Science Fair Projects

I am sorry the postings have been so limited lately.  The priorities in my life (beside the God, Family, Career, etc order) have been Children in the home, plus their science fair and 100 days of school projects first.  Maintaining the Job and Directory listings, answering e-mails and phone calls, and then if I have time I can blog.

On the brighter (less busy) side, two of the three children I have been working with on science fair projects won in their categories in their local schools today and will be competing in the regional science fair in March.  I suspect that the third will place in the top three for her category and will also compete in the regional, but we won’t know for two more weeks.

For one of the children it was a major accomplishment.  He is in the 3rd grade and last year at this time was failing in school.  This year he is on the “A” Honor Roll, and now a winner in the science fair.  You can see the self confidence beaming from him, as well as the sense of accomplishment.  He said to me today that this was the first award he has ever received.  Needless to say, I was pretty proud of him as well.  I was especially glad that he beat the project that was clearly done by the parent that included a three page report and words I didn’t understand.  I feel bad for those kids, because what do they learn when parents do it for them, and what sense of accomplishment can they feel, even if they win, if they didn’t do it.

That’s it for now, I have some things that I am working on and will try to get them posted soon.

Clean Walls by The Trash Can

One thing that has always bothered me while living with children is the fact that no matter how large the opening of the trash can – the wall next to it always ends up covered in dried up ketchup, spaghetti sauce, oatmeal, syrup, etc. 

 And even though it only took me about 15 minutes each week to scrub it off, (Rarely, did I ever actually see the child that made the mess, so it was usually dried on and crispy by the time I got to it.) that is 15 minutes I would rather be doing something else, like helping the children with their science fair projects or something.

One day, after scrubbing the wall down again, I noticed the poster-board sitting beside the refrigerator.  I went and got me some sticky-tac (that stuff you use for putting up posters) to go with the poster-board.  I then placed the poster-board behind the can against the wall and secured it in-place with the putty.  Now whenever it gets dirty, I replace it with a new poster-board and it looks good as new.

At my facility poster-board is plentiful (a company donated a 4 foot tall pile of seconds a few years ago that we have been able to use about 6 inches of) but I am sure freezer paper or something else would work just as well. 

You might ask what this has to do with houseparenting?  Time saved not having to do tedious tasks, means more time to spend with the children doing important things!

New Book Reviews

I have just finished reading two more books and have posted new reviews for them on the main site, they are: 

No Such Thing As a Bad Kid!: Understanding and Responding to the Challenging Behavior of Troubled Children and Youth By: Charles D. Appelstein.  This book is now my #1 recommended book for residential childcare workers, or anyone that works with children that have “challenging behaviors”  If you would like to read the complete review Click Here 

The other I didn’t like so well and don’t think it should be at the top of your read list unless you are somebody in charge of making policy for the County, State or Country. It is Screwing the System and Making it Work: Juvenile Justice in the No-Fault Society  — By: Mark D. Jacobs

My next book to read is called: “Family-Centered Services in Residential Treatment: New Approaches for Group Care” Edited by John Y. Powell.  I will be sure to report on it when I am done.

Using Birth Parents as an Example – Don’t!

Just about the time you think you are doing everything right, you will do something that the children will quickly let you know is wrong. 

My wife was talking to one of the girls in our cottage about the dental hygiene habits she has.  She has lived at the home since she was 18 months old and is now 9.  You would think that basically growing up in a stable environment which emphasises these skills she would not be having issues with it 7 years later, but she does.  Her breath usually stinks and she has had 3 cavities in the last two years.  We have spent time watching her brush and showed her the proper way numerous times, but it continues to be an issue.

Back to the conversation.  My wife was explaining to her that she doesn’t have to have cavities and used our birth children as an illustration (they are 12 & 15 and have never had a cavity), she wasn’t real interested in that so my wife took a different approach.  The girl’s mom has lived a very rough life using drugs, abusing alcohol and has not taken very good care of her teeth.  I believe she is in her mid thirties and has lost most of her teeth.  My wife made the mistake of telling the young lady that her mom does not take very good care of her teeth and that is the reason she lost so many of them.

The discussion instantly went from being a discussion to being an argument, because the young lady went into defense mode and started defending her moms honor. She gave several reasons why her moms teeth have fallen out, none of which were her mom’s fault.

After becoming very frustrated my wife realized the best thing to do was end the discussion with plans to continue it at another time and with another approach.

I am no psychologist, so I can’t give the medical or social explanation for this, but 9 years of working directly with the kids has taught me that regardless of what reality is or how the rest of the world perceives their birth parents to be, the children will almost always perceive them in a much better light (regardless of how the parents treated or neglected the child.) They could be convicted thieves and the child will perceive them as borrowers.  They could have neglected the child and used all of their money for drugs and the child will perceive them as just being poor. I also know that the greater the time that the child spends in placement, the higher the pedestal that they place their birth parents on. 

Be honest with the children about their birth parents, but I think it is best when looking for examples and illustrations to leave them out.

Update Complete

I have finished the hosting update on the website. With the new plan there is tons of room for growth. Two scripts that I have already upgraded has greatly improved the site. The new site search engine is much cleaner and easier to use. You can recommend The Houseparent Network to friends and coworkers using the recommend script available from any page.

I have also made an investment to update the Forum. This one is much more secure and has many more features than the old one. The one down side for those that may use multiple aliases is that the board will only allow one E-mail address per user ID (NO exceptions). I will continue to add features that I think improves the site and will make the investments necessary to make it better.

I hope everyone enoys it.

Creating Tradition

This post is a little late for the just ended Holiday Season but is just in time for all of the upcoming Holidays. As part of a discussion we were having in the forum, a user called CaringCouple pointed out that we should include the children we care for in all aspects of our Holiday celebrations and I 100% agree with him.

Many of the youth we care for come from very troubled families and have often missed out on many of the things we take for granted. They often miss out on things like decorating Christmas Trees, coloring Easter Eggs, Labor Day Barbecues, etc. One of the things we can do is provide these opportunities for them.

Even when we worked B-mod we have always included the youth in holiday decorating and festivities. It is always enjoyable to watch so called hardcore kids let their guard down and participate in holiday festivities. Our last Christmas before leaving B-mod, on Christmas Eve we worked with the boys to make gifts for their families. The gifts were nothing more than pictures that were cut out of a magazine, that we had burned the edges with one of the many lighters we confiscated from the kids. We then decoupaged the pictures onto a scrap piece of wood and the boys signed their names to it. I can honestly say that was one of the best times we ever had with the boys in that program.

If you want to take a major step in building relationships with the children you care for – include them in your holiday celebrations.