I got the idea for this post partly out of response to another website where the webmaster has written some articles that challenge houseparents to consider their attitudes about their positions as houseparents. I believe some of his statements are directed primarily at people that complain they don’t get enough time off. His statement goes something like this: Why should we complain about the lack of days off that we get because the kids we care for don’t ever get days off. While I generally agree that if we are receiving the days off that were promised to us when we were hired, we really have no reason to complain, I disagree that the kids never get days off from us.
This brings me to the other part of the inspiration for this blog entry. Today is Easter Sunday and though my cottage is the exception only about a third are gone on visits, about 70% of the children on campus are gone either with their birth families or with what we call sponsor families (For us sponsor families are families from the community that volunteer to be foster extended families for the children in our care.)
If you are still with me and wondering what the point of all this is let me say this: I have worked at three different facilities in 10 years and in every one of those facilities the children in care all had opportunities for “Days Off” from the home/program. And while I am in favor of these breaks for the children, I can honestly say that it is usually a disruption to the daily running of the cottage/program. I imagine it is similar to the disruption the children experience when we take relief/days off.
Some of the reasons for this disruption I think is:
- The children act out more either just before or just after these visits. This could be attributed to many things like anxiety over the visit, resentment that they have to come back, etc.
- While the children are on visits they may have the opportunity to be the center of attention or continually entertained. The children often find it difficult adjusting back into the reality that at the cottage/home they can’t be the center of attention because there are several other children, and we don’t have the resources to play all the time.
- The visit may not have gone like they had hoped. There may have been situations during the visit that made the child uncomfortable or hurt and those feelings carry over into the cottage/home.
- We have to plan the activities for those of us remaining at the cottage around the comings and goings of those that are leaving.
- I’m sure a plethora of other reasons.
In the home I work at the children receive several opportunities through out the year for these visits/days off: Christmas, Easter, Spring Break, Summer Vacation, Thanksgiving, etc. Additionally most of our children get at least one sponsor/family visit each month. For us that is a lot of disruption.
Some of things you can do to make it easier:
- Be flexible. One of the best things about being a houseparent is that the routine is seldom routine. With all the variety, you need flexibility. It took me a long time to realize that.
- Be sensitive. Considering how difficult and stressful taking relief can be for us (working with relief staff, making sure everything is in order, etc.) realize that days off for the children can be difficult and stressful for them.
- Be persistent. The more you do something the easier it gets.
Happy Easter and enjoy the remainder of your holiday.