Question #25 – 6/12/2010 – What Are The Requirements for Single Houseparents?

 I was just wondering if you knew how hard it is to become a houseparent? I know it would be pretty demanding to be one, but I was wondering what the requirements usually are, like how much experience you need. Would there be any chance of a single 21 year old getting a job or do most places want older people? And if you were single, would you have to do relief work, or could you actually be in charge (or partly in charge) of a cottage? Rebecca B.

Mike’s Response

The requirements to be a houseparent vary greatly by facility.   All that I know of require at least a High School Diploma or GED however, some facilities require a college degree. All require that you be at least 21 years old, many require that you be 23 or 25 because of insurance issues.  Most require that you be able to drive, so that you can take children to their appointments.  Some require that you pass extensive training before you start working others will turn you loose with no training.  It just depends on the facility and the State the facility is located in.

As a general rule, in most live in facilities, singles work as assistants and relief staff, however that is not always the case.  Some facilities will pair up singles into teams that serve as primary houseparents.  I know of a facility in Florida where most of the staff is single males.  Another option for singles is to work in facilities that do shift work.  All the staff work as one team and it doesn’t matter if you are single or not.

And yes being a houseparent is one of the most demanding jobs I have ever had, but it also has been one of the most rewarding.  I have had the opportunity to travel around the country and work in different facilities as I explored our country.  I have also made some outstanding friends with the various staff members I have worked with.  But most importantly, I was able to make a difference in the lives of many children, some that I continue a relationship with today, years after they or I have left the facility. 

If you really want to be a houseparent or residential childcare work, chances are pretty good that there is a facility out there that could use you.

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.

Question #24 – 6/12/2010 – What to do for Bedtime Problems!!!!

 My husband and I just became houseparents this past Sunday! All is going well, except for some issues with one 4 year old girl. She has been at this facility since she was 1. She is believed to have Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and there is some sexual abuse in her past. The biggest problem we are having with her is bedtime. She goes into a total temper tantrum every night and naptime. She will tense up and we have to carry her to bed, kicking and screaming. Then there’s the hour long pattern of her getting out of bed and us repeating the whole thing over again. She is actually a very sweet girl the rest of the time. Any advice on how to handle this? I really want her to feel comfortable at night. We have a good bedtime routine of baths, Bible, songs, etc. But it’s still not working 🙁

Mike’s Response

It all boils down to two things:  Consistency and Time.  Let me answer your question with a story.

Several years ago we had a young lady that came to live with us.  She had just had her first birthday and was completely hand spoiled.  She never had a bed time and was just allowed to go to sleep when she chose.  Our fist night with her was horrible and after about two hours of screaming, my wife got her out of bed and spent the next two hours rocking her to sleep.  The next night was a repeat of the first. 

I convinced my wife that we needed to let her stay in bed until she finally went to sleep and get her in a routine of having a bedtime.  She wasn’t very good at listening to her cry and wasn’t looking forward to it at all.  Fortunately for us we were on relief when she arrived and came to stay with us in the relief apartment.  We had four days until we had to go back to the cottage so I had four days to work through this.  (Side note it didn’t happen in four days, but)  The next evening I sent my wife and birth children to the movie and stayed home with our young lady to put her to bed.

Before my wife left she gave her a bath, and got her ready for bed.  I then spent some time rocking and snuggling with her.  Then we went back to the room where her bed was set up.  I spent a few more minutes holding her and then laid her in bed.  She immediately started crying and throwing a fit.  It continued for over four hours.  I would come back and check on her and find her standing up in her crib screaming.  I would then lay her back down, say good night and walk back out of the room.  I tried not to go into the room too often, but if she saw me checking on her I didn’t want her to think I was going to get her up.  She finally went to sleep, but it turned out that the movie wasn’t near long enough, my wife still had to listen to her scream for an hour or so.

For the next few nights it was almost a repeat of the previous night.  When we went back to the cottage it would still go on for over two hours every night.  After a couple of weeks we had it down to about an hour and after about a month it was down to ten or fifteen minutes.  She was only with us for about 5 months, but even on the night before she left, we would go through our normal routine with bath, pajamas, snuggling and rocking, and finally our final snuggle in her room before I laid her down for bed.  In which case she would cry for two or three minutes and then go to sleep.

