When in foster care there are many types of foster homes that you can be in. During my journey through foster care I experienced 2 types. First my brothers and I went to an emergency placement outside of town. After about a week of emergency placement we were then moved to a group home until I aged out and my brothers stayed a couple years longer until my brothers were adopted.
First I Before we had gone into foster care I had heard people talk about foster care and group homes. My parents had used the bad stereotypes of foster homes to further control us during abuse. They would tell me about how foster parents didn't care about their kids. They would tell me stories about how foster parents would beat and neglect their children. They said I would be attacked by other kids that lived there. My parents used these ideas to keep us quiet and to make us believe that whatever we had suffered by their hands was a cake walk compared to what would happen if we went to a foster home. The idea of a group home made me think of the movie Little Orphan Annie. I had this idea of a group home being a place with a bunch of kids fending for themselves, more or less I though of it as a prison.
So what is a foster care group home like?
As with anything no one place is the same as another. There are levels of facilities in foster care. A child with more problems or that acts out more will be placed in a facility or group home that is a little more restricting. My brothers and I were placed at a rural group home called Coyote Hill Christian Children’s Home. At the time Coyote Hill was made up of 3 group homes. Each house would have a married couple as "house parents" (Coyote Hill is Christian based and it was mandatory that the house parents were married) and were parent figures to up to 8 kids. There would also be "relief parents" that aided the home parents both during the week and also while our home parents were away such as on vacation. Each week our foster parents would get what was called a date night, a 24 hour time period where the relief parents would come in and take over responsibilities to give the home parents a break. The home parents a part of the house that was separate that was their apartment. It was a private area that they could sleep and live and the kids weren't allowed to go. It was a full apartment with a couple bedrooms, living area, and kitchen/dining room area.
|Click image to enlarge home layout|
We had a lot that we were able to do in our free time. Obviously with good behavior and building trust with your home parents your were able to do more. There was a basketball hoop and play area at every home. We would play with the kids from out home or if we could ask we also were able to go visit other homes or see if one of the other kids could come hang out at our home. We spent a good amount of time doing activities with one of the other families or just having a meal together. There were ponds where we could go fish or a beach in the summer that we could swim at. Sometimes our house parents would take us on trips, at my home we went to Branson to the theme parks a couple times and we also would go camping. Volunteer groups would also come out to our homes quite often to just spend time helping out, playing, or helping us fix/clean things up. I think living in a group home allowed us to do more activities and interact with outside groups wanting to volunteer as compared to living in a "normal" family foster setting.
As I said earlier my brothers and I got lucky with this placement. I think living in a group home allowed us to do more activities and interact with outside groups wanting to volunteer as compared to living in a home were we were the only foster kids. It also help me see that I'm not the only one that has been a victim of abuse but also I was able to realize that there are kids out there (unfortunately) that have had it worse then me.Even though there were a lot of rules we were with people that not only wanted to take care of us but it was with Christian values. Coyote Hill itself did a good job of screening their workers and giving the kids the best possible care and counseling. The would drive us to our appointments and we had weekly counseling sessions on top of being able to talk with our foster parents. We interacted with the other homes and would get together and do things with the other kids. I owe a lot to my house parents guiding me at a tough time, teaching me to try to see things positively and always being there for me. Even though it was a group home we were still part of a unit and had somewhat of a family feeling. For more information on Coyote Hill visit there website at www.coyotehill.org.
Have you had any experience with group homes?