Tag Archives: foster homes

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.

Coyote Hill Christian Children’s Home

Coyote Hill Sign

This is a picture of the sign from when I lived at Coyote Hill.

You may hear me say many times that my brothers and I got lucky in our foster care journey because we landed at Coyote Hill. Not many people know about group homes. I didn’t have very good thoughts when I heard the word “group home”. When I found out when I was going I was scared. I thought I would be victimized by either the kids or the staff, maybe both. I had heard so many negative stereotypes of foster homes and group homes. Unfortunately for some kids in foster care it doesn’t always turn out so well. I want to tell you about the group home I stayed at.

A foster parent must be able to handle different kids from different backgrounds dealing with different problems on constant basis. It can be really hard to provide everything a foster child needs in a normal family situation, especially when you factor in work, relationships, scheduled and life in general. At Coyote Hill my home parents’ main job was to take care of us kids. When many people picture group homes they picture the Little Orphan Annie movie. This was nothing like that. Notice I called them my home “parents”. That’s what they were to me even though I didn’t want parents. They didn’t cross that boundary, but made such and impact with how they cared and did everything they could to help me and teach me how to help myself. My house parents at Coyote Hill not only did a good job of balancing these needs with me and the kids in my house but also made us feel like one big family. Can you imagine taking care of up to 8 kids, different background that all involve bad experiences, that aren’t yours but you have to parent? I couldn’t do it, flat-out. Now here’s a true fact, I moved into Coyote Hill at 15 and aged out. I’m 26 now and still have never heard either one of my foster parents raise their voice. Did I mention they would parent up to 8 kids at a time?

Coyote Hill was founded in 1991 by Larry McDaniel, his late wife Cathy and a board of directors. The property that Coyote Hill sits on was donated by Mark and Laurene Zimmer. In 1993 Cathy was diagnosed with cancer and sadly passed away in 1994. In 1997 the first new home was built and named “Cathy’s Home” in her remembrance. In the fall of 1999, the second home was built and named the “Zimmer Home” in their honor of the Zimmers, their work and helping make Coyote Hill have a home(This is the home that I stayed in while I lived at Coyote Hill). The third home was built in 2000 and named the Hubbell Home built in and honor and support from the family. A fourth home was built in 2011 and named the Wright Home. It’s the first handicapped accessible home at the hill and even has an elevator. The Fifth home was finished in 2014 and is named “The Atherton Home”. They hold the title at Coyote Hill for being the longest home parents in its history. Even after they stopped being home parents Bill and his family stay active with Coyote Hill. I remember his family joining us during outings and events and I can speak for many in saying they have had a great impact on many young lives.

Coyote Hill provides kids with a structured family setting and at the same time meeting kid’s individual needs. We had weekly counseling sessions on sites and activities to work through our individual issues. We were not only helped through physical and emotional needs but also academically and responsibility wise as well. The house parents and parent aides were always more than helpful to help us with any school work or question we had. They made it important to do well in school to be successful later in life. I was even given the opportunity to take a driving course to lower my insurance and teach me how to drive. At the same time I was taken care of they also taught me how to take care of myself so I was successful when I aged out. I also learned a lot spiritually at my time at the hill. We attended church regularly and God was very important in our everyday life. I was given so many experiences and offered many opportunities. I could play school sports, be involved in activities and even got to go on a mission trip with some people in our community to help people in Mexico. This is no ordinary group home or foster home.

I owe a lot to Coyote Hill and so do many others. To this day I still get phone calls from my foster mom. Anytime I’ve gone back I just to say hey I never felt like I was just another kid that live there. They still take the time and they still care. How many foster kids do you know who would have this many good things to say about a group home? I encourage you to stop by there website, or check them out on social media. Please check out www.coyotehill.org. It takes a lot to maintain this work so take a look at the needs list or place a donation here.

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