That whole time we, mostly me, remained patient and just remained consistent.  We did bed time the same every night and it eventually got easier.  Through the process that young lady stole my heart and I still find it hard to describe my love for her without chocking up, but getting her into a bedtime routine was extremely difficult and time consuming.

You just have to stay patient and consistent.

 If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.

Question #23 – 5/29/2010 – Convincing the Family?

 My husband and I are looking in to becoming houseparents in south Texas. My husband has been a school teacher in Texas for 25 years. He was also a youth minister part time. We have 2 grown sons and a 12 year old son that I am homeschooling now. My parents are so against us pursuing this because they are afraid something will happen real bad to our son. I understand there concerns, but I want to at least go to the home and check it out. Any advice on things to look for in the home to make my parents feel better. My son is my number 1 concern, but i see it as more of a positive thing than a danger. Thank you for anything you can say to help us.


Mike’s Response

Convincing the family can sometimes be difficult.  When we became houseparents we had friends that thought we were joining some kind of cult. 

We have been houseparents for 14 years so my children have grown up in residential care and for the most part it has been a positive experience for them.  My daughter has caught the bug and wants to go a step further and work in children’s homes in Mexico.

Before giving you some advice about convincing the family let me share some advice about the facility you should look at if you are going into this with children.  You want to find a facility this is strictly a residential foster care or basic care facility.  I would avoid any type of therapeutic facility.  The behaviors that have to be dealt with in those facilities are just too much to expose your children to.  We worked our first to years in a group home that had mostly juvenile delinquents, and although we learned a ton about being a houseparent, we also exposed our kids to some pretty bad stuff.  The day the young lady that was coming down off of a meth high threatened to slash my children’s throats with her broken mirror was the day I realized it was time to do something different.

We have spent the last 12 years (11 at one place) working in homes that were basically residential foster care. Our children have never been assaulted or abused, though it’s not all roses either.  They will be living with children that have street experience and have some behaviors that they otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to, at least  in the home, if they were not living with them.  Our son learned to smoke, and took on some of the behaviors of the less compliant children in the home like: drinking, sneaking out, and skipping school.

I’m probably not helping your case much so far, but on a more positive note.  We have built relationships with two children we have cared for that will continue for the rest of our lives, they now consider us their parents and our children their siblings.  Our children were to able to experience recreational activities that we never could have provided for them if we were not houseparents:  Camps, amusement parks, fishing trips, etc.  We as parents were able to spend more time with our children.  Though they had to share us with 8-10 other kids, we were there for all their school stuff and they never had to come home to an empty house because their parents were at work somewhere.

There is a whole category in the “forum archive” devoted to staff/birth children that will give you a lot more information and should be helpful.  Many of the posts deal directly with this subject.

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.

“Ask Mike” Column


I have brought back the ability to ask NEW questions for the “Ask Mike” column.  If you have a question and can’t find the answer elsewhere on the site feel free to submit your question to me.

Who is Mike you might ask.  I am the webmaster and creator of  The Houseparent Network.  I have over 15 years experience raising other people’s children, 13 of those years as a houseparent.  I research and follow trends in foster and residential care, and have worked in behavioral modification and residential foster care facilities in three different states.

I don’t have all the answers but I am pretty good at finding them, so feel free to ask.

CLICK HERE to go the “Ask Mike” Submission Form.

 and you may be able to find additional information and others to help you with your question.

Question #22 – 4/10/2008 – We have Three Small Children-Any Possibilities?

My husband and I are pastoring at a church right now and are very much feeling like houseparenting of some kind is a right fit for our next area of ministry. After a short time of looking into houseparenting I’m quickly realizing that we may just have too many kiddos ourselves to be of great help to a children’s home of any kind. Though I’m not giving up on the dream of my husband and I serving in this way someday, I was wondering if you feel we should put it to rest for the time being. Our girls are 5,3 and almost 2… but we feel very experienced and able to offer a lot due to our youth ministry background and because of how drawn we both are to parenting full-time and looking into foster care. The whole houseparenting idea just jolted us both several weeks ago and we just can’t shake it… but– so far, “not possible” has been the answer due to our biological kids. I 100% understand… just wondering if we should think toward 20 years fr! om now instead of now.

