Latest Book Review

I have just posted another book Review:

raising cainCaring for Troubled Youngsters/Repairing our Troubled System — By: Richard J. Delaney
The primary audience of “raising cain” is foster and adoptive parents though the author dedicates the book “To all helping professionals whose labor of love includes troubled foster and adopted children” and most of the behaviors and many of the issues can relate directly to residential care.  Cain is the person in the Bible that killed his brother Abel and the author describes him as the “first emotionally disturbed child”  He uses Cain as a metaphor for for troubled foster children, I think, because of their behavior they are sometimes forced to wander through the foster care system in the same way that Cain was forced to wander the earth as a marked individual for his behavior………….

You can click here to read the complete review or see my other reviews.

Are You Looking for a Placement for Your Child?

I receive several phone calls and E-mails each month from parents in a difficult situation that are looking for a placement for their child.  Their children may seem to be out of control and/or be bipolar,  have ADHD or depression, using drugs, running away, ignoring curfew and/or exhibiting delinquent behavior, etc.  If you happen to be one of those parents right now looking, the only real assistance I can give you is to point you in another direction.

One place you may look is with your local government agency that deals with human services and foster care.  They go by several names depending on what state you are in:  Department of Family Services (DFS), Child Protective Services (CPS), Health and Human Services (HHS), etc.  They may be able to assist you in finding a placement and/or direct you to other services to help your situation.

You may also want to visit another website Woodbury Reports, Inc A resource for parents & professionals trying to help at-risk teenagers. Online since 1995 Includes a directory of various programs throughout the country. They visit and review programs as well as maintain a directory of programs available for placement.

Other sites that may be useful are:

National Association of Christian Child and Family Agencies (NACCFA) 

The Mission of National Youth Network is to educate parents of troubled teens on child behavior including attention deficit disorder, ADD, ADHD, drug abuse, teen depression, behavior modification or intervention programs such as wilderness programs, boarding schools, residential treatment and other adolescent programs. 

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) is the only US-based, non-profit educational organization exclusively serving boarding schools and students. Large Directory of US & Canadian Boarding Schools 

The National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) According to their website NATSAP is an organization created in January of 1999 to serve as a national resource for programs and professionals assisting young people beleaguered by emotional and behavioral difficulties.

Finally you may want to visit my directory and find a facility that is close to where you live and contact them directly.  If they are unable to help you with placement, they may be able to direct you to local resources.

I truly wish I could be of more assistance but the purpose of my website is to help houseparents and others that work in residential childcare find positions and other resources to help them with that position, I just don’t have the expertise or resources to help with placements.

For the regular visitors of this site that are wondering why I have chosen to post this here it is because I am hoping to make a very stressful situation for a family a little less stressful. I don’t want them to waste their time, looking on my site for answers I am unable to give.

Some More Numbers

Just thought I would share some more numbers with you from most recent AFCARS Report:  You will note from the bold print that there are about 96,000 children that live in a residential setting out of the 523,000 children in foster care.

 What were the ages of the children in foster care?

Mean Years 10.2  
Median Years 10.9  
Under 1 Year 5% 25,070
1 thru 5 Years 25% 129,470
6 thru 10 Years 21% 108,500
11 thru 15 Years 30% 154,970
16 thru 18 Years 18% 93,810
19 Years or More 2% 9,690

What were the placement settings of children in foster care?

Pre-Adoptive Home 5% 24,650
Foster Family Home (Relative) 23% 121,030
Foster Family Home (Non-Relative) 46% 239,810
Group Home 9% 45,700
Institution 10% 51,370
Supervised Independent Living 1% 5,570
Runaway 2% 10,560
Trial Home Visit 4% 19,700

What were the lengths of stay in foster care?

Mean Months 31  
Median Months 18
Less than 1 Month 5% 23,950
1 to 5 Months 18% 93,900
6 to 11 Months 16% 84,110
12 to 17 Months 12% 63,640
18 to 23 Months 9% 45,850
24 to 29 Months 7% 35,860
30 to 35 Months 5% 27,030
3 to 4 Yrs 12% 64,810
5 Years or More 16% 83,920

What were the case goals of the children in foster care?

