Contests and Rewards (The Coffee Can Program)

The Coffee Can Program was something I developed at our first facility, it was a program we used to improve motivation in our behavioral program, and this is how it worked:

We had two cans, a large can and a small can. In each can were different coupons, for such things as 10 daily bonus points, a no chore day, extra 20 minute phone call to family, one-time one-hour later bedtime, choose your favorite meal (of course this was in reason-no steak and lobster) and the favorite was “winners choice” The winners choice coupon was like a wild card, it could be used as any coupon. You could easily adapt the coupons to your situation and program.

The youth with the highest average weekly score, would be able to draw, without looking, one coupon from that large can, which by the way, had the best coupons. The youth with the highest score for one day, would be able to draw a coupon from the small can. Having the small can for the highest daily score worked as a motivational tool for kids that may not be having the best week. They can decide at any time to try harder and still be able to accomplish winning the highest daily score. Many times our small can winner was somebody that has just been busted for a major incident the day before and had NO Chance at the weekly prize but had decided to do better working the program.

The youth were allowed to save their coupons: there were no expiration dates on the coupons, so they could use them when ever. 10 bonus points were pretty handy to have on a bad day, or an extra 20 minute phone call on a mothers birthday, etc. However, the youth were not allowed to give their coupons to other youth; if you wanted a coupon you had to earn it. We wrote their names and dates won on the backs of the coupons, so we knew who they belonged to.

The kids in our house loved this program and it helped several kids, do better, and get the jump start they needed, to work their way through the program. However, before you start a similar program, check with your administrator. When we started ours, we had to change a few of the coupons, because the director, wouldn’t allow them. Checking with him first, saved me from having a big problem later.

My First Day as a Houseparent

The date was June 2, 1997, my wife and my first day as houseparents. We had just sold virtually all our personal belongings and moved 500 miles with our two children (son-age 6, daughter-age 3) to follow this new career that to us, was a calling. We arrived the evening before and with the help of the youth at the home unloaded the U-haul in about 30 minutes. The same truck that took me almost 9 hours to load. We spent most of that evening and night unpacking boxes and trying to get settled into what would be our relief quarters (the place we went on days off). Unpacking at the group home would be fairly simple, the four of us would spend each of our 10 day shifts living in a bedroom that was 10′ x 11′ (110 square feet); add the 40 square foot bathroom for a total of 150 square feet of personal living space.

I am sorry for all the background information, but I don’t think you can truly grasp the situation without it. I would also like to add that our only previous experience was as Foster Parents to two sets of kids for a total of four children all under four years old. We were now going to be working with 7 teenage girls usually from 13-17 years old.

Back to that first day. We arrived at about 8:00 am to start our shift. We were relieving the boy’s house mom. The home we were working at was extremely short staffed, at the time we were hired there was only one set of houseparents, in a facility that required three. During the week the director’s wife would work the Girl’s house and on the weekend the Boy’s house parents would split with the man staying at the boy’s house and the woman going to the girls house; this they did for about two months before we were hired.

Our training consisted of about a 40 minute briefing from the Boy’s house mom as she went over a 5 page hand written note she put together for us. It briefly covered their level system, schedule and a short biography on all the girls. I am however very thankful for that because she could have just as easily handed us the keys and said, “see ya!”. It was not her responsibility to train us. (I would also like to add that they have since started training new house parents more thoroughly.) We spent the rest of the day experiencing the honeymoon period with our girls. They helped us learn the rules, at least how they interpreted them. We later found out that their interpretation was somewhat wrong in most cases, and they got over on us several times that day.

The real fun began that night. The house used an alarm system to discourage the girls sneaking out in the middle of the night while the houseparents slept. At about 11:00 PM the alarm went off. My wife ran upstairs to see what the commotion was. Of course nobody had any idea why the alarm went off, so we reset it and went back to bed. About 30 minutes later the alarm went off again. Again my wife ran upstairs, this time they said the pet cat jumped up against the special alarmed window screen in the bathroom and set it off. We didn’t know any better, so we didn’t think to question it. This time however the alarm wouldn’t reset and we had to bypass that window to get the alarm to set up. It was about 20 feet straight down to the ground through that window so we didn’t worry about them climbing out. We later found out what the real story was, but you will have to come back for day two to find out.

HotRod Whiteboards (How to keep your whiteboards looking sharp)

This was originally posted in my forum. I am re-posting it here with additional information because: 1) I need more content for my blog. 2) I think it is useful time saving advice that will probably get more exposure being posted here.

The first facility my wife and I worked in, was a behavioral modification group home. One of our most used tool was the white boards, that we used for posting daily and weekly scores, chores, laundry days, and a host of other information.

We used permanent markers to draw the lines on the boards and to post permanent information i.e. titles, headings, etc. The only problem was, that about once a month one of the kids would spray the boards with white board cleaner, glass cleaner, alcohol or some other liquid that would make our boards look like a tie-died t-shirt. My wife would spend about three hours re-drawing lines and re-writing all the headings and stuff.

This ritual ended, when a good friend shared this tip with me. Instead of using a marker to draw your lines, go to your local auto parts store and buy a roll or two of 1/8 vinyl pin-striping in your favorite color, and lay out your boards with it. Vinyl pinstriping won’t run when sprayed with cleaner and is very durable. On our boards we also printed out all headers, titles and permanent information on full sheet computer labels. We then cut them out, glued them to the board, and covered them with stick-on laminating sheets that we bought at the local office supply store. Even after a full year, our boards still looked good.

Additionally, by using a magnetic whiteboard that are now affordable (I paid less than $15 for my last one at Wal-mart), you can make your whiteboards look even nicer. Print or write your names and common information on magnetic labels that can also be purchased at Wal-mart or any office supply store. Then you can rearrange your information easily with out have to erase and rewrite it each time. See my article on the Racing Behavioral Chart for an example.