Offering Relief to Houseparents

February 25, 2019

Palmer Home houseparents are in many ways similar to other parents. They clean. They cook. They shuttle children to and from doctor’s appointments and sports practices.

The everyday hustle that comes with being a parent is often multiplied for our houseparents because of the unique needs of the children at Palmer Home. Not only are they caring for this group of children, but they are caring for children with histories of trauma.

Houseparents are trained through the Whole Child Initiative, a philosophy of care developed by the Palmer Home team to best serve the needs of children who have experienced trauma or children from difficult situations. The Whole Child model is designed to meet the unique needs of the whole child by equipping adults in their lives to better understand the impact of a child’s whole story.

This model also emphasizes the importance of supporting the whole team of caregivers engaged in their lives, ensuring that the adults serving them are healthy and whole, themselves. While Whole Child training equips our houseparents to best care for our children; we believe that one of the most impactful ways we support our houseparents is by ensuring they are able to rest!

Houseparents often say they have the best job in the world, but we also know they have one of the hardest. The national turnover rate for full-time houseparents is one to three years. Palmer Home houseparents well exceed this national average. We hope to continue this trend by offering respite and support.

One way to support houseparents is by offering respite care. Couples or individuals that volunteer have two options, – provide on-campus respite care or provide off-campus respite care. On-campus care provides overnight care to children on campus while off-campus care provides overnight care to children in their homes. These trustworthy adults provide much needed time away for full-time houseparents, allowing them to return rested and renewed to continue the ministry they have been called to do.

Respite caregivers receive Whole Child training to equip them with the necessary tools to step in and be a successful respite caregiver. Children do better and feel safer when there are steady routines and authority figures in their lives. Because of this, Palmer Home is recruiting adults who have the desire to provide regular respite care to a full-time houseparent couple.

“People who use the same language and parenting styles in environments that really don’t change a lot depending on who is in charge is best,” said Lauren Strickland, Whole Child Initiative Director. “It’s difficult to do that when there is little consistency in the respite caregiving support.”

Respite caregivers who commit to serving as often as once a month or every other month are better able to build relationships with the children in the cottage they are supporting or the child they have brought into their home. They come to understand the unique needs of individual children and how those needs are met by full-time staff. Additionally, they learn the culture and routines of the cottage and the parenting strategies used by the full-time houseparents houseparents. This helps our children feel they are truly cared for and it allows our full-time houseparents to feel confident that the needs of their children are met in their absence. This helps them to truly rest.

“The biggest predictor of success in a child’s life is the quality of their relationships,” Strickland said. “Relationships are transformational change agents. Children need trustworthy adults who are with them for the long haul. When we support full-time staff by providing regular rest and encouragement – burnout decreases, and they stay longer. Ultimately this increases the positive outcomes for children in our care.”

If you are interested in volunteering as a respite caregiver, please contact Jeremy Beavers at jbeavers@palmerhome.org.

You must be 25 or older. A background check and interview with the Residential Director is mandatory. Whole Child Training is provided, and if a child will be staying in your home, a home study must also be completed.