Three Administrators That Are Difficult to Work With

In the many years I have been a houseparent, I have worked for many different administrators.  Some have been outstanding, others, well not so great.  However, most have been at least acceptable and I have enjoyed working with them.  Thinking about this the last couple of days, I have decided of all the administrators I have known, there are three types that are difficult to work with:  The Sasquatch, The Gestapo, and The Impersonator.

With the Sasquatch administrators, you believe they exist, some people swear that they have seen one, there may be pictures of them or some other evidence of them, but you wonder if they are not just some legend, because you never see them.

The Sasquatch administrator may be a great person, and very easy to get along with, but they are difficult to work with because every time you need them you can’t find them.  They may be off doing other business of the facility like PR or Development, but it doesn’t matter, because when you have a child in the middle of a melt down all you care about is that somebody is there to assist you or give you guidance.  It may also be that there are multiple campus’ and they are spread thin dealing with things in other places.  Problem is – a crisis don’t seem to schedule itself around the days you have admin on your campus.

Experienced houseparents are much better equipped to work with Sasquatch administrators, because after a while there just isn’t a whole lot that they haven’t seen. Besides, what I hear from many experienced houseparents is that they just want to be left alone anyways.

I think the most difficult administrator to work with is the Gestapo Administrator.  They are the exact opposite of the Sasquatch.  They are constantly in your business, they direct every single aspect of your home, and it seems like they are watching everything you do.  They are the epitome of Micro-managers.

As much as I like structure and routine, there is definitely a line that when crossed, makes life pretty miserable.  About the only houseparent that can make it for very long under a Gestapo Administrator is a complete Newbie.  However, once they become more experienced they will also come to resent all the control.

The Impersonator is the administrator that may or may not have had a promising career as a businessman, pastor, teacher or whatever and decides one day to become a residential childcare administrator.  In some places all you need to be an administrator is a 4 year degree from an accredited college/university.  It would make me feel a lot better if the places that hired them at least required a degree in social services or something, but that is not always the case.

I have worked with impersonators that have been great people.  They were easy to get along with, and genuinely cared about the staff and children.  The problem was that they really had no clue about the behaviors of the children, the demands on the staff, or what expectations are realistic.  Of course I also worked once for a Gestapo Impersonator, fortunately for me he went back to his previous career, before I found a new position at another facility. 

The good thing about Impersonators, is that with time they gain experience and can become good at what they do, it’s just no fun being the experienced houseparents that try to get them there.  For those with military experience, it’s kind of like being the sergeant with the brand new 2nd Lieutenant fresh out of the academy.

Thinking about the bad administrators I have worked for, I would just like to say “THANKS” to the good ones.  It is because of you, I have made it as long as I have taking care of the neglected, abused and troubled youth of our society.

The Demise of “Ask Mike”

I started the “Ask Mike’ Column when I cancelled the forum a few years ago.  I still wanted to have a way for people to get information and a way for others to contribute in a closely moderated way.  At the time it was a success and has been a help to several people, but with the newly added (well fairly new) Community there really is no reason to continue it.

If you have questions you would like to ask, please join “The Houseparent Network Community” join the discussion and ask your question there.  We have several members that are very knowledgeable and I hope would love to share with you.  If you have information please share it.

For those that would like to add comments to any of the questions/answers previously posted in the “Ask Mike” section join the blog and share it here.

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Learnin’ Guitar


I have always wanted to play the guitar.  For as long as I can remember it was something I wanted to do.  I want to be able to pull out the guitar at a campfire with the kids, lead a song or two at a holiday party, or even lead worship at my local Church.  So recently I made the step, I bought a new Les Paul Guitar and amp (a beginners model, not one of those $1500 studio models, though when I become more than proficient I’m going to have one), found some good video lessons online, and started practicing.  I have been playing for almost a month and practice, on average, an hour a day.  Though when we had our semi-annual board meeting and all I had to do was wait around all day in my nice clothes for about 30 minutes of schmoozing with the board, I practiced about 4 hours, and my fingers were raw afterward.

