Houseparents Use Personal Experience to Train New Employees at Milton Hershey School
Featuring Karen Brown, MHS Home Life Training Specialist
As a Middletown resident, Karen Brown has always been fascinated by the mission of Milton Hershey School. She grew up down the road from the pre-K through 12th grade private school for low-income boys and girls in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and personally saw the impact that the school had on a few of her classmates.
To get her foot in the door, Karen and her husband, Allen, applied to be relief houseparents. After three short years, the Browns decided to become full-time houseparents and manage their own student home.
“This role allows you to be something that a child is missing,” Karen said. “You can be a trusted role model for them to look up to and hold them accountable.”
As houseparents, the Browns oversaw a student home with eight to 12 students of the same age and gender. Their day-to-day responsibilities included student transportation, cooking meals, managing chores, and helping students develop character and leadership skills.
Continuing to make an impact on the Home Life community, the Browns then transitioned into a houseparent training role in which they helped guide new houseparents as they began their own careers as houseparents at MHS.
“What I love most about my training role is getting to meet our new houseparent couples and being a familiar face for them as they begin their journeys here,” Karen said. “We never wanted to leave houseparenting but were grateful for the opportunity to switch careers and start a new chapter at the school.”
For eight years, the Browns trained houseparent couples together sharing their personal experiences and offering examples as lessons. Allen later became a houseparent supervisor while Karen continued to train new houseparents.
Houseparent trainers help newly hired couples understand MHS policies and answer any questions they might have along the way. Houseparents are supported and provided resources as they begin shadowing other couples and learn more about the vocation.
Couples come to the school with various backgrounds; some with seasoned youth experience, whether by occupation or volunteer experiences, and others who use their own parenting experience to guide them. These different perspectives allow the training cohort to learn from one another and become a community resource.
“At MHS, we encourage and allow people to bring themselves into their roles,” Karen added. “Our job is to teach our houseparents the MHS way and help them be successful.”
Karen believes that professionals come to MHS because they have a strong desire to serve and help children break the cycle of poverty.
“MHS teaches adults and children to open their hearts and help others who may not be as fortunate as they are,” Karen said. “This experience changes your life forever.”
The Browns would like to encourage interested couples to learn more about the houseparent role by attending an Online Information Session where recruiters and current houseparents discuss the Home Life role in detail and answer questions live.