What Is A Foster Care Group Home?
There are different are many different living situations a foster kids may live in during their time in foster care. During my journey through foster care I experienced 2 types of foster placements. First my brothers and I went to an emergency placement outside of the town we had lived in. This was with a regular family, her husband worked and shed stayed home with her kids and foster kids when she had them. After about a week of emergency placement we were then moved to a foster care group home.
Before we had gone into foster care I had heard people talk about foster care in general and what people described as group homes. My parents had used the bad stereotypes of foster homes to control us from telling during the 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 foster kids; they only do it for the money. They said I would be attacked by other kids that lived there and be violated. 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 like a little prison.
So what is a foster care group home like?
To be clear, no foster care group home is the same as another. There are different 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 had a married couple as “house parents” (Coyote Hill is Christian based and it was mandatory for them that house parents were married). They house parents could be responsible to up to 8 kids at one time, 4 girls and 4 boys. There would also be “relief parents” that aided the home parents both during the week and also while our home parents were away. 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 had a separate part of the house 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|
The boys and the girls rooms were in hallways at opposite ends of the house from each other. There were 2 rooms in each of the hallways. Girls were not allowed to go into the boy hallway and boys were not allowed to step into the girls hallway. This went for guests as well. At bedtime you had to stay in your hallway. You were able to get up and go to the restroom at night, but could not home out of the hallway. There were motion sensor alarms to alert the parents when you crossed a certain point at the edge of the hallway. There were also alarms on the outside door and windows. This was needed to prevent kids from running away or trying to meet up with the opposite sex. There were a lot of rules in place for several reasons. There are several rules and guidelines’ being a foster kid. This was also a group home of kids of different genders and ages so that along with it being a christian home brought some added rules we had to follow. There were no touching by different genders, no going into the other genders hallway, and several other rules to prevent co mingling. There were also rules about what type of music, movies and games were played since the home is Christian based. Not much secular music was allowed and had to be previewed by the home parents, movies had to have a good child rating and not be negative or suggest non-Christian actions.
Each week we were responsible for a set of chores. This could be sweeping, mopping, setting the table, loading the dishwasher, cleaning the bathroom, vacuuming and other normal household chores. To be honest it was really easy stuff and I was surprised at how much we weren’t responsible. People often have the image of foster kids being used as the work. For the most part our house parents took care of tending to the house and outside. For doing our weekly chores we were also given an allowance of half of our age each week. Past our daily chores we weren’t required to do much work. I did have some work opportunities given to me by the group home but they paid for my time. We were also allowed at a certain age and encouraged to get jobs outside of odd jobs around the property to pay for buying a car, maintaining it and buying extra things.
We had a lot that of things 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. Our house also had a trampoline. We would play with the kids from our home and often hang out with the kids from other the other homes as well. We spent a good amount of time doing activities with the other homes even if it was just having a meal together. There were ponds where we could go fish and a beach in the summer that we could swim at. Sometimes our house parents would take us on family trips as well. At my home we went to the theme parks in Branson a couple of times and we also would go camping. Volunteer groups also came out to our group home 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 care setting.
My brothers and I got lucky with our placement. There were a lot of perks like the activities, interactions and connection, but it also help me see that I’m not the only one that has been a victim of abuse. I was also able to realize that there are kids out there (unfortunately) that have had it worse than me. Even though there were a lot of rules, we were with people who not only wanted to take care of us and wanted to teach us Christian values. It’s important to remember that ever foster care group home is not bad. Sometimes it can actually more than just ok. 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 their website at www.coyotehill.org.