Book Review – The Gus Chronicles 1

 The Gus Chronicles 1
Reflections from an Abused Kid

By: Charles D. Appelstein, M.S.W. (and Gus E. Studelmeyer)

Disclaimer: This book review is my opinion of the book. If you have a different opinion of the book that is great. I know I have loved several movies and books that other reviewers have not liked and disliked movies and books that receive great reviews. I think we all have. If you would like to submit your own review, I may consider posting it. Otherwise feel free to share you reviews on the Forum. Thanks.

The Gus Chronicles 1 is an updated and revised version of The Gus Chronicles (originally published in 1994).  Doing something over will almost always result in something better, and it is certainly true in this case.  I enjoyed this book much more than I did the original.

I think Charlie (The Author) does a great job of helping a person get a perspective of how children in care, and their parents feel about those of us that work in residential care, he also does a pretty good job of highlighting some of the prejudices that we may have toward the children and birth parents that we need to be aware of and deal with.

I very much like how he changed his presentation of the need for Family Centered Services in residential care.  He does a very good job at presenting his case, and I fully agree that we need to find a way to work with the whole family.  If we don’t, we are, for the most part, wasting our time with the kids.

The Gus Chronicles 1 is a fictional story about a kid, Gus E. Studelmeyer that is living in a residential treatment center (RTC). The author uses a fictional person to address realistic situations in an RTC, and for the most part does a very good job.

The main character “Gus” is the narrator of the book and tells his story as a resident in an RTC. He also interviews and talks with other characters to get their perspective. Topics covered in the book include: Residential Treatment: A Child’s Perspective, Restraints, Foster Care, Bedtime and happenings during the night(sexual acting out, bed wetting, etc.), families perspective of residential care, activities, self-esteem, etc. The book is easy reading and presents information with little of the psychological speak. It does a good job of using terminology and phrases common to residential childcare, which will help a new person to residential care, better understand what those around him/her are saying.

This book would be excellent reading for somebody thinking about getting into residential care. It will give you a good idea of some of the situations and behaviors you will have to face, keeping in mind that the frequency and severity of the situations presented in the book would be much less for the majority of workers in residential foster care and community group home facilities. This book would be good reading for those already in child care, and might give you some ideas on how to better handle situations you deal with in your facility.

WARNING: This book contains profanity!!. Because the author is trying to paint a realistic picture of life in an RTC for the youth, he uses some of the same language the youth in RTC’s actually use. Although one of our goals is to help youth express themselves properly, with some it is a long hard road; you are going to hear some bad words working with troubled youth. This book will give you a chance to test your feelings about that.

I still somewhat struggle with using Gus and his 163 IQ to present the technical aspects, and would have preferred a second character, like a super computer, being a huge fan of the movie and book, Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, to present those aspects of the book. On the other hand it is strictly a personal preference and not enough of a distraction to prevent a you from getting very valuable information to help you be better providers.

I highly recommend the book and encourage all residential care workers and those thinking about becoming residential care workers to read it.

Click here to read my original review of “The Gus Chronicles”

The Gus Chronicles II is a sequel to the original Gus Chronicles. It was published in 2002 and was my favorite of the Gus Chronicle books. Now it is neck and neck with The Gus Chronicles 1. Click here to read the review The Gus Chronicles II.

You can buy the book from The Gus Chronicles I: Reflections from an Abused Kid
Click here to see other books in my bookstore

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Finding contraband (Stuff they shouldn’t have)

Back in the day you had to learn of new hiding places from other staff members that stumbled on to them, or from your snitch.  Now days, we have this wonder thing called YouTube where kids will tell you the new places where they hide things.  I have posted a few here for your information.  Later on I plan to make a few videos of some places where you might find some hidden items.  Warning.  Some of these videos have language that you may find inappropriate, however if you have worked in residential care for more than a day or two, its probably nothing you haven’t already heard.