Reunify with Parent(s) or Principal Caretaker(s) 48% 246,650
Live with Other Relative(s) 5% 24,090
Adoption 20% 103,460
Long Term Foster Care 8% 43,250
Emancipation 6% 31,370
Guardianship 3% 15,470
Case Plan Goal Not Yet Established 10% 48,530

What was the race/ethnicity of the children in foster care?

AI/AN Non-Hispanic 2% 10,260
Asian-Non Hispanic 1% 3,280
Black-Non Hispanic 35% 184,480
Hawaiian/PI-Non Hispanic 0% 1,540
Hispanic 17% 91,040
White-Non Hispanic 39% 203,920
Unknown/Unable to Determine 3% 13,360
Two or More-Non Hispanic 3% 14,310

NOTE: Using U.S. Bureau of the Census standards, children of Hispanic origin may be of any race. Beginning in FY 2000, children could be identified with more than one race designation.

What was the gender of the children in foster care?

Male 53% 274,820
Female 48% 248,150

 What were the lengths of stay of the children who exited foster care during FY 2003?

Mean Months 21.7  
Median Months 11.9  
Less than 1 Month 18% 51,120
1 to 5 Months 16% 45,810
6 to 11 Months 16% 44,870
12 to 17 Months 12% 33,720
18 to 23 Months 8% 23,290
24 to 29 Months 6% 16,770
30 to 35 Months 5% 12,650
3 to 4 Years 10% 27,770
5 Years or More 9% 24,110

What were the outcomes for the children exiting foster care during FY 2003?

Reunification with Parent(s) or Primary Caretaker(s) 55% 151,770
Living with Other Relative(s) 11% 30,570
Adoption 18% 49,340
Emancipation 8% 21,720
Guardianship 4% 10,700
Transfer to Another Agency 2% 6,420
Runaway 2% 4,070
Death of Child 0% 570

NOTE: Deaths are attributable to a variety of causes including medical conditions, accidents and homicide.

How Does Your State Measure Up?

Now that I have figured out how to again access  AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System) on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Children’s Bureau) Website, I decided to do some exploring tonight and discovered  Reports and Results of the Child and Family Service Reviews (CFSRs)

This section has Child and Family Service Reviews for all 50 states.  What they are is Federal reviews of the Children and Family Services Programs of each state and evaluates how they are meeting federal guidelines for Abuse investigations, foster placements, permanency placement and outcomes, etc. for one of the most recent versions of CAPTA  (The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act).

The reviews compare how well the state meets the goals of the legislation in the late 90’s compared to how they did in the early 2000’s.  I found it fairly interesting reading and I think by reading them you can get a pretty good indication as to the direction your state is headed in it’s children and family services program.  It will also help you familiarize yourself with some of the goals and guidelines of the federal legislation and why your state may do some of the things they do.

There is also a CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICE REVIEW PROGRAM IMPROVEMENT PLAN for the states, more semi-interesting ready, as well as other reports.

Ponderings about Foreign Adoptions vs. U.S. Adoptions

I normally don’t discuss Christian issues on this site because I want it to be for all residential childcare workers regardless of their faith, however I believe this issue illustrates a general issue in America.

Last night I went to a Christian concert and like many of the ones I have attended the band was promoting a ministry to benefit disadvantaged children overseas. (usually in Africa or Asia).  The band member spoke about how this ministry was doing great things overseas and works very hard to find adoptive families in the U.S. for these children that are orphaned and are having to live in orphanages where they receive little or no affection.  To date they have arranged 50,000 adoptions and they need our financial support to continue. 

Additionally, in Hollywood there are many stars that have decided to adopt children from overseas and are very public about it. I think it is great that America is the most benevolent country in the world and that we think it is important to help children and people all over the world and do.  I do however wonder about the children within our own borders.

According to the AFCARS (Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System) website for 2003 the last year statistics are available there were over 119,000 children available for adoption out of the foster care system.  Of that number only about 50,000 were adopted.  And out of that 50,000 about 85% were adopted by either their foster parents (About 62%) or family members (about 23%).  For more than half of the children available for adoption in the U.S., THERE WAS NO HOME FOR THEM TO GO TO.

This is almost 70,000 children right here in America that need a permanent family but don’t have one available to them. 

There are about 523,000 children in the foster care system and this don’t include all the children that are placed privately with facilities that never get reported as foster care statistics. 

Every county and state that I know of is in dire need of additional foster parents. 

