police blotter report to show off when you get back home.

4. Start a “Weird Project”- I have always wanted to take a mini-van and turn it into a Drag car. There’s something to said for doing a school run on an alcohol injected, big bore, mini-van that has one of those “My kid is an honor student” bumper stickers. Will score you major respect points at the next PTA meeting.

5. Bungee Jumping- It’s nice to say that you’ve done it. I recommend you drive your car into a wall at thirty miles an hour, it feels the same.

That’s it for me, time to hit the road. -Launch

Paranoia

 Paranoia is a disturbed thought process characterized by excessive anxiety or fear, often to the point of irrationality. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs concerning a perceived threat. In the original Greek,  (paranoia) simply means madness (para = outside; nous = mind) and, historically, this characterization was used to describe any delusional state.

In the last week we have given what seems like a hundred tours of the cottage, had a informal cottage evaluation, did two fancy dinners where I had to beg, plead and eventually bribe the boys to get dressed up for, and sat through a high school play of “South Pacific” with a bunch of elementary kids that hooted and hollered every time somebody kissed.

After all that I started to wonder if my facility was trying to kill me or at the very least push me into a nervous break down. I should feel flattered that our cottage gets a lot of attention, but instead I find myself thinking that someone is out to get to me on keeping the cottage clean, so I polish the toilet bowls to a high gleam. My wife says I’m doing more harm than good. Any guest that tries to perch themselves upon our highly waxed throne will slip off and probably pass out from respiratory distress caused by the two automatic industrial air fresheners that go off every two minutes. I tell her they will at least die with the knowledge that it is the cleanest latrine their butt has ever had the pleasure of being in.

Being paranoid has actually helped me to survive as a house parent. We have all had a kid that we thought would never smoke only to discover they huff a pack a day of non-filter Camels. Or how about that twelve year old entrepreneur that is running the local black market out of his bedroom? Yep, my paranoia keeps me from being shocked by too many things. I tend to expect the worst case scenario to happen at any moment.

There are very trustworthy kids in our care that are very mature for their age. But I decided long ago not to trust them in a way that gives complete freedom without question. Why? Because it was not so long ago I did many of the same things these kids do.

When it comes to the kids, I sometimes let the the paranoid side of me work it’s magic, such as when I suspect a kid is doing something sinister like running some kind of clandestine underground operation. I’m wrong many times, but every once in awhile I’ll get lucky and uncover some kid trying to pull a quick one.

Last week I had a kid kicked out of an after school program, only I never found out about it until this week. The teacher just assumed the boy would come home, tell us the truth about what happened and deal with the consequences. That would have been awesome if he did that, but in his defense most of the adults he knows can’t fess up when they make a mistake. Why should he be any different?

Most people hide all the dirt that is in their lives. Kids are no different, they don’t want to be judged or persecuted for the sin that is in their lives. Most times they don’t want to confront or deal with the past or other issues they have. I definitely can identify with that.

Anyway, I embrace my paranoid ways. It has always served me well (except for the last Presidential election). -Launch

Burn Baby Burn!!!


Default-tiny The Tramps – Disco Inferno imported by rvw1919

One of the Family Teachers here had a great idea to get all of campus together and have a bonfire at the Lake House on campus. Being that I love fires, especially big ones, I spent most of Friday with the boys gathering wood from all over the farm.

The back forty of the farm is inhabited by a large number of bovine- Holsteins to be more exact. As we gathered firewood we crossed paths with a cow or two. Every time a cow came within 300 yards of us, Dexter and Rodney would scream and do all kinds of flying kicks and combination punches. If the cow was not intimadated enough to walk the other direction, the boys would throw gravel towards the cow in a desperate show of force. Farm boys they ain’t.

Though they were terrified of our pet cows, the boys thought the geese would be friendly enough to pet. You have’nt lived until you see a kid try to pet a goose, especially one that is sitting on a nest. After I gave Rodney a half-hearted warning, he skipped to the other side of the lake expecting to hang with Mother Goose. That fairytale quickly ended after the goose took off after Rodney beating the daylights out of him with it’s wings and beak. I felt kinda bad for him, but he needs something new to talk about in therapy anyway.

Another lesson for the boys- Cow poo exists everywhere on a farm. When you least expect it, your in it. I made what I thought was a great object lesson out of how walking in a field covered in manure is kinda like life. It was totally lost on them.

Back to the poo- It covers everything. The boys were picking up sticks and branches covered in it, which in turn covered them. I swear Travis looked for cow patties to step in. Fortunately we had the farm truck to bounce around in and gather wood, which saved me from having to explain to my wife why our mini van smelled like cow butt.

The bonfire itself was awesome. Good turnout and I got to talk to a few people I never saw much of on campus. The kids played and ran around the field, roasted hot dogs and I managed to dodge most of the “Flaming Marsh-mellows of Death” All in all it was a great success and a great start for spring. -Launch

Family

So far we are right on schedule for the holiday recovery. The biggest issue we had was a six year old that cried off and on throughout the night because he missed his Grandparents, who are also the guardians.

