Houseparenting is a Family Tradition
Phil and Erica Clark became houseparents after Phil developed a love for the profession during his childhood. His parents served as houseparents for 13 years, and Phil enjoyed how students would look up to him as an older brother.
“Everyone wasn’t as privileged as I was growing up, so I really liked watching kids grow over the years and seeing how their mindsets changed,” Phil said. “I saw the impact we could have on kids who may not come from the best circumstances. That’s why [Erica and I] chose to pursue houseparenting.”
Phil and Erica followed in his parents’ footsteps when they applied for houseparent positions at Milton Hershey School in 2014. The couple had experience mentoring students five days a week at a previous school, but were excited to be role models both during the school week and on the weekends.
“We saw how much an environment can affect a kid,” Phil explained. “Erica and I were intrigued by the seven-day program at MHS and how much time we could have with the students to put our imprint on them.”
They were placed in a home with fifth and sixth-grade boys, where the couple has a unique relationship with each student.
“This group is moldable, and they pick up on so much,” said Phil. “We find ourselves thinking a lot here, but it’s all for the good. It’s forcing us to grow and remember that all kids are not the same.”
Phil and Erica help students get ready for school, transport them to activities, assist with homework, cook regular meals, plan family activities, and offer constant support—responsibilities that show students what it means to live in a safe, nurturing home.
“We like houseparenting because we get to invest in the kids. Investing in them is almost like investing in our future,” Phil added. “We tell them they can either be a product of their environment, or they can be a success. We want them to be a success, so we take pride in raising young people.”
After growing up with parents who loved houseparenting just as much as they do, Phil and Erica knew their positions couldn’t be defined as a job. Houseparenting has become their way of life.
“We don’t ever approach [houseparenting] as a job—it has to be our passion,” Phil explained. “If it’s just a job, the kids will be able to see that. If it’s a passion, the kids know we care about them and that we’ll be there for them no matter what.”
It is that passion Milton Hershey School employees feel for their work, in addition to the school’s fulfilling mission and excellent benefits, that inspired employees to recently vote the school one of the Best Place to Work in PA for the third consecutive year.
Learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of young people as a houseparent.