Anyway after a month I still basically suck, I am a total beginner.  I know about 15 different chords, of which I get fingered tied most of the time when I try to transition between them.  I can do some of my scales, and I can play the theme to the “pink panther” and “La Bamba” with several errors, though I am way better than I was two weeks ago. 

Funny thing is that taking the step to learn how to play changes your perception when you listen music.  I used to listen to the radio and hear these awesome guitar riffs, and think to myself that would be really cool to be able to learn how to play, not realizing how hard it would be.  Now I listen to the same songs and think to myself, maybe if I keep working on my lessons and practice everyday, I might be able to play like that in 5 or 10 years.  By the time I’m good enough to be a rock star, I will be playing at AARP events to all my fellow seniors.  My wife is having a real hard time picturing me, in skin tight Lycra jumpsuits and long curly grey hair, with a natural mullet because I am bald on top.  Frankly, I guess, so am I.

Funny thing with me is that all things lead back to houseparenting and as I was listening to the radio today, and thinking, “there is no way, with me being a beginner guitarist that I would get a gig playing a concert in front of thousands of people, I would need way more training and experience before that; yet everyday there are places that will hire new houseparents, give them a couple hours of training or no training at all, turn them loose caring for children that have been hurt, abused, neglected, taught all kinds of antisocial behaviors, etc., and then expect them to be successful.”

I have seen many potentially good houseparents fail, because they did not have the training they needed to be effective houseparents.  They didn’t receive training to deal with the many different situations or behaviors they were facing.  Being a houseparent is an incredibly difficult job, it has taken me over 12 years to be moderately proficient at it, and I truly wish I would have had more training when I started, maybe I would be better at it now.

Anyway, my point to all of this rambling is this.  If you are an administrator, train your staff.  The better trained they are, the easier your job of managing them will be.  If you are a houseparent looking for a position, I can tell you that, “the better the training is before you start in the house, the easier the job will be once you get into the house.”  Keep that in mind when you are looking for a position.  If you are a houseparent like me, that started with little training, do what you can to improve your training: read Books (I have reviewed many here on the site), visit some of the websites of childcare organizations and find resources that they have.  Many will have articles that help.  Attend conferences if possible.  Do what you can to train yourself, because the better trained you are the easier your job will be.  I truly believe that!!

Review Mirror (An Easier Way to Keep an EYE on the Children)

I got used to the big Ol’ mirror I had in my mini-bus to keep an eye on the children that sat behind me as we traved.  It was just like the one on school buses that the driver used to catch you picking on the kid in front of you back when you were a kid.  Last spring they took my bus away and gave me a 12 passenger van.  I quickly released that I had no idea what was going on behind me as I drove down the road and honestly it made me real uncomfortable.

I pondered it for a couple of weeks and thought about using one of those mirrors that parents use to watch their newborn in the back seat, mounting a mirror to a GPS suction cup mount, building my own suction cup mount out of the broken one that came with my satellite radio, etc.  Then baby mirror wasn’t practical because it was too small.  I was too cheap to spend the $49 for the GPS mount, and I just didn’t have time to build my own, considering all the time I had already wasted researching my previous ideas.

Standing in the middle of Advance Auto Parts it came to me.  I could do the whole thing for about $20 and I didn’t have to build anything. 

I bought a cheap replacement rear-view mirror and a clip on wide-angle mirror. I already had the glue to mount the rear-view mirror at home.  It is not included with the mirror.  I mounted the rear-view above the original mirror following the directions that came with the glue and then placed the clip-on mirror over it.  I was able to keep the factory mirror adjusted for driving and adjusted the new mirror for maximum vision of the passenger area. 

A quick glance up at the mirror and I could easily tell who was wrestling in the back or who didn’t have their seat-belt on. 

The only negative I could find was that the mirror hindered the use of the sun visor, but I rarely use my visor anyway and the extra vision I had out weighed my loss of sun-visor functionality.  A hidden plus was that I could see the blind spot on the passenger side of the van better with the new mirror.  This was handy when I was passing other vehicles.