There is a funding and staffing crisis in children’s welfare through out the country.  Social worker case loads are in many cases more than anyone should be expected to handle.  Residential care facilities have to compete for what seems a limited number of residential childcare workers/houseparents and many are in a perpetual state of being understaffed. 

The children in this country in many cases are not able to receive the care that they need because there is not enough people available to provide it. 

Somebody needs to make a case for our very own children.  Should we not make sure our own house is in order, before we start going out and fixing up others?  Is it possible to do both? 

Finally, I wonder how many of these children that are being adopted from overseas, eventually end up in our already overwhelmed foster care system?  This might be a good research subject for some college thesis.

Houseparents and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

I recently discovered an opinion letter on the Department of Labor (DOL) website that relates directly to Houseparents and residential childcare workers. 

 Before I continue any further let me make this disclaimer: I am not an attorney and this is not legal advice.  It is simply a layman’s commentary on a DOL opinion.  Additionally, the DOL looks at each incident independently so this may not apply to you or your facility at all.  I am simply going to make some generalizations based upon what I believe their opinion letter says. 

This letter addresses many of the issues I have seen brought up by different people in my forum and questions asked directly to me by others.  This letter specifically addresses the issue of single houseparents and their standing under FLSA.

According to the letter “the enterprise provisions of the FLSA do not cover private nonprofit institutions providing care for neglected and dependent children, if such institution is not operated in conjunction with a hospital, residential care facility, school or a commercial enterprise operated for a business purpose.” Which basically means if you work for a non-profit organization you probably are not covered by FLSA.  I think this would include the vast majority of Christian and other religious organizations as well as several non-religious organizations.

It is possible that you could be covered under the individual provision provided you are involved in interstate commerce which is defined as, “ the production of goods for commerce or activities closely related and directly essential to the production of goods for commerce. Examples of such interstate commerce activities include making/receiving interstate telephone calls, shipping materials to another state and transporting persons or property to another state.” 

This provision has been very confusing for me as well as others.  I have always wondered if one interstate phone call covered me under FLSA?  I think this letter answers the question. “As a practical matter, the WHD will not assert that an employee who on isolated occasions spends an insubstantial amount of time performing individually covered work is individually covered by the FLSA. Individual coverage will not be asserted for house parents or other employees who occasionally devote insubstantial amounts of time to:  Receiving/making interstate telephone calls; 

  Receiving/sending interstate mail or electronic communications;  Since, ….., most of the childcare staff members do not supervise other employees, the childcare staff members at issue would not meet the executive exemption under either the old or revised rule.” 

 Making bookkeeping entries related to interstate commerce.” 

I suppose now the question is “what is insubstantial?” But I imagine it covers most of us.

It is also very clear that calling houseparent managers or supervisors does not exempt them as Executives. ”

Nor are we covered under the “Learned Professional Exemption”, “Since there is no information provided that shows the work performed by the childcare staff members requires knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning, which is customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction, we believe the childcare staff members at issue do not qualify for the learned professional exemption under either the old or revised rule. 

Finally Single Houseparents are not covered by the “nonprofit educational institution House Parent Exemption” – “we conclude that the section 13(b)(24) exemption would not apply to unmarried individuals. Any changes to the section 13(b)(24) requirements, such as allowing for unmarried individuals who perform duties similar to those of house parents to be eligible for the overtime pay exemption, would be a matter for legislative determination by the Congress.”

Finally Single Houseparents are not covered by the “nonprofit educational institution House Parent Exemption” – “we conclude that the section 13(b)(24) exemption would not apply to unmarried individuals. Any changes to the section 13(b)(24) requirements, such as allowing for unmarried individuals who perform duties similar to those of house parents to be eligible for the overtime pay exemption, would be a matter for legislative determination by the Congress.”

Here is the summary of the letter: “In summary, the enterprise provisions of the FLSA do not cover private nonprofit institutions providing care for neglected and dependent children, if such institution is not operated in conjunction with a hospital, residential care facility, school or a commercial enterprise operated for a business purpose. If a member organization of the Name* is not covered on an enterprise basis, then it would need to determine if individual coverage applies to its employees. Only if enterprise or individual coverage exists should the employer ascertain whether an exemption under the FLSA is applicable. As discussed above, provided enterprise or individual coverage exists, it is our opinion that neither the executive nor the professional exemption would apply to the childcare staff members who work as house parents. In addition, the section 13(b)(24) exemption from overtime pay would be inapplicable to childcare staff members who, although they perform duties similar to those of house parents, are not married.” 