My heart really went out to him and his family. Danny actually has some very loving and caring Grandparents. They are good people and honestly want nothing but the best for Danny, but they are very elderly and realize that they just are not physically capable of raising him. If they were able to do it, they would.

It’s hard to watch them drop Danny off after a visit because you know this is one family that has done everything in their power to keep the kids, but ultimately came to a point where medical problems drove them to needing placement for Danny and his siblings.

I am use to dealing with families that have more or less given up on a kid, are addicts or suffer from some mental disease. Over the years I have been in intake meetings with families that would sit there and tell me how evil and rotten to the core their child is, how they cannot control them and not mention ONE redeeming quality about the kid. Many times I would find it hard to concentrate on what they were saying because of the smell of stale smoke and beer emanating from their clothes. What chance does any kid have with that?

So when the rare gem comes along where a kid has someone in their life that loves and wants nothing but the best for them, is forced to a position where someone else has to step in and raise their child, it breaks my heart.

Thankfully Danny will at least grow up with the knowledge that there is someone in the family that loves and cares for him, even after they are gone. I do believe that will make a huge difference in this kids life.

As to the other families that I deal with- It definitely frustrates me when I see the level of dysfunction that comes out of a broken home. I have to remind myself that the problems they have as a family are more than likely several generations deep. It’s that whole sins of the father thing the Bible talks about.

But that’s the mission isn’t it? We are Christ’s representatives to help at least the kids caught up in all this mess break the cycle of dysfunction. Only we often doubt if we are really doing anything at all.

I do know Danny is loved and deeply cared for. That gives him at least a little bit more of an advantage in this life than some. -Launch

Cranial Four Point Of Contact Disorder

I have noticed something amazing about child psychological diagnosis. It’s a lot of guess work, a little background information and a whole lot of “What’s the flavor of the month”.

When I first began my career, the catch phrase was “Attention Deficit Disorder”. If a kid didn’t have that label on his intake sheet, he just wasn’t cool. The following year was big on “Bi-Polar Disorder” followed by “Attachment Disorder” which later became a much cooler sounding and ominous “Reactive Attachment Disorder” or “RAD” for short.

Who could forget the catch phrase for 2006, “Oppositional Defiant Disorder”, I call it JERK for short.

All of these are very real symptoms and terms (except for the one about being a jerk- thats my own term) and we have all dealt with legitimate cases. But it just seems to odd to me that every kid in a certain year will have the same diagnosis and kids the following year who present similar behaviors will all be labeled with another diagnosis.

What’s really fun is to actually buy a copy of the DSM 4 and look up all the labels your kids have. Some of them will be dead on, others will have you scratching your head wondering how in the world someone could have came up with that diagnosis for that kid.

I’m no shrink and to be honest, I would probably benefit from some serious psychiatric help and/ or confinement. Nevertheless, I wonder how some of these diagnosis become all the rage only to go out of style after a year or so. It must revolve around conferences or something.

Even worse than a Psychologist guessing at what disorder a kid has, is a HP making the diagnosis. Many of you out there are very bright and intelligent, but too many times I have seen an HP go on the war-path to get a kid diagnosed just the same as their retarded cousin Jimmy because they both eat crayons. It’s above our pay-scale folks, let it go. You may be right, little Johnny is an Idiot Savant. But does it really change anything in your cottage or how you teach to the kid?

I will now use my powers of blogging to create a new catch phrase that the industry can latch onto and savor for the next six months or until a cooler diagnosis comes along.

Are you ready for it? Here it comes……

Cranial Four Point Of Contact Disorder Formerly known as “Head in butt”.

Throw this term out in the next treatment or planning meeting you have. Someone will nod their head like they know exactly what your talking about and may even say something about themselves writing a college paper about it. Chances are they suffer from this very disorder.

CFPOCD covers most child behaviors and by coincidence the majority of adult behaviors. That kid that you told to make their bed ten times before coming out of the room? CFPOCD sufferer. Your supervisor that is always 30 minutes late to their own meeting? CFPOCD like a big dog.

Treatment will consist of Nyquil or Tylenol PM. The only cure is for the individual to be asleep where they can not harm themselves or anyone else.

If you hear anyone throwing the term around, remember, you heard it hear first. -Launch

Fishing Season 2008!!!


I LOVE THIS VIDEO

So it begins. Another year comes and it is now time to unleash my boy’s into the wilds of South Carolina to wreck death and destruction on the pan fish population in the heart of Dixie. I predict a bumper crop of Blue Gills the size of ping-pong balls coming out of the farm pond here on campus.

Besides Jesus, my family and motorcycle, few things are as near and dear to me as fishing. So here is my recommendation for getting your set up just right. -Launch

This is a reprint from the christian houseparent forum.