Here is a view of the back with the mirror.

Here is a view of the back with the mirror. Click to view larger version.

Stuck With ME!!!

Launchpad called me yesterday to let me know that he had accepted a new position in Washington DC.  Because of that, he is not going to have a lot of time to blog the next couple of months, so I guess you will just have to be stuck with me for the most part.  I will try to come up with some good stuff on a regular basis while he gets relocated and settled.

I asked him to blog whenever he can until he can blog regular again and he thought he could get two or three entries a month and will be back regular in January 2009. 

In the mean time I make this offer to any administrator.  Send me an article of at least 400 words that you will allow me to publish and I will give you a FREE 3-month Standard Job Listing or a $60 credit toward any other job listing for your facility plus a free One Year Membership to the “Members Only” Section where you will have access to my directory and where members have posted their resumes.

E-mail the article to me at in either Microsoft Word/Works,  Rich Text Format, or as a PDF document.  If I decide to publish it, I will send you a release form.  Upon completion of the release form I will publish the article and issue the credit.  Your article will be published in the blog and may also be published in the articles section of the website.

Depending on the success of this, I may even continue it after Launchpad returns.

Larry Hatchett Fishing Foundation/Destin Fishing Rodeo

We got back from our annual pilgrimage to Destin, Florida on Sunday and even though I was exhausted it was a great trip, I think our best one yet. 

Kimarri with his Fish at the weigh in

This was the third year that the “Larry Hatchett Fishing Foundation” has invited children from my facility to participate in their annual fishing trip.  They brought us down on Thursday the 9th and arranged for us, as well as over 130 other kids from residential facilities and foster homes from all over the south, to stay at a very nice resort right on the beach.  We were able to spend Friday on the beach swimming in the gulf and watching the dolphins swimming just off shore.  That alone was a great sight.  I got into a little bit of trouble with the lifeguard, when I swam out on my boogie board to get a closer look.  My wife was sure to point out after we got back that I was the only kid to get in trouble the whole weekend.

We went fishing on Saturday, and even though the seas were so rough that about half the boat lost their breakfast, snack and lunch over the rail, myself, my wife, one other staff member, and 7 of our kids included, the fishing was great.  In fact two of our kids caught fish big enough make it onto the leader board.

A nine year old from another cottage caught a 7 pound Triggerfish, and is in first place for the junior category (12 and under).  The rodeo runs until the end of October but he has a very good chance of holding that top spot, because since 2000 there has only been one other trigger fish that was larger in his division.  It was a 7.4 pound fish caught in 2005.  All the other fish were under 6 pounds.

Rebecca with her Trigger

Rebecca with her Trigger

My daughter Rebecca is the big story from the weekend.  She caught a 10.4 pound Triggerfish and is in first place in the Open Division.  Her fish is the largest Trigger that has been entered in the Rodeo since at least 2000.  They have results posted on their website since then.

Captain Jim Westbrook, of the “New Florida Girl” fishing Boat says that it is the biggest Trigger he has seen in the 20 years he has been fishing out of Destin.

On top of the big fish that were caught, there were a bunch of fish caught by all the children that were there.  Enough that we had a huge fish fry Saturday evening, and nobody left hungry!!!

I would like to publicly thank all the volunteers of the “Larry Hatchett Fishing Foundation”, Captain Jim and all the hands on the “New Florida Girl”, and all the sponsors that help make this event possible so that kids, that probably would otherwise never get this opportunity, can experience one of the most memorable times of their life.



Many from our group at the weigh in. John is holding his King Mackerel. He caught the first fish of the day.

Here is the boat we fish from.  Notice how it is sitting in such calm water before the trip.

Here is the boat we fished from. Notice how it is sitting in such calm water before the trip.

Tiffany, from our cottage, with one of the Red Snappers she caught that day.

Tiffany, from our cottage, with one of the Red Snappers she caught that day.