The Houseparent Life

Here are some videos I found on YouTube made by residents.  I am posting them for your entertainment. The residents get great joy out of messing with houseparents.  If it were not for the fact that I understand the rules at most facilities, I would NOT be very surprised to find hundreds or thousands of these videos on YouTube, however most group care residents do have cell phones and youtube accounts to post their pranks so they go undocumented.

Even when they are not messing with the houseparents, they still could be.

Slogan Change

For the last 13+ years the slogan for The Houseparent Network has been, “The one stop resource for houseparents and other residential childcare workers”. Today that changed. We are now “The one stop resource for houseparents and other residential care workers”. A subtle change, but a big change. After posting a job listing for a maternity home today I realized that it was time for a change. I have known for a while that there are houseparents and residential care workers that work with pregnant women, disabled adults and youth, young adults in Independent living facilities, etc.

You look at the website and many of the facilities that have job listings are for facilities other than residential childcare. It was time I recognize that. Welcome to The Houseparent Network, The one stop resource for houseparents and other residential CARE workers.

2014 Houseparent Salary Comparison

I am in the process of redoing the website and when I was working on the Members Only Section yesterday, I realized that the last time I did a salary comparison was 2007.  I decided to stop working on the redesign and do a current salary comparison to see how it compares to that one.  I can’t remember the exact criteria I used in 2007 to conduct the comparison, so I don’t know if the comparison to 2014 will be exact, however it should be “Close Enough”.  In 2007 I didn’t have as many job listings to work with and I didn’t have the tools I use now for keeping track of things.  The 2007 comparison covered almost 2 years, where this one only covers 1, that should make this one more accurate.

In doing the 2014 salary comparison, I went through my database of all job listings posted on The Houseparent Network in just the last 12 months.  If a facility had more than one job listing during that time, I kept only the most recent.  I had 128 different facilities that have posted job listings in the past year.  Of those, 63 facilities posted salaries, the rest posted things like competitive or negotiable, etc.  Stuff I couldn’t work with.

The good news is that Houseparent Salaries have definitely gone up in the last 7 years, especially in the lower and middle ranges.

Before I give my numbers here is my disclaimer:
Note: Let me start by saying that this is not a scientific sampling based on all the facilities in the country, but I think it is still a close representation of the average salaries throughout the country. All salaries listed are per individual.  If you are paid as a couple multiply these averages by two to compare it to your salary.  Also many facilities listed a range of salaries, so I also express my averages as a range.  I am also making the assumption that the salary listed by the facility is the cash salary and not total package.

The mean average (pure average) salary for a houseparent is $22,099-23,130 per year, compared to $19,419-20,653 in 2007  The Median average (half the salaries are less, half are more) salary for a houseparent is $21,000-23,000 per year, compared to $18,500-20,000 in 2007.  The mean average for the top 25% of salaries is $29,131-29,898 compared to $26,988-29,412 in 2007.  The mean average for the bottom 25% of salaries is $14,903-16,637 compared to $12,315-12,893 in 2007.  The Top salary is $37,500-40,000 which is exactly the same as 2007.  The bottom salary is $11,250 per year, which is almost double what the bottom salary was in 2007, however the facility that had the bottom salary in 2007 no longer posts a salary on their job listing.

I am hoping to do these comparisons every year from now on, since I am working the website full time now.  I am even looking into sending out a survey to facilities that would include more than just salaries.  I would also like to have a tangible comparison of benefits.

I now have the information posted in the members only section and it includes additional information from the comparison, such as sorted by state, benefits listed in the job listing, as well as all the raw data, minus the facility name.

If you would like to see the posting for the 2007 salary comparison.  Click Here

The New Houseparent Network

I am currently working on a re-design of The Houseparent Network.  The last time I changed the page, and did it the way I thought looked best, I got hate mail because some people that the colors were horrible and the gold was hard to see.  Here is a link to the current revision.

