Behaviour Support and Safe Caring
1. Encouraging and Rewarding Children
Whilst children bring their own values and behaviours to placements, foster carers and residential staff play a key role in influencing children in their care the culture of the home environment, is crucial.
Foster carers and residential staff are expected to understand, manage and deal with young people's behaviour including encouraging children to take responsibility for their behaviour and help them to learn how to resolve conflict. A restrictive, unsupportive, discouraging and punishing culture will result in instability, hostility and possibly severe disruption.
All looked after placements should have clear, fair boundaries, where children and young people feel safe, encouraged and appropriately rewarded, so that they will thrive and do well. Carers who adopt this approach will also experience less instability and disruption.
Foster carers/residential staff should at all times:
- Listen to and empathise with children and young people, respect their views and wishes and take these into consideration;
- Acknowledge things that are going well, or any step in the right direction, and appropriately reward;
- Use rewards in a creative and diverse way, specific to an individual child's needs, capabilities and interests. This may mean that children are rewarded with toys, games, activities or monetary rewards. But all 'tangible' rewards should be accompanied by use of 'non tangible' encouragement and support - by carers/staff demonstrating to children that they have done well. Such 'non tangible' rewards include praising, smiling, touching and hugging children.
Children usually benefit, early on, from rewards which may appear to outweigh that which is expected. This is normal; over time rewards can be more relevant as children's self esteem and skills improve.
- Children who have few social or life skills and whose self esteem and confidence is low may require forms of encouragement and reward which are intensive, frequent or even excessive in order to help/remind them that they are doing well and appreciated;
- A child who has previously been unable to get up for school may be offered a gift or activity for getting up on time for a few days as an incentive;
- However, it should also be borne in mind that some children cannot tolerate praise as it undermines the low perception they have of themselves. For these children smaller more specific praise is needed.
Over time, as children achieve what is expected, such rewards should be reduced or children should be expected to achieve more for the same or a similar reward.
2. Minimum House Rules
All foster carers/residential staff should have a safe caring policy. This should be explained to children, within their care with clear reasons for the rules and they should also know that that there are rules for everyone. They should not feel that they are being treated with less regard than other members of the household. These expectations should be outlined to children before they are placed and throughout the placement and may include as follows:
- No smoking;
- Keep their bedroom clean and tidy;
- Not going into any other bedroom;
- Be appropriately dressed at all times;
- Upon going out ensure that the time your carer has asked you ti, to return home is respected;
- Always be where you say you will;
- If you want to change your plans when you are out you should ask permission from your carer first;
- Do not assault any member of your foster family or residential staff;
- Do not injury any pet of the foster family;
- Homework must be done and you will be encouraged to do this in placement;
- If you have been excluded from school, school work will be done at home and in some circumstances a tutor may assist you with this;
- When you use the bathroom or toilet always close the door for your privacy;
- If you have any problems try and talk to your carer/residential staff in the first instance, if not then make best endeavours to speak with your allocated social worker;
- Try to consider other people's feelings and be reflective as there are consequences for your actions.
3.1 Guidance on use of Sanctions
Sanctions can be very effective but, before imposing them, think about it.
Most looked after children have come to view themselves, and are viewed, as failures. They have had their fill of sanctions, usually imposed inconsistently, unfairly or as acts of revenge.
Before imposing sanctions, carers/residential staff should do all they can to support and encourage children to do well. If children do not behave acceptably, strategies should be adopted that are encouraging and rewarding.
Rather than noticing and sanctioning misbehaviour it is always better to notice and reward good behaviour - or any step in the right direction. For example, it may be more effective to allow a child to have use of a video or TV at bedtime for getting up on time; rather than taking the TV away for getting up late. Same deal, different meaning!
The former is discouraging and causes resentment; the latter is encouraging, can improve self esteem and relationships between children and carers.
Be creative, think outside the box!
If children continue to behave in unacceptable ways, they should be reminded about what is expected and given further encouragement to get it right. If misbehaviour persists or is serious, effective use of reprimands can act as a disincentive or firm reminder. If this does not work, or may not, sanctions may be effective. When a child has done something wrong, it is often more effective to give them an opportunity to make reparation than to impose a sanction e.g. helping to repair or clean up damage, writing a letter of apology.
