Since my theme has been days off, I thought I would talk about our first days off as houseparents. Our first shift should have lasted 10 days, but because the facility we were at was short staffed, it ended up being 19 days long. We probably wouldn’t have gotten days off then, but after the director spoke with my wife on the phone decided he could either give her some rest or find new houseparents.
Let me set the scene. After our first very stressful week, the following Monday I had to go out to the boys house and help install flooring through out the house. The director had made a deal with the flooring people to get a discount on the job by volunteering the housedads to be his assistants. I think it took us four days to finish the job so I was gone from about 8:00 AM until about 6:00 PM those days. She was left to deal with the girls by herself during that time, and they were pretty tough to deal with.
The following week there was a missions group that was going to be in town for a couple of days to help us put a new roof on the boy’s house. Since I had put a new roof on my house in Montana the previous summer, I again got elected to help out. We took one whole day to go to Billings, MT to buy shingles and supplies and then that Thursday morning I had to be out there to help with the roof, I was again gone all day.
While I was gone she had a little incident with the girls. We had an irrigation canal that ran next to the house. It was only about 3 feet wide and about 18 inches deep but the girls liked to hang out by it and dip into it to cool off. In Wyoming we had no air conditioning and it was summer. Anyway my wife was doing some things inside the house and went out to check on them only to find that the five girls that were wading in the creek had disappeared. As freaked out as she was when one girl ran away, you can only imagine how freaked out she was to find 5 missing. She immediately ran back inside and called the director, he told her to drive around the park across the street and the neighborhood just to see if they accidentally wandered off (HAHA!). She did for about 15 minutes and just as she was coming back to the house there they were walking down the middle of the canal toward the house.
Their story was that somebody’s shoe got washed down the canal and they went looking for it and lost track of where they were. (I actually think they went to smoke a cigarette.) She had apparently called back the director and during that conversation the director determined that she needed a break. I know this because not five minutes after I got off the phone with her listening to her story about the incident as well as her questioning here ability to continue this career choice, he called to tell me that he had arranged for us to have a day off the following day and we were directed to take. When I tried to make objections because of the roof not being complete and the value of my presence as well as the shortage of staff, his response was, “I can find somebody to put on shingles, people to work the houses are hard to find. Give your wife a break or she’ll be moving back to Montana next week.” I took his words to heart and the wife and I took a day off.
I would like to add that during that first summer as houseparents we had a total of 6 days off, and still we stuck to it. I have to wonder how long I would stay at a facility today if I only got 6 days off in three months. It’s amazing what we will do when we are new. The good thing was that after that very lean summer, the facility we worked at went almost 3 years fully staffed.