I have been in the company of several houseparents that complained about their salary, I have even done it myself.  Something to the extent, “This sucks, I don’t even make minimum wage.”  However I can honestly say that in every houseparenting position I have ever accepted, the money in my paycheck equalled what the administration that hired me said it would.  In fact I can only think of one other houseparent where it wasn’t and in their case it was corrected within weeks and made retroactive.  I am a firm believer in doing better for yourself when possible and I have seen wages and benefits raise considerably in the 9 years I have been a houseparent, and that is great. 

I am not sure how to end this entry so I will end with this.  Houseparents may have many things to complain about,  but if you are being paid what they said you would be paid when you were hired, salary is not one of them.  I also have another blog entry on Houseparent Salaries.

I have posted the complete text of the letter on my site.  Here is a link 

Text in Quotation marks and small print are taken directly from DOL Opinion Letter FLSA2005-52 dated: November 14, 2005 which is part of the public domain.  All other parts of this blog entry are copyright 2006 by The Houseparent Network

Feeling Trapped!!

I know some people read my site and think I am some sort of wack job, but I imagine others might think I am some super houseparent.  I assure you I am not, although I don’t think I am a wacko either, but who knows.  I do know that right now I am not feeling like a very good houseparent.  I am feeling totally overwhelmed, and honestly not sure being a houseparent is the best career for me.  I am sure none of you have ever felt this way.

 I have four children that I have been with for almost 5 years now that may be leaving this summer.  Three with their birth mom and a fourth with a foster family.  I have grown quite attached to these children and though I pretend that their leaving doesn’t bother me, deep down inside it really hurts.  I have a 5th child who has been with us for 1.5 years that I know for sure is leaving this summer that seems very much to be in a downward spiral.  Though his behavior here at the house has changed little at school it has become bad both behaviorally and academically. He has gone from “A” Honor role at semester to hopefully being able to pass the 3rd grade. All the kids are sick of school and keeping them focused for the nest 6 to 8 weeks is going to be struggle (I know this because it happens every year).  Spring and Summer is approaching with all the activity and PR that comes with it.

I very much would like to write positive things for the website, but it seems the ideas are few and far between.  Honestly, it doesn’t seem like I have much time to even contemplate any.  I have even considered the possibility of selling it a few times these last few weeks and trying my hand and something else (there are several other skills I have). 

Which by the way, because there are so many things I can do, it seems like everybody is asking me to do them.  “Mike can you fix this?” or “Mike can you fix that?”  “I am having a problem with this, can you help?”  With the exception of the 6 hours on Sunday (Church & NASCAR) that belong to God and I, it seems like all my other time belongs to somebody else.

The only reason I don’t do a Forrest Gump thing (though I would have to walk NOT Run) and run out to the end of the road, town, county, state, country and back a few times is that:

  1. I would probably have a heart attack before I got to the end of the road from spending too much time in front of this computer.
  2. Because I have felt this way before; that it will most likely pass and things will get better again.
  3. My wife won’t let me.
  4. I know that this is what I am supposed to do and there are just enough glimpses of hope to keep me going.  (My highlight of the evening was working with our 6 year old and teaching him how to tie his shoes.  He was very exited when he was able to do it.)

I hope this is helpful to some of you out there.  If you are feeling a little discouraged, take heart, even the webmaster of The Houseparent Network gets that way too!!

IN RE GAULT 387 U.S. 1 – ARGUED DECEMBER 6, 1966. – DECIDED MAY 15, 1967

Sometime before 10 A.M. on June 8, 1964, Gerald Gault and his friend Ronald Lewis called up a neighbor, Mrs. Cook, and made lewd remarks of the irritatingly offensive, adolescent, sex variety.  She got offended, called the Sheriff’s Office and made a complaint.  Gerald and Ronald were taken into custody at 10 A.M. by the Gila County Sheriff’s Office.  To add to Gerald’s misfortune, he was already on probation for an incident with another friend.  He was placed on 6 months probation on February 25, 1964, as a result of his having been in the company of another boy who had stolen a wallet from a lady’s purse.