Thanks so much,

Mike’s Response

I can tell you that having three small children is going to extremely limit the number of facilities that will hire you.  Also, when you consider the age of your children, there are many programs you shouldn’t even consider, mostly therapeutic or behavior programs.  I have also seen in the past with others, that with rare exception, facilities that will hire you with more than two children, are also the facilities that have high turnover, which is usually a sign of other problems.

If you decide that now is not the time, you may want to consider becoming foster parents.  It is a way to help out kids in need and also receive valuable training and experience for your future as houseparents.  My wife and I were foster-parents before we became houseparents and still use the skills we learned then – today.

As far as looking for a facility, you may want to join the Houseparent Community There may be someone out there that may know of a facility that can fit your situation.

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.


Question #21 – 4/9/2008 – What About My Credit Rating and Driving Record?

Hi Mike, 

My husband and I have worked as relief HPs for about 3 years, and my husband also has 9 years working with high-school students (Job Trainer) and 1 year with developmentally disabled adults. We loved our time as relief HPs (even though it was the hardest job ever!!)and are now thinking about a full-time career. 

The positive:
We are married for 16 years now, and have no children at home. Totally clean background for both. Husband is a great cook, and I am organized and can do all of the requisite paperwork. We have worked in nearly 40 different homes (for the same facility) and have learned a lot from each of how best to (or not to) run a home. 

The challenges:
I have a good driving record (and can handle a big van…) but my husband’s record is borderline. To add to this we have somewhat abysmal credit (won’t say it’s not our fault, but we have had some significant challenges too.) 

So I wondered if you know whether or not there are facilities out there who would even consider us, given these circumstances? 

I appreciate your perspective. 

Thanks DB2592! 

Mike’s Response 

As far as your credit goes.  Although checking your credit is something that a facility can do when you sign that release form, I know of very few that actually do.  When my wife and I started as houseparents we had horrible credit, because of a medical emergency and lousy health insurance.  We have spent our entire time correcting things and now have excellent credit.  I would not include this in your resume, but be prepared to discuss it should it be brought up by a perspective employer.  If you can explain how you are working to correct things I don’t think too many will hold it against you. 

Now for the driving record.  That can be a little more difficult.  When your employer submits your license to their insurance company you can almost guarantee they, the insurance company, will do a records check.  I don’t know how bad a driving record can be, before it is considered bad.  I think it will vary depending on the insurance company.  If the insurance company won’t insure you, the facility won’t hire you.   

This is usually a question that is included with an application and you need to be open and honest when you answer it.  There would be few things worse than to accept a position, and find out after you moved that you cannot be insured and therefore cannot work.   

You shouldn’t let the credit or driving record stop you from applying for positions.  If you find that after trying you can’t find any positions you may need to rethink things, but few people ever get anything they haven’t tried to get. 

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.


Question #20 – 3/4/2008 – I need to know the truth

I need to know the truth. 

I am the primary teaching parent for a cottage of 8 children (mixed-gender), and I need to give a little detail about each of my kids, before I ask my question. First, I have two 3 yr olds. Then I have a 4 year old, which is highly sexually reactive, therefore requiring constant (and I mean constant) supervision. I have a 5 yr old, which is your typical, full of energy, curious about everything, 5 year old. My fifth child is a 6 yr old who is one of the few that I would positvely diagnose as ADHD at that young of an age if I were a counselor. Then there is my 10 yr 0ld boy who is as O.D.D. as they come, and my 12 yr old girl that has demonstrated such a profound inability to conform to, and even learn, social norms (including such basic things as thinking of somone besides her self for a few minutes a day, moderately respectful behavior, and occasional obedience) that her counselor has said that she would probably diagnose her with Borderline Personality Disorder if the ! industry norm didn’t require her to wait till she was 18 to give her such a serious label. Last, but not least, there’s my 13 year old boy who, praise God, is a normal, every day 13 year old boy who just has normal problems. 

