I often hear from people that say, “we need to look at being houseparents less as a job and more as a ………….(feel free to fill in the blank).” I will agree that we need to look at it less as a job, but we should look at it more as a PROFESSION!!!!
I believe it is totally appropriate to look at it as a ministry, or as public service, but it absolutely needs to become a profession. At many facilities you can be hired and put on the job with little or no training and with a lack of a criminal record as the only thing in your past experience. I have seen several marginal houseparents that have not worked out at one facility, simply move to another and easily find positions because there is such a shortage, and they had experience & interview well, only to fail again 6 months or a year later because they were unprofessional.
I have talked with houseparents that think they are experts in the field (and would be great if those administrators would just leave them alone) that have no idea of what laws, court cases or issues affect their position as houseparents or residential childcare in general, like: “In Re Gault”, “CAPTA”, “ASFA”, “IDEA”, “Continuum of Care” etc. If your are wondering what in the world any of that means, I would recommend doing a little research or you can wait and read about the above named federal laws and court case here. I am planning to write some explanations for them.
I have known several houseparents that were far more interested in recreation with the children than they were with helping them with their anger or attachment issues, teaching them life skills, or other things they will need as adults. Simple things like how to do laundry, how to wash dishes and load a dishwasher, how to keep their area clean, fill out a job application, etc. Don’t get me wrong, healthy recreation is important, but there is far more to helping troubled children than playing with them all the time.
Well there’s part of the problem, if only I had the solution. Raising salaries may attract more people to residential care and reduce the staff shortage, thus raise competition for available positions and filter out some of the less qualified workers but the last I heard funding is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by both by government agencies and the vast majority of private ones. Increasing supervision and training would go a long way in helping the situation and I believe many facilities are trying to take this approach. However additional supervision doesn’t necessarily weed out the nonprofessionals. I have heard administrators say something like, “I am not happy with all my staff, but I think it is easier to deal with the issues they have than take a chance on getting someone worse.”
I will agree, being a houseparent is far more than just a job, but it needs to become a profession. A profession made up of people that have character, compassion, work ethic, specialized training and education, maybe even mandatory certification and licensing. A profession indeed, but with the current staff and money shortage, who knows when we will see it happen.
Note: I realize I am probably preaching to the choir here. If you are reading this you probably are not one of the examples I used above. I just felt like venting a little.