There was no attempt to contact Gerald’s parents when he was arrested.  It wasn’t until after 6 O’clock when they got home from work that they knew anything was wrong.  They sent Gerald’s brother over to the trailer house where the Lewis lived to look for Gerald.  It was then that they found out he had been arrested and taken to the children’s detention home.  Gerald’s mother and brother went to the detention home to try and get some information.  The deputy probation officer, Flagg, who was also superintendent of the detention home, told Mrs. Gault why Jerry was there and said that a hearing would be held in juvenile court at 3 O’clock the following day, June 9, 1964.  It was.”  At that hearing officer Flagg filed a petition to have Gerald declared a delinquent.  The Gaults were not informed of this petition.

Gerald was not released from custody until June 11th or 12th and his parents were informed of his pending release by a note left at their house by Officer Flagg.  This handwritten note was also their notification of Gerald’s pending delinquency hearing on June 15th, 1964.

At the hearing, without any witnesses and a dispute as to what role Gerald actually played in the call, he was sentenced as a juvenile delinquent to the state industrial school for the period of his minority (that is, until 21), unless sooner discharged by due process of law.  An adult found guilty of the same crime would have received a $5-$50 fine or imprisonment for not more than 2 months.

Feeling that their son had received unfair treatment Gerald’s parents got a lawyer and filed a “Writ of Habeas Corpus”.  A Writ of Habeas Corpus is basically a procedure that initiates a court hearing.  It is used most often to contest what is believed to be an improper or illegal imprisonment.   The Arizona Supreme Court denied the writ but the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Gaults and held:

  1. “Kent V. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 562 (1966), held that the waiver hearing must measure up to the essentials of due process and fair treatment.  This view is reiterated, here in connection with a juvenile court adjudication of Delinquency, as a requirement which is part of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment of our constitution.  The holding in this case relates only to the adjudicatory stage of the juvenile process, where commitment to a state institution may follow”
  2. “Due process requires, in such proceedings, that adequate written notice be afforded the child and his parents or guardian.  Such notice must inform them of the specific issues that they must meet and must be given at the earliest practicable time, and in any event sufficiently in advance of the hearing to permit preparation.  Notice here was neither timely nor adequately specific, nor was there waiver of the right to constitutionally adequate notice.”
  3. “In such proceedings the child and his parents must be advised of their right to be represented by counsel and, if they are unable to afford counsel, that counsel will be appointed to represent the child.”
  4. “The constitutional privilege against self-incrimination is applicable in such proceedings”
  5. “Absent a valid confession, a juvenile in such proceedings must be afforded the rights of confrontation and sworn testimony of witnesses available for cross-examination.”
  6. “Other questions raised by appellants, including the absence of provision for appellate review of a delinquency adjudication, and a transcript of the proceedings, are not ruled upon.”

I am no legal scholar, but my understanding is that under this ruling a juvenile court proceeding is now held to the same rules as an adult court proceeding.  I have read several authors that see this case as the event that changed juvenile justice from that of a civil proceeding that focused on rehabilitation to a criminal proceeding that is more focused on punishment.  I think it is just one of many cases that have shaped juvenile justice into what it is today.  It wasn’t long after this that many juvenile justice systems were so overwhelmed with court proceedings that they weren’t able to focus on the lesser crimes and reach children early in their criminal careers. 

I also believe it was one of many cases that have caused juvenile justice to come almost full circle to what it was before there were juvenile justice systems.  Think about the situation today when you read this next part which is also part of the same 1967 Supreme Court Ruling (emphasis mine): 

The early reformers were appalled by adult procedures and penalties, and by the fact that children could be given long prison sentences and mixed in jails with hardened criminals.  They were profoundly convinced that society’s duty to the child could not be confined by the concept of justice alone.  They believed that society’s role was not to ascertain whether the child was guilty or  innocent, but what is he, how has he become what he is, and what had best be done in his interest and in the interest of the state to save him from a downward career.  The child “ essentially good, as they saw it “ was to be made to feel that he is the object of the state’s care and solicitude, not that he was under arrest or on trial.  The rules of criminal procedure were therefore altogether inapplicable.  The apparent rigidities, technicalities, and harshness which they observed in both substantive and procedural criminal law were therefore to be discarded.  The idea of crime and punishment was to be abandoned.  The child was to be treated and rehabilitated and the procedures from apprehension though institutionalization, were to be clinical rather than punitive.  The ruling continues on and in my opinion says that the whole rehabilitation focus was misdirected and the results have not been entirely satisfactory

