Composed, patient, and altruistic. These are just few of the Houseparent’s attributes mentioned by the children-residents dwelling in the Centers and Residential Care Facilities (CRCF) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development Field Office Caraga.
Houseparents are responsible in managing the activities of the residents in the center. This includes conducting school monitoring and tutorial activities, ensuring the safety and security of the residents within the center, escort its clients during medical check-ups, and conduct procurement of food and other basic supplies for the children.
Getting used of the accountabilities as houseparents in such a delicate-disposition and is not as easy as people think it is. In order to provide the utmost parenting for the children who’s going through a rough patch you have to possess extra patience and perseverance. Alongside the goal of keeping the residents of HFG at home are a bunch of challenges that requires sufficient flexibility. One needs to be mindful of the needs of the clients, and at the same time, be able to provide for the needs of their real children at home.
Lolita C. Ocno, House Parent II, shared her early recollection as one of the pioneering house parent staff of the Home for Girls (HFG) way back year 2002. According to her, she had to juggle between being a houseparent and a mother in her own home. Every time she gets home, she gets to be greeted by her own child, asking why she had a lot of time spent in the HFG rather than at home.
“19 years nako nga House Parent. Sauna, tag 15 ka oras nga trabaho usahay pa gyud muabot ug 24 oras, mao ng mureklamo lagi akong anak sauna nganong gamay ra akong time sa balay, (It’s been about 19 years that I worked as a House Parent. I used to work 15-hour shifts, and sometimes I could go 24-hour shifts, that is why my child would usually complain on the little time I had for them),” Lolita shared.
Similarly, Vilma A. Dela Cruz, Houseparent II, also has the same experience. She has been working there for 15 long years already. Yet, her way of coping seems incomparable. As she gets to acknowledge her inadequacies, what keeps her going is the welfare of the residents and understanding of her family towards her job functions.
Such circumstance remains a challenge to the Houseparents, yet it slowly became routinary and acceptable. One thing that has kept them going in serving their clients with love and compassion is their attachment to them. Houseparents would consider their clients as family, and they do not consider their services as mere functions to their job.
“As for me, the Center and Residential Care Facility is like my home away from home,” Dela Cruz, said.
HFG is like a home for the children and staff in which Houseparents act as real parents who ensure the safety of the residents. And just like a home, they put order when conflict arises between the resident-children.
Indeed, a major adjustment is needed for the HFG staff to be effective in their work – separating their responsibilities at home and at the workplace is a must. The excellent performance and hard work of the HFG staff has contributed in the passing of the HFG as the only Center and Residential Care Facility in the region with a Level 3 Center of Excellence accreditation.
Part of the advantages as a Level 3 Center of Excellence is the flexibility of their 8 hours shifting, except during the pandemic of the working hours of the staff, including the adjustment of inefficient practices and amending outdated technologies – ensuring timely services for the clients.
“It’s totally different. We can’t get out of the office compared before unlike now, in a month we get to attend seminars like stress debriefing and series of trainings,” Lolita Ocno, said.
“Good thing about being accredited as level 3 Center of Excellence is that we are provided budget to hire additional Houseparent and staff, provided that we have the need for additional staff. Before, we can’t just easily go on leave, or be absent even if there is an emergency since we’re only three houseparent. Now that we have enough staff, we no longer have to do all the chores and we get to balance our time between family and work. We’re so much grateful of the accreditation ‘cause aside from the convenience it brought us, It necessarily meant that we have provided quality service to the clients in the Center,” Vilma, said.
For Lolita and Vilma, they were just doing their best to be the parents of the residents in the center without expecting something in return. But the overwhelming affection they get from the residents, especially those who get discharged, cannot compensate the fulfilment they feel.
Once in a while they would receive random messages from their former residents. Simple gestures from the clients, such as questions on how the house parents are coping with work, or at times, former clients would share about their lives outside of the HFG. But what warms the hearts of the house parents are gestures from the former residents saying that they would never forget how their lives have been changed because of the love given to them by the houseparents – things that have been key to their formation and rehabilitation.
Hard work pays off. The existence of the dedicated Houseparents like Lolita and Vilma gives more meaning on the Level 3 Center of Excellence accreditation of the HFG. They have been part of the healing and success of the clients. The CRCF, of DSWD FO Caraga will continue to serve as refuge for the abused and exploited children in the region and will continue to provide healing and recovery for those who need it.