Milton Hershey School Alumnus, Staff Member Shares the Impact of Houseparents

By Roger Smith, MHS Class of 1985, Student Program Leader 

I came to Milton Hershey School from Brooklyn, New York as a ninth-grader. I was born in Trinidad and Tobago, and my mother immigrated to New York to pave her way. My siblings and I stayed with our family in Trinidad, so it was a sacrifice for my mother to leave her kids to seek a better opportunity for us. The same thing happened when the opportunity of MHS came along for me—she trusted that MHS and its houseparents would take care of her son. I could tell right off the bat that my houseparents were at MHS to make a difference in students’ lives. And when you feel that as a student, it brings comfort.

Milton Hershey School staff and alumnus Roger Smith shares his story with MHS houseparents

I remember when my houseparents first moved into the student home, we were all watching. They moved in 10 pieces of cooking equipment, so we all knew we were going to eat well. They had such a passion to take care of their kids. They taught me how to cook because that is a lifelong skill. Everything they did was with love.

There are some houseparents at MHS that have known me since I was a student. Houseparents are at the forefront of changing students’ lives. I now try to carry that out in my own role at MHS. I want to be a strong figure that students can look up to just like I looked up to my houseparents when I was a student.

2021 Houseparent Salary Comparison

Like many things that didn’t happen in 2020, the 2020 Salary Comparison was one of them. I am back on track this year and just completed the 2021 salary comparison and it has mostly good results.

The top salary has gone up considerably. The low salary is down $1000, which puts it back to where it was in 2018. The median average is only up slightly, but the mean average is up considerably. Salaries went up in every region except one, and in the regions they are up, they are up considerably. In addition several facilities are giving incentives, both sign-on and longevity bonuses which also raise overall salaries.

In doing the 2021 salary comparison, I went through my database of all job listings posted on The Houseparent Network in the last 12 months.  If a facility had more than one job listing during that time, I kept only the most recent.  I had 115 different facilities that have posted job listings in the past year (A decrease of 33 facilities over 2019).  Of those, 72 facilities posted salaries (6 less than 2019), the rest posted things like competitive or negotiable, etc.  Stuff I couldn’t work with.

Before I give my numbers here is my disclaimer:
Note: Let me start by saying that this is not a scientific sampling based on all the facilities in the country, but I think it is still a close representation of the average salaries throughout the country. All salaries listed are per individual.  If you are paid as a couple multiply these averages by two to compare it to your salary.  Also, many facilities listed a range of salaries, so I also express my averages as a range.  I am also making the assumption that the salary listed by the facility is the cash salary and not total package

I also suspect that the true average is less than what these numbers indicate, because I suspect that many of the facilities that don’t post a salary are in the lower range. However, you can’t just assume that because they don’t list a salary, their salary is low.  When my wife and I considered coming back and accepted a position in 2015, we talked to two other facilities that did NOT list salaries.  They were both in the $50,000 range for couples, the average couples salary at the time was around $46,000.  The position we accepted was actually lower than both those salaries, but was a better fit for our situation.

You also need to remember that when considering a position there are many more considerations than just salary.  You also have to consider benefits, schedule, living accommodations, and the difficulty of the children you are caring for.  If one facility pays a salary of $45,000 per year and also provides full family health insurance, you may be better off than a facility that pays $55,000 and only pays toward your individual insurance.  In our situation, we were paying over $11,000 a year for family health insurance prior to accepting a previous position, we paid less than a $1,500. That is an instant pay raise of over $9,000. A good retirement plan can also add several thousand dollars to a salary each year. Look at the whole package, not just the salary. That said, let’s get to the numbers.

Mean average salary for an individual houseparent$28,678 – 30,624 per year$25,113 – 26,263 per year
Median average (half the salaries are less, half are more) salary for an individual houseparent$27,000 per year$25,000 per year
Mean average of top 25% of salaries using the low single salary column for calculating the top 25%$40,499 – 42,638$33,635-34,177
Mean average of top 25% of salaries using the high single salary column for calculating the top 25%$40,013 – 44,097$32,435-35,319
Mean average of bottom 25% of salaries using the low single salary column for calculating the bottom 25%$18,864 – 19,858$17,813-18,563
Mean average of bottom 25% of salaries using the high single salary column for calculating the bottom 25%$19,106 – 19,384$17,697 – 18,224
Region 1: Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana – Mean Average$27,773 – 28,728$23,607 – 24,284
Region 2: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia- Mean Average$33,207 – 35,513$29,0143 – 32,702
Region 3: Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin- Mean Average$29,102 – 30,540$23,750 – 24,250
Region 4: Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii – Mean Average$32,635 – 37,548$28,633 – 31,912
Region 5: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico – Mean Average$24,257 – 25,100$25,027 – 25,321

 The Top salary is $60,000 which is $15,000 more than 2019 and was for a single houseparent position. The top salary for couples was $100,000 a $10,000 increase over 2019.  The bottom salary is $12,000 per year, which is a $1,000 decrease of the bottom salary in 2019.