Over the past couple of months, we have shared with you the why behind the role of our houseparents. Our children come from families that have been broken, most for generations. They are desperate for restoration. Our houseparents are certainly key players in modeling home life, family life, and providing a safe and stable environment for the children we serve to grow and heal. Taking in children from difficult places, having experienced trauma most of us will hopefully never encounter in this broken world, means handling a mirage of behaviors, attitudes and outbursts and even mental issues as the children’s world’s perspective has been tainted. Trauma impacts the way the brain functions. Caring for children who have experienced such impact requires learning how to handle these situations in a way that shows empathy, love and firmness. It requires the retraining of the way our houseparents have perhaps dealt with behaviors in their own biological children. It requires hearts that are open to remolding and even being broken. It requires asking of oneself, “Am I willing to change?” It’s not a job many of us are willing to quickly raise our hand for.
Part of our responsibility in the ministry is to provide opportunities for these houseparents to have times of respite to be as effective as they can be in the home. So, in each of our homes, we have a program assistant that our children call “Tia” or “Tío,” which mean “aunt” or “uncle.” These assistants are on call in the afternoons to help with homework, take the children outside for some play time, play board games, and be a big sister or brother to the children. They listen to the hearts of the children and perhaps give advise if asked. They help the parents manage a mirage of chores and duties with the children in the home. They are in the home to be of support when one child may need the full-on attention of the parents. But, they also help provide care so that the houseparent can get away for a full day off, assuming the responsibilities in the home. Time off is essential in helping our houseparents balance the difficult role of being on-call 24/7 to children who need special care. It gives them some disconnect time, time to care for their own families and help them be able to sustain the rhythm of the day-to-day.
We are grateful for the role that each of our program assistants plays in supporting the houseparents. We couldn’t do life very well without them!