Sixty-Seven Children to Love: Jenny’s Story
“I’m a single mom with 67 children,” says Jenny Malone with a slight laugh.
As part of Palmer Home for Children’s commitment to its caregivers, the organization provides one week off for every four weeks houseparents spend caring for the children in their cottages. Jenny’s role at Palmer Home is helping make those days of respite possible.
Most cottages on Palmer Home’s campuses house 6-8 children. Jenny normally rotates between caring for two specific cottages–one this week and the other the next week. However, due to the current shortage of respite caregivers, she finds herself rotating between cottages on both the Columbus and Hernando campuses these days.
Each Wednesday, Jenny meets with houseparents of the cottage where she will be staying the next week. They discuss the children’s schedules, such as who has sports practice or games, who has a doctor’s appointment, and who may be expecting a phone call from family.
Jenny has had the opportunity to serve in every cottage multiple times, so she has the joy of forming relationships with nearly all the children at Palmer Home. Because she serves as a full-time respite caregiver, Jenny receives the same benefits full-time houseparents enjoy. As an extra benefit, her work is always changing. No two weeks are the same.
“It’s nice because you are able to put 100% into one cottage, and when you leave you can regroup and re-energize before the next one,” she said. “I do like being able to have relationships with most of the kids. Each cottage is different, with different personalities.”
Jenny first became familiar with Palmer Home fifteen years ago when her husband began seeing some of the children in his job as a therapist. He and Jenny later lived on the Palmer Home campus in Columbus, where they served for 9 years, before moving to the Hernando campus for a year.
Last year, after experiencing a divorce, Jenny admits she wasn’t sure where life was leading her. Her own children were older, but she still had the energy and desire to pour into the lives of other children. When a friend suggested she consider the respite caregiver position, Jenny applied.
“The community and the children did wonders for my healing,” she says.
While she moves from cottage to cottage each week, Jenny maintains an apartment where she can unwind between moves, host her own children when they visit, and keep all of her personal things. Respite caregivers also have access to the relief housing provided for all the houseparents during their week off.
“This is definitely a calling. If your focus is on ministering to children, and you have a flexible personality, it could be a good fit for you,” she added.
If you are interested in becoming a full-time caregiver, or have a friend, family member, or church member who is interested, you can find more information here.