Full House, Full Hearts
Some married couples would consider it to be a daunting adjustment to move into a house full of eight teenage boys. But for Kevin and Ashley Barrett it was the exact opposite.
“Kevin and I both come from big families,” said Ashley. “He has six brothers and sisters and I have seven, so it was actually a harder adjustment for us to be married and just be the two of us under one roof than it was to take on a group of kids.”
The Barretts love having a bustling, full house. In fact, it’s one of the things that drew them to become Life Skills Teachers (formerly known as House Parents) at Omaha Home for Boys. The Barretts have been at OHB since May 2018 and have found that living the house parent lifestyle is the perfect fit for them and their four children ranging in age from newborn to six years old.
“Working with my wife and having my kids there too is amazing,” said Kevin.
As Life Skills Teachers in OHB’s Residential Living Program, Kevin and Ashley are responsible for creating a safe, secure, healthy family environment for the teenage boys who live in their cottage. They know how important it is for the youth in their care to have positive role models and mentors present as this is something that most are lacking in their lives.
“A lot of the kids haven’t had a healthy example of what a parent is or what a marriage looks like,” said Ashley. “I think the example that we can set of loving each other, being married, loving God and loving our kids gives the youth something they’ve never really seen before. It gives them a totally different perspective and that alone can help set them up to be more successful.”
Kevin has an interesting perspective to offer as a Life Skills Teacher having walked the same path as many of the youth in his care. He spent five years in a group home as a teen so it’s especially rewarding for him to see the transformation that young men in his care make.
“I love to see the positive changes that take place in our youth. It makes me so happy,” said Kevin. “One of my favorite things about being a Life Skills Teacher is seeing kids who are willing to change and be better people.”
The Barretts readily admit that things can get a little hectic with a house full of teenagers plus four little ones of their own, but they wouldn’t want it any other way. The opportunity to give back and make a positive impact on the lives of the young men they work with far outweighs the stress that comes with running a busy household.
“We realized we could live our life doing whatever we wanted, earning our money, going on vacations and just worrying about our life, our children and what we have going on; or we could help change somebody else’s life and do something to effect somebody else’s life. We chose to live a life of giving,” said Ashley.
What’s It Really Like to Be a Life Skills Teacher?
We sat down with Kevin and Ashley to find out the inside scoop on what it’s really like to be a Life Skills Teacher in charge of a brood of teenage boys who all come from different backgrounds.
Q. What’s a typical day like for you as a Life Skills Teacher?
Kevin: When the boys get up in the morning they’re working on chores and breakfast. Then they’re off to school. Ashley and I work on paperwork, phone calls, emails and help with appointments while also spending time with our own kids. When the boys come home from school, it’s time for check-ins and snacks before they head off to work. Dinner is followed by study time and we end the day with recreation time, including going to the Rec Center, playing games or watching sports.
Q: What’s it like living and working with your spouse? That’s a lot of time together.
Ashley: I wouldn’t want it to change. I love working with Kevin.
Kevin: Working with my spouse and having my kids there too is amazing.
Q: What do you consider to be a successful day with the youth?
Ashley: I think, like any parent, a successful day is finding that you’re not wishing for bedtime to get here! Also any time I can build a relationship with a youth and act as a healthy female voice for them is a successful day.
Kevin: For me, it’s having one youth do one thing better than they did the day before. We like to celebrate the small successes.
Q: And the burning question everyone wants to know about having eight teenage boys in the same home, how do you keep them all fed and full?
Kevin: She’s the cook!
Ashley: I come from such a large family I don’t even know how to cook for just two people. Plus, we keep lots of snacks handy!