I feel the need to give one more piece of information before I ask my question. I have experience as a house parent; I was in this industry for almost three years before I came to my current position (I’ve been here seven months, but most of this current bunch of kids has come with in the last 3 month’s), including three months at my former children’s home, where I had to run a cottage of 7 hyperactive teen aged boys who thought there former houseparent (who got fired) was God, basically by myself because my wife was teaching at the time, and as low-man-on-the-totem-pole in administration, it fell to me to take the cottage over till replacements could be found. Even so, I will admit that my experience has been completely with older kids. There was a serious misunderstanding between myself and my current administration about what the average age of this cottage was to be, or I would never have taken this position in the first place. 

Secondly, I do admit that my relief staff just resigned, and I am on the tale end of a 12 day shift (and about the fourth nasty email from my boss), so I’m not seeing the picture as objectively as I should at the moment. But the fact remains that this cottage is a mess right now. I can’t get paperwork done on time; I can’t get the house cleaned to even my standards (which admitadly is lower than most administrations at a children’s home’s standards), and I definately can not find the time to spend any time at all with the kids one on one (which, call me an adealist, is what I see as my primary job). My boss is convinced that I don’t belong in this position. “That I should seriously consider whether or not God has really called me here before myself, or one of the children gets injured. (I pulled that one straight out of her last email)” because of these issues. 

I, frankly, am convinced that that the job is unrealistic, and am very, very frustrated that my administration will not help out, or even consider the possibility that some of this is there fault, not mine. Admitadly, two days a week, we have a third person come in to the cottage during peak hours, but that just doesn’t seem to be enough. My wife and I simply spend our days putting out fires, cooking, doing laundry (by the way, 5 of the 8 kids are bed wetters), and praying for our next day off. 

You’ve probably guessed my question. Is she right? When I was a young teen ager, I was convinced I could sing in spite of the fact that the world just didn’t want to listen to me trying (needless to say, I hate watching American Idle auditions). Have I fooled myself again into thinking that I have talents and gifts in an area where I really don’t? Be honest. I really need to know. If I were gifted in this area, should my wife and I be able to handle the kind of kids that I just described, and get everything else done as well? Should I find another job, and start over in trying to find where my gifts and talents really lie, or is it possible, even probable, that anyone would need help with this bunch of kids? 

Thx for your response. 

Mike’s Response 

I am not sure how much I can judge your situation based solely on your E-mail but maybe some information about mine may help.  I also have been in a co-ed cottage for the better part of the last six years, minus a nine month sabbatical when I thought I wanted to do something else, and the administration at the time felt they couldn’t work with us.  We have been back in the cottage for three years now and those administrators have gone back into their previous field of ministry.  I currently have 7 cottage children, 2 birth children, and a 3 yr old grandchild (through a previous resident that has informally adopted us as her parents) that is here whenever his mother is working.  

 My youngest cottage child just turned 5, when she came to us 15 months ago she could be described as nothing less that a wild child, it was if she was raised by wolves. Her first few months here she got about 70% of all the attention that was given out.  Next is our set of twins, age 6.  The boy is severe ADHD and is a bed wetter, the girl is not, but they both have been slow academically and are in their second year of kindergarten.  Next is a boy age 8, he is pretty normal and smart.  His 10 yr old brother is ADD, hates living in the home and only looks forward to the day he can leave here, even though he has lived here for 60% of life.  Next we have an 11 yr old girl that has a very bad case of attachment disorder, is ADHD and is now starting puberty.  Finally there is a 12 yr old boy that has a form of autism which results in a huge deficiency in social skills, he finally out grew bed wetting about 4 months ago.  My grandson is now potty trained but we had diapers on top of everything until just recently.  

 Physically this is the most demanding cottage I have ever had and has been since we came back three years ago.  We don’t have the cleanest cottage on campus but we keep it in good condition and it is one of the most visited cottages on campus.  Thankfully, we don’t have a bunch of paperwork to do and sometimes it gets behind but we are pretty good about staying on top of it.  That said I can tell you that not everyone can handle our cottage.  

