Family-Teachers are the backbone of Boys Town’s residential care programs. Family-Teaching couples live in Family Homes with six to eight youth, either boys or girls, 24 hours a day. The homes include separate quarters for the Family-Teachers and their own children.
A typical day in a Boys Town Family Home begins the same as for most families. The Family-Teaching couple ensures their youth have breakfast and are ready for school. But before they leave, the Family-Teachers engage the youth teaching interactions, where they learn social and relationship-building skills.
Youth may carry a point card to track positive points they earn for appropriate behavior and negative points for inappropriate behavior. When youth compile enough positive points for the day, they earn privileges like time on the computer or choosing a TV program. This system motivates youth to make good decisions because they lead to positive consequences.
During the day Family-Teachers complete reports, discuss youth-specific goals and tend to housekeeping necessities. They might take one of their youths to a doctor’s appointment, or meet with a teacher. When the children arrive home from school, they engage in more teaching interactions as youth complete homework and help prepare dinner. The interactions continue in the evening as the family spends time together.
Family-Teachers are constantly developing and strengthening personal relationships with their youngsters. They help every child understand that someone cares about them and that they are valued. This bonding builds trust and is an essential element of effective treatment.
Family-Teachers face challenges every day because the children they care for can have serious behavioral, emotional and cognitive problems. These boys and girls have been victims of abuse, neglect and abandonment. Many have used drugs and alcohol, or have been involved in criminal activity. Often, our youth don’t trust adults and resist. Family-Teachers must have patience, compassion and perseverance when things are not going well.
This is a rewarding and sometimes daunting task, but Family-Teachers don’t go it alone. They are specially trained for their role, and can call on credentialed professionals 24-7.
The most successful Family-Teaching couples bring a solid marriage, good values and a commitment to help children. They are able to reach out to youth on a personal level, to build meaningful relationships, to be sincere and genuine in their treatment, and to gain their trust.
There are many tangible benefits for the Family-Teaching couple – a home, competitive salary, insurance and being able to work together. But it is the intangibles that truly make being a Family-Teacher worthwhile.
Watching children who are sullen and angry when they first arrive accept their new family and begin the transformation into a caring person.
Looking back with young people on their journey and realizing how far they’ve come and how much they’ve accomplished.
Wiping away tears of joy and pride as a confident young person strides across the stage at high school graduation, prepared for and excited about what lies ahead.
And there is no greater reward or satisfaction than for a Family-Teaching couple to hear their Boys Town kids say, “I love my Family-Teachers. They’ve taught me so much. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else right now.”