Please check it out and give me your feedback.  You can post your feedback on my Facebook Page, here in the comments, or email me at  I am looking forward to seeing your comments and suggestions.

New Mexico Boys Ranch Drama

Most people saw over the weekend the drama that played out in New Mexico with a Boys Ranch and the New Mexico Family Services Department.  Abuse charges were being investigated at the ranch, and then things got a little crazy, with boys disappearing, and amber alert issued, and boys being found with their parents, etc.

I like everyone else, other than those involved, really have no idea what really happened.  What I do know is that so far this is turning out to be a black eye for residential care facilities.  I read several of the articles associated with  this story and more importantly I read the user comments with each of the articles.  The perceptions of many are that all residential facilities are bad places and needed to go away.  Others thought that only unlicensed facilities are bad and that states that don’t license all their facilities are bad.  Surprisingly there were also commenters that felt all the children in these facilities are bad and should just be locked up in prison, because it isn’t worth the trouble to try and help them, many of which were former staff members of a residential facility.  There were a few comments that tried to defend what we try to do as residential care workers but they were often times attacked for doing so.

I suspect that as a result of this there will be a further push for more regulation and supervision by state agencies.  That there could be more lawsuits against states that are more lenient with their licensing regulations. What I hope is that this situation will lead to better care for the children that are placed in residential care facilities.

I have always believed that self regulation is better than outside regulation so I hope that those of us within the Residential Care community will do our part to provide the very best care we can, which I believe that the vast majority are trying to do.

Coming Changes!!!

Well, the day has arrived.  I am now ready to spend most of my day making The Houseparent Network better, more useful, and more visible so that facilities can find more qualified staff members and houseparents/residential staff can better prepare themselves for the life of a residential childcare worker.

Some of the things I will be working on:

  1. I am looking to change my logo and do a site redesign.  My last major overhaul was in 2010, and to be perfectly honest, a lot of people didn’t like the gold and blue.  I will be playing with some different designs.  I want the design to be simple, easy to use and easy to view on all devices.  I am also planning on redoing the logo to a variation of a previous design that will allow me to put it on t-shirts and other items I can give away.
  2. Daily Blog Posts.  Some of it will be original material (my own thoughts, experiences and opinions), the rest will be material that I have scoured the Internet to find and will link to.  I want to be one of the top sites for information relating to residential care.
  3. Updated Facility Directory.  Over the next few months I will be going through my facility directory and removing facilities that no longer exist and hopefully adding hundreds of newly listed ones that I find through social media sites and internet searches.
  4. Creating a new Houseparent Community.  I think it really sucks that I had to take the forum down, but the fact is that there are really bad people out there that spend all of their time trying to take advantage of other people. Rather than build their own quality sites, they try to hack and SPAM other people’s sites.  The malicious activity I had attacking the old forum ended up crashing it to the point of being unrecoverable.  Hopefully the new one will have better security tools for combating that.  I want to have a community where people can ask questions, share thoughts, stories, triumphs and failures, so that we can all have the information we need to better care for the children, mothers and adults that live in residential facilities.
  5. Expanding Job Listings to include International facilities.  I am going to create a special section so that facilities in all countries have a place to post job listings and find quality staff.  Hopefully I will someday have to breakdown the international section into different regions and even by country.
  6. Make job listings sortable and searchable.  As my programming skills improve I plan to write code to make the job listings sortable and searchable, to make it easier to find a position in specific regions, states, denominations or using other criteria.
  7. Expanding Book and Resources Store.  Rather than just being an associate of Amazon I am hoping to be able to make deals with various authors and publishers to offer books and resources at discounts, directly to The Houseparent Network users.
  8. Adding Featured Facilities.  I am hoping to find time to travel and visit facilities that I can feature on the site.  Include pictures of their facilities, interviews with their administration and staff as well of highlights of their programs.
  9. Plus More.  I am open to suggestions and ideas for making the site better.  If you have ideas for features or resources, please share them here or on the Facebook page.