A Dream of Houseparenting at Milton Hershey School
By Dedra Doutrich, MHS Houseparent Recruiter and Former MHS Houseparent
When I first learned about the role of houseparenting, my husband, Justin, and I knew that there was something special about this unique career path, especially at Milton Hershey School. As two people who had never considered packing up our lives and two young boys to begin a new chapter, we were surprised at our excitement about the opportunity and ready for a new adventure.
To apply for the role, we knew we needed to have more experience working with children. I spent my mornings working at an early childhood education center and in the afternoons I integrated after school programs supported by the Boys and Girls Club into a local elementary school. Here, I learned that my passion was working with students and their families to provide resources to those who need it most.
With new tools and skills under our belts, we applied for the position and were offered the role as houseparents. Over the next few months, we packed up our home and our two young boys and made the move to the beautiful MHS campus.
Having visited student homes before, we knew what to expect. We didn’t know how much we would bond with our coworkers, students, and their families over the five years we spent houseparenting elementary girls.
In the houseparent role, relationships are the key to success. Whether with students and families you work with or teachers and medical staff across campus, building a solid foundation to grow from was incredibly helpful to us as we navigated houseparenting.
These relationships only grew as we experienced little moments of growth and joy. While your days as a houseparent are filled with driving students to school and supporting them in doing their homework and after school activities, cooking dinner, and much more, there is so much room to celebrate the little and big wins. It was such an honor that my husband, kids, and I got to be a part of these joyful moments of growth with our students.
From watching our students learn new things and acquire new skills to seeing their growth and watching my own children grow alongside them, it was an experience I’ll cherish forever. After choosing to take on a new responsibility at the school and step back from houseparenting, I’m grateful for everything that I learned on that five-year journey.
Now, as a houseparent recruiter at MHS, I spend my days talking to people about the job I loved. I want to inspire others to take on this career path, but also want people to understand the layers that this job brings. Houseparenting is not easy. The impact you can make and the impact the role will have your own life is what makes this career worth every minute.