Being that I originate far above the Mason Dixon Line in the heart of Yankee territory I have had to struggle a little with this whole Southern Bass fishing thing. For one, my roots (and heart) remain steadfastly a fly fisherman- dry flys at that. But I gave in and geared up for Bass fishing.

Problem is taking the kids fishing. Everyone of us that has spent a day on the water with several kids knows you spend 98% of the time fixing lines and setting bait. I started getting real annoyed with the needle nose pliers in the front pocket and having to hunt down the tackle box for hooks.

So, using some Yankee ingenuity I went out this time with my vest instead of the box. Not exactly southern etiquette but it worked great. Best part is my vest is designed for fishing streams. Everything is tied down and set on retractable cords. Which means I never wonder where I laid my knife down.

So here is my basic set up on my vest.

1. Forceps- Works way better than the old needle nose, especially on pan fish and Bass. They are worthless on Catfish though.

2. Mag Light.

3. Hooks- On the front of the vest is a fuzz patch you can stick various hooks on. You need a hook, rip it off, tie it on. No more trips to the box trying to find some between kids.

4. Worm box- Simple tin box that you can snap on. Works awesome with little kids if your the one baiting all the time.

5. Line snip/ Finger nail clipper.- Quick and easy to cut the line, less dramatic than the Bowie knife.

6. Snaps- quick hook replacement, especially if your fishing ones with leaders already attached.

7. Hat with spinners attached- Just makes people think you know what what your doing.

8. Knife- Along with everything else, TIED DOWN.

9. Sinkers- I use the ones that come in a red container with a spin top because the container is easy to tie down.

10. Leatherman tool- Works great for on the spot repairs for the reel or hooks.

Non- Vest Items:

Any kid I take out that I have to do most of the work with gets a closed faced reel- no discussion. I know one HP that will only get open faced reels for his kids. I think he is either bored or clinically insane.

If I’m out to slaughter pan fish, I carry brass salmon egg hooks in a old plastic snuff can.

Gratitude

Owned

Lets see, in the past week we have went to see guys do back flips on motorcycles, taken at least five bike rides, camped out all night in the living room, and ate at McDonalds twice. But guess what? It all SUCKED!!! At least according to Rodney who was speaking on behalf of the larger student body in our cottage.

Yep, seeing a guy do a back flip on motorcycle did not impress the lads. Eating out at Mickey D’s could not satisfy their hunger pains. It was all for naught.

Most facilities I know have at least one summer vacation, get several events such as concerts or fairs, and Christmas is usually insane with the amount of presents the kids receive from donors. But for the most part, the kids could care less.

Take the kid in the above picture. On his own accord, he stuck his chubby little noggin thru the back of his desk-seat. A highly skilled quick reaction team is assembled to free the boy, two Janitors, one Lunch Lady and the Principal. All here to help out this budding MIT candidate. Once the desk is off his head do you think he’ll even say thanks? Probably not. He will probably complain about the bruising around his neck and the fact the Janitor nicked him with the hack-saw as he was removing the chair. (Bet you didn’t think I was going to be able to tie in the graphic with the blog, did you? Oh ye of little faith).

I have tried over the years to figure out why so many of the kids are ungrateful about what they get a chance to see and do. Some of the theories I have pondered are the following:

1. The “System”- Most of the kids were taken out of some really bad situations. They received little attention from the adults who were supposed to be caring and loving them. But once in the system the kids meet nothing but adults who are trying to help them and give them a better opportunity to enjoy their childhood. It’s like system overload. I often wonder if this is the thought process of some of the kids, “Yesterday I was eating rotting food out of the fridge and today I have a lawyer, a caseworker AND were going to Disney Land next weekend. It’s like Gangsta Paradise up in here G”.

2. Us, as in you and me- I’ll admit my heart goes out to all kids who are without the benefit of being raised by their family. Sometimes I do try and compensate for such a crappy predicament as they have found themselves in. Kids see this and take advantage or I just spoil them to the core. I really don’t like the thought of either one of those scenarios.

3. Survivor Mentality- With only the occasional rare exception, the kids will hustle you like a Gringo full of high school Spanish classes in Tijuana. Learning to lie can help you avoid being beaten, get what you want and control a little of your situation. Maybe the same goes for showing gratitude. To show gratitude would be a connection to someone else that you know is just going to leave or disappoint you in the long run.

4. They really are just a bunch of spoiled brats- I start thinking this way just before respite. Thats also about the same time I start thinking the kids are out to get me and wife is trying to poison me with the out dated milk in the fridge.

I don’t know why so many of the kids are as ungrateful as they are. All I do know is it’s frustrating trying to figure out something they would actually like to do.

Anyway, gotta go and get ready to take my little band of critics to a movie, which is already doomed to suck. -Launch