I believe Gerald Gault was probably treated unfairly by the local judge and received somewhat of a harsh sentence.  But he was definitely headed down a bad path having been arrested twice in just a few months.  It was also a time when juvenile justice systems didn’t wait until they committed a violent crime to do something.  Finally he would not have been required to serve the entire 6 years in the state school; the school could have released him when they felt he was rehabilitated.  I do think that this along with other cases has done little to improve the juvenile justice system and may have made it much worse by requiring it to mirror the adult system.  Today it seems that the children are ignored when they are younger and involved in lesser crimes only to have them become involved in more violent and hardened criminal activity, thus resulting in long prison sentences and mixed in jails with hardened criminals.

If you don’t believe me talk to any experienced houseparent or residential worker that works in a behavioral modification program and they will tell you how much more hardened the children being placed are today than they were even a few years ago let alone back in 1964

The entire Supreme Court ruling can be viewed at: just use the keyword gault in the search engine.  It will be the first result.

You can find many other opinions and commentaries about this case by typing “In Re Gault” into any search engine.

Items within quotation marks taken directly from the ruling.

New Book Review

I have just posted my latest book review:

Family-Centered Services in Residential Treatment: New Approaches for Group Care — By: John Y. Powell (Editor)
Family-Centered Services in Residential Treatment is a collection of articles, speeches, and interviews. The editor uses these to present the concept, philosophy and need of family centered services from different perspectives to include clinicians, administrators, direct care staff, parents and children formerly in placement.
I very much enjoyed this book and the editor did a very good job further selling me on family centered services…………..

I have four new books on order:
“Raising Other People’s Kids: A Guide for Houseparents, Foster Parents, and Direct Care Staff”
Moving In: Ten Successful Independent/Transitional Living Programs
(An independent living book)
Raising Cain (Challenges failings in the legal, welfare, and mental health system that undermine the best interests of foster and adoptive children)

When I finish with them I will share my thoughts with you.

Reaction to Disappointment.

Today should be a very good day for me and for the most part was.  Out of the three children in my house that competed in local science fairs, two won their local fairs and competed in the State Regional Science Fair today.  This was my birth daughter’s second consecutive year to compete in the regional and she won the physics division this year for her age group.  She was so excited and still has not removed the gold medal from around her neck.  It is good to see her determination to do better pay off after not placing at all at the divisional fair last year. 

 Which is a stark contrast to how the young man with us reacted to the disappointment of losing today. 

For the last three weeks he has been so excited about winning his local 3rd grade fair and competing at the regional fair.  And though he does have some behavioral issues he was really well behaved, up to the end of the awards presentation.  After not winning any awards, he became very disappointed and rather than resolve to work harder and do better next year, he began to explain how miserable he was all day today and the only fun was being able to play gameboy while everyone else was in school.  When asked what thoughts he had about today, he said he pretty much hated the whole day, and next year he was thinking up his own project.

He has only lived with us for a year, comes from a very troubled family situation and is a victim of incarcerated parents, so I am not real surprised at his reaction to disappointment.  I think what will make a difference for him will be how I react to his reaction of disappointment.  Should he still be with us next year (he could go back to his birth mother this summer, once she completes her transition) I could just blow him off and work with one of the numerous other children on campus with their projects.  (I am not a super genius or anything but I am very creative, mechanical and handy so all the kids come to me for help with things like science fair projects, pinewood derby cars, shop projects, etc.  I am extremely limited on time so the majority of the help I provide is consultation services.  There are very few I am able to help directly and they are mostly the ones that live with me in my house though all the children on campus want it.)

Or I can continue to encourage him and let him know I am not disappointed in the outcome of the fair.  My response to his thinking up his own project was, “That’s fine, if you come up with a project idea, I will be happy to help you where I can.”  In the mean time I will help him think of ways he can improve the project he did this year, which he picked out by the way, so that he can expand on it and do better next year.  I will reinforce that I am proud of his effort and encourage him to keep trying.

Hopefully next year he will win, but if he doesn’t, I at least hope he will have some new skills to deal with disappointment.