What is a Houseparent?
The term "Houseparent" is one of many names to describe Residential Child Care Workers. Other names include: Homeparent, Residential Staff, Teaching Parent, Resident Counselor. I use the name Houseparent, because I believe it to be the most common term used to describe Child Care Workers. However, what ever term you or your facility use is sufficient.
In most cases, a set of Houseparents are made up by a married couple that live in the house with the children 24 hours a day 7 days a week. However, some facilities will have single houseparents, that either work alone or as part of a team. Many facilities will use a single houseparent as an assistant or relief staff.
Most Houseparents are responsible for the daily care of the children living in their home to include: meals, laundry, housework, school work and transportation, recreation, church and devotions, daily paperwork, transportation to counseling, doctors, home visits, etc. In some facilities you also have to basic repairs to the home, basic maintenance on the van and other vehicles, care for any animals the home may have, as well as other duties.
Schedules, salaries, and benefits vary as much as do the different facilities and programs. I have seen cash salaries vary from about $800 a month per couple all the way up to $5,000 a month per couple. Almost all salaries include room and board while you are on duty. Many include housing during your relief days and some even include meals or food during your relief. Some facilities will give you an allowance in place of relief quarters that range from about $100-$500 per relief period.
As far as schedules go, some facilities give you alot of days off, others don't. Some facilities are so short of staff that you are fortunate to get one or two days off a month. On the other hand I have seen facilities that advertise a 4 days on and 4 days off schedule. Most however fall somewhere in between. I have seen the following schedules: 5-2. 10-4, 15-6, 21-6, 29-6, 7-7, 24-4. I am sure there are several others out there.
Benefits also vary with the facility. With some having very few and others offering a very nice benefit package to include: Health, dental and life insurance, vacation, personal and sick days, retirement program, bonuses, and education programs.
Housing quarters also vary. My wife and I have worked at one facility where we had a 110 square foot room for our entire family of 4. We lived there for 15 months. On the other hand we were also at a facility that provided for us a 1200 square foot, 3 bedroom apartment attached to our cottage. Most are somewhere in the middle.
For me, being a Houseparent is the most stressful job I have ever had. You are taking care of kids that usually come from not the best homes. And have behaviors that are considered unacceptable in most families. On top of that they usually don't want to be there, and in most cases see you not as someone that cares for them and wants to help them but as some evil oppressor placed there to make their lives miserable. And I know most parents would say all teenagers feel that way, but imagine it with 8-12 teenagers in the house. Most Houseparents I talk to would agree. Because of that the average Houseparent only lasts about 6 months. I have seen some that last only a few days. However I have also known some that make a lifelong career out of child care and eventually become home administrators.
On the other hand, being a Houseparent has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had. You are definitely giving back to the community, and you have an opportunity to have an effect on the next generation. One real advantage is that because we (my wife and I) live where we work, we are able to spend more time with our children as compared to a 9-5 job. We are able to attend almost all their school activities and well as their sporting events. We are also able to participate in recreation that we would not otherwise be able to afford. With the homes we have worked with we have gone on several camping trips, horseback riding trips, trips to the beach and different lakes camping, swimming and boating. We have always worked for Christian facilities and have been able to go to several Christian concerts. We have also had people donate tickets for hockey, football and basketball games, as well as sponsor parties at skating rinks, water parks, swimming pools, etc.
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