In a group home setting, a chore list needs to involve far more than a simple list of tasks. A poorly designed list may lead to power struggles between the children assigned to the chores or leave staff in the lurch. An incomplete list may result in a lack of hygiene and may lead to poor marks on inspections.

Know Your Population

As group homes typically have residents with widely varying ages and capabilities, chore lists and chore assignments should reflect these extremes. By creating a list that breaks the work down into small, simple steps, you can allow younger and less-able children to work alongside older and higher-functioning children. These basic steps also provide clarity for staff members, helping keep your program functioning consistently and thoroughly.

Break it Down

Your chore list should spell out each of the simple steps used to fulfill the larger tasks for the home. For example, the chore "sweep the dining room" may include instructions such as "move each chair to sweep beneath" and "replace the chairs neatly around the table." Include an explanation as to where to empty the dust pan and a reminder to return the broom and dust pan to their proper locations after use.

According to the Odyssey Project's study of children and youth in residential group care and therapeutic foster care, “prior to intake, almost half of the youth had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital.” Children in group homes may have one or more psychiatric diagnoses and severe behavioral issues, show poor attention to detail or have problems following directions. By clarifying each step, you make it easier for the staff to direct the children and for the children to remain focused on the task at hand.

Divide the Work

If you divide your facility into rooms or zones, it will be easier to coordinate the functioning of a full household. Working by area, staff members may find it easier to maintain supervision over residents as they complete chores. Tools needed to complete tasks within an area may then be stored together or gathered before work begins and carried by the children through each room. This eliminates the chaos that can come from working in multiple areas, such as not having enough tools to go around or finding that work was incomplete because staff was unable to monitor each individual task through to completion.

Assign Chores

Assign chores, placing each child’s name next to her chores for the week. Change the chore assignments weekly to allow the children to learn other skills and to respond to new expectations. Chore assignments may be based on behavior, with responsible students earning time off or fewer assignments.

Post the List

Post your chore list where each member of the group home can see it. This allows residents to see their routine spelled out for them, with the expectations clearly defined. For some, this may alleviate anxiety or arguments. Follow the same routine on a daily basis so that chores are performed in a similar order at a similar time. This consistency will help the facility to function more smoothly and introduce a measure of safety and security into the lives of the children involved.