 When we were forced to leave the last time, the cottage and children quickly deteriorated both in appearance and behavior.  We were asked to come back by the upper administration because they were unable to find a replacement to deal with the combination of children we had in the cottage.  When the former administrator said that it was either him or us, he was reassigned to another position and ended up leaving about a month later.  You have to make concessions and realize that the vast majority of what you do with a cottage that age is physical.  You have to do everything they can’t.  Don’t look for one on one time, it is mostly group time.  Recreation is a luxury, as is peace and quite, but we are able to manage things.  I don’t know if that makes us super houseparents or if we have just found our niche.  I can honestly tell you there have been many days I just wanted to quit.  

 There seems to be a big difference between our situations and that is the support of administration.  I can honestly tell you from what I have seen in the past and from what has happened to us that when you lose support of the administration your days are probably numbered anyway.  The huge advantage that we had in our situation was that we had been here for 6 years previous and were highly regarded and the admin was fairly new 1.5 years.  

 I have also talked with many other houseparents that are unable to work with younger children and will only work with teens.  If you can’t handle it don’t feel ashamed, you certainly wouldn’t be the first.        

  Finally, no situation is totally the blame of one person or couple, however if administration thinks you are the whole problem you are not going to get a lot of additional support.  If it was me I would probably be at the very least be putting out feelers for a different position or even a different field.  The admin’s e-mail suggesting you look for something else should probably be heeded before they force it.  I do however think it is inappropriate to deal with issues like that through e-mail; the admin should at the very least be talking to you face to face about the situation. 
If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.

Question #19 – 9/9/2007 Being a houseparent NOT able to drive.

I am very interested in a lot of the positions I have found while browsing through the site and on the web. I have tons of experience working with youth, education in adolescent studies and etc. The question I have would be if this is even an avenue I should consider, with a situation I am in. The situation is I do not drive and need to visit the doctor every couple months, do to being a diabetic. As I view each post I notice they require a drivers license and good driving record. Also that most of the facilities are outside of city limits, making it hard if even possible to handle life duties such as doctor visits and etc. So the main question is does anyone know of any facilities within city limits and also if this is a career that one who is unable to drive, should even consider? Thank you so much and have a great day. 

Mike’s Response

I am sure there may be someplace out there, but I can’t honestly think of one place where you wouldn’t need to be able to drive, except maybe as an instructor at a wilderness program.  The children have Dr. Visits, family visits, court appearances, counseling appointments, school functions, etc.  I spend 15-30 hours a week on the road driving to appointments with the children or doing errands like shopping, picking up meds, and running things to schools.  I think if it were me, I would look for something different.

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.

Question #18 – 9/9/2007 How long should a couple be married?

 How long should a couple be married before they begin a houseparent position together? Thanks.

Mike’s Response

It totally depends on the facility and the couple.  Some facilities require that a couple be married for at least one or two years, others don’t have any set requirements.  In most cases I think you should wait at least a year, and think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to wait two or three years.  Being a houseparent is an extremely stressful position and can test even the best marriages, I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be while trying to get to know the intimacies of your spouse and building a marriage.  Being a houseparent is an opportunity to show your strengths, but it also seems to reveal you faults and weaknesses.

However, unless the facilities sets a time limit, it is a choice you as a couple need to make.  I do know of a couple that were both single houseparents at a facility, fell in love, got married, and started a family all while being houseparents. I have also known of couples that have done it fairly successfully as newlyweds, so it just depends on your situation. 

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.

Question #17 – 9/9/2007 Can you have a blemish on your record and still be a houseparent??

I have some friends that love what we do for a living as houseparents and they would like to get into this somewhere, but my friends wife was arrested one time for not paying on a check and they wanted to know if this would stop them from being able to become houseparents.
I told them that I think companies will look at there situation??
So I guess my question is can you have a blemish on your record and still be a houseparent??

Mike’s Response

I agree with you and believe, if it even showed up on a background check, that most facilities would consider the circumstances of the situation.  I know somebody that is currently a houseparent and was arrested for the very same thing.  The person paid the fine and it was removed from their record after a about a year.

The background checks that are done by most employers looking for houseparents are for the purpose of finding people that have abused children.  However, employers can use many things to determine if a candidate is appropriate for a position including references, background checks and CREDIT checks.

If anybody has any other ideas or you would like to add something, just register and add your comments.
If you would like to ask your own question CLICK HERE to go the submission form.