A lot of questions we get asked as houseparents begin with the phrase:
“What happens when”
A common question of this sort is: What happens when kids first come to Joy Ranch? How do they come to be with you?
I am so glad you asked! As we have often mentioned kids come to us from all different kinds of situations, for any number of reasons. Thus, no two scenarios are the same. There are, however, two general categories: emergency placements and scheduled, or private placements. Emergency placements are different than scheduled/private placements but some steps are the same for all new residents.
Emergency placements are DSS placements and can happen at any time. Depending on how many residents we are able to take, and how many there are, we may get one child or a sibling group. They may come after school, late at night, or in the middle of the day. They may have their things with them, they may not. Once DSS calls, if we have the necessary rooms, the child(ren) will mostly likely be with us by the end of that same day.
Private placements start with a phone call to our administration where the guardian will answer several questions about the child, their background and situation. Some children will not make it past this stage if they present issues that we are not qualified to care for (see an earlier post entitled “Our Kids”). Otherwise, the next stage is paperwork giving Joy Ranch access to school and medical records as well as any other records necessary (previous homes they may have in, etc.). After these records are reviewed and if there are still no ‘red flags’ the child, or children, will come with their guardians – and sometimes other family members and friends as well – and tour our campus, ask questions, answer questions* and determine whether Joy Ranch is something everyone involved feels is a fit for the situation. If so, we discuss with the family when is best for them to bring their child (i.e.: if school is ending soon, they should finish out the year at their school; if we are going on a trip they may need to wait until after we return, etc.).
(* When children tour we houseparents like to ‘quiz’ them with a few fun, informative questions: What is your favorite food? What food do you absolutely hate? What is your favorite color, book, movie, ice cream, etc.? Who does your laundry at home? Do you have a roommate at home? Do you shower in the morning or at night? This help us get to know the child, work them in to cottage schedules and prepare for what they may need to work on/learn when they arrive.)
For all new residents who come to stay we first help them unpack to get an idea of things they might need and to walk them through expectations on their room. Each resident also gets their own space in the bathroom to keep their toiletries, etc. and a ‘box’ in the office where they keep their most treasured possessions as well as candy, aerosols, razors and the like. There is also, you guessed it, more paperwork! Staff will sit with them as they fill out sheets on goals they would like to work on, things that make them upset, what they respond best to when upset, a survey about their spiritual life and one on healthy relationships. We also go over cottage rules and expectations; and spend a lot of time answering/asking questions – doing our best to make them comfortable and help them understand what to expect.
After this, it takes a couple weeks for all the residents to get acclimated to having a new resident and the new resident to get acclimated to being here. This, as you can imagine, can be a tricky time to navigate and is a learning curve for everyone in the home.
Also for each new resident, staff works in the cottage office to add them to the communication log, set up an allowance pouch, schedule call days, laundry days, shower times and add them to the chore rotation. We also fill out paperwork on goals for the child after they have been with us for a week or so. Files are set up on the computer to house their forms and paperwork. And, if necessary, staff will take the new resident out to purchase any items they may be in need of. Additionally, we have a base ol volunteers and friends we get in touch with to let them know we have a new resident. We let them know things the child might need or want and they bring these by for the child. Often these are things like beach towels or a bathing suit, maybe shoes or a coat. Each resident is also given a Bible upon intake, if they do not have one, but would like to.
What we as staff notice most often about intake is how Joy Ranch is usually not what people were expecting. We receive comments from parents, children and even DSS workers expressing their surprise at how Joy Ranch feels like a home, not an institution. We work hard to create this atmosphere and are always glad to hear when things are working as they should.