House-parenting is very difficult. I know, shocker right? Coming into this, I knew that it would be difficult, but I wasn't prepared for all the ways it would be difficult. Arguing, disrespect, cursing, lying, sneaking -- all those were expected, but there were two things that caught me by surprise. First, I didn't realize how difficult it would be for our own children to be in this ministry. They have to hear other kids in the house talk bad about us behind our backs; they sometimes get treated badly just because they are 'staff kids', and they don't get all the counseling resources the 'placed kids' do. Second, I wasn't prepared to deal with the darkness that the kids who come here love so much. It is heart-breaking to hear kids talk so positively about all the life destroying things they used to do before coming here. It's almost like the world has been turned upside-down. And sometimes I just begin to think the whole world is like this and start to despair.
House-parenting is also very rewarding. In our short year, we have had teens leave our home both 'successfully' and 'unsuccessfully'. Which basically means they either completed the program, or didn't for whatever reason -- refusing to work on issues, or parents deciding to remove them early are a couple of examples. But in both cases, we have already heard back from both parents and students who wanted to thank us for the impact we had on their lives, even if only for a short time.
Residential Care facilites are very nearly invisible to the Church. This is unfortunate for two reasons. First, because churches don't know about us, then they won't be able to refer families in crises to us. Second, it is unfortunate because we need all the support we can get. I'm not talking about money here, we have individuals and churches that support us financially and many of them come help out on various projects around campus -- and for that we are very thankful. What is missing is relationships -- friendship, community, prayer, emotional support -- or even inviting a family over for a weekend get away. We are a fairly isolated and invisible bunch, which can make life difficult at times.
Two parent homes really do make a difference. In the year that we have been here, we have had 10 different teens in our home and only one of those teens still had both biological parents living at home. Most have had multiple step-parents, or in some cases were being raised by an Aunt, or Grandparent. I'm not saying that blended families can't work, but our numbers indicate that blended families have to work extra hard to make sure everyone settles into the new family unit. I don't think this is a magic bullet, but it is one big common denominator for most kids here.
Youth culture in America is creating immature and unprepared adults. Another big common denominator would be American youth culture. Here we give our kids a cell phone, a car, and lots of free time to hang out with their friends, listen to crappy music, and sometimes experiment with drugs or sex. We don't, however, give them hardly any responsibilities or teach them basic living skills. I find it amazing that so many older teens who come here don't know how to wash clothes, wash dishes, run a vacuum, or scrub a toilet (but do know how to identify various drugs, or can write lyrics from dozens of songs from memory). What are they going to do when they leave home, live in filth?
Teens don't really want to become adults, they just want to stay teens. You may have seen articles about how the Millennials are not growing up, but are still living at home with mom and dad, or about how America is being 'Infantilized' by either our consumeristic society, or by political nanny's. Those may be very true, but why would they want to grow up when they have their cell phones to text on, and their friends to hang with? I think we may be delaying some of those 'Adult' responsibilities far too long because, by the time they are 18, many have already developed the mindset that life is about hanging out with friends and partying.