Where sanctions are used they must be reasonable and the minimum necessary to achieve the objective. Also, there should be a belief that the sanction will have the desired outcome - increasing the possibility that acceptable behaviour will follow.
If sanctions are imposed, carers should apply the following principles:
- Sanctions must be the exception, not the rule and a last resort;
- Sanctions must not be imposed as acts of revenge or retaliation;
- Think before imposing the sanctions; don't apply it in the heat of the moment;
- Sanctions may only be imposed upon children for persistent or serious misbehaviour where reminders and reprimands have already failed or are likely to fail;
- Sanctions should only be used if there is a reasonable chance they will have the desired effect of making the point and in reducing or preventing further unacceptable behaviour;
- Before applying any sanction, make sure the child is aware that his/her behaviour is unacceptable and, if possible, warn him/her that sanctions will be applied if the unacceptable behaviour continues;
- It is the certainty not the severity of sanctions that is important;
- Sanctions should only last as long as they need to and allow the child the opportunity to make a fresh start as quickly as possible.
3.2 Non Approved Sanctions
The following sanctions are Non Approved, which means they may never be imposed upon children:
- Any form of corporal punishment; i.e. any intentional application of force as punishment, including slapping, punching, rough handling and throwing missiles;
- Any sanction relating to the consumption or deprivation of food or drink;
- Any restriction on a child's contact arrangements with his or her parents, relatives or friends; visits to the child by his or her parents, relatives or friends; a child's communications with any of the persons listed below*; or his or her access to any telephone helpline providing counselling or advice for children. (N.B. This does not prevent contact or communication being restricted in exceptional circumstances, where it is necessary to do so to protect the child or others - see Contact with Parents and Siblings Procedure);
- Any requirement that a child wear distinctive or inappropriate clothes;
- The use or withholding of medication or medical or dental treatment;
- The intentional deprivation of sleep;
- The modification of a child's behaviour through bribery or the use of threats;
- Any sanction used intentionally or unintentionally which may humiliate a child or could cause them to be ridiculed;
- The imposition of any fine or financial penalty, other than a requirement for the payment of a reasonable sum by way of reparation. (N.B. The Court may impose fines upon children which staff should encourage and support them to repay);
- Any intimate physical examination of a child;
- The withholding of aids/equipment needed by a child with a disability or special educational needs;
- Any measure which involves a child in the imposition of any measure against any other child; or the sanction of a group of children for the behaviour of an individual child;
- Swearing at or the use of foul, demeaning or humiliating language or measures.
*The persons with whom the child may have contact, in relation to c. above, are:
- Any officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service appointed for the child;
- Any allocated social worker;
- Any person appointed in respect of any requirement of the procedure specified in the Representations Procedure (Children) Regulations 1991;
- An Independent Visitor;
- Any person authorised by the Regulatory Authority e.g. Ofsted;
- Any person authorised by the local authority in whose area the child's placement is situated;
- Any person authorised by the Secretary of State to conduct an inspection of the children's home and the children there.
3.3 Approved Sanctions
The following sanctions may be imposed upon children:
- Confiscation or withdrawal of a telephone or mobile phone in order to protect a child or another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged;
- Restriction on sending or receiving letters or other correspondence (including the use of electronic or internet correspondence) in order to protect a child or another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged;
- Reparation, involving the child doing something to put right the wrong they have done; e.g.: repairing damage or returning stolen property;
- Restitution, involving the child paying for all or part of damage caused or the replacement of misappropriated monies or goods. No more than two thirds of a child's pocket money may be taken in these circumstances if the payment is small and withdrawn in a single weekly amount. Larger amounts may be paid in restitution but must be of a fixed amount with a clear start and end period. If the damage is serious or the size of payment particularly large then the child's Social Worker should be informed of the matter;
- Curtailment of leisure activities, involving a child being prevented from participating in such activities;
- Additional chores, involving a child undertaking additional chores over and above those they would normally be expected to do;
- Early bedtimes, by up to half an hour or as agreed with the child's Social Worker;
- Removal of equipment, for example the use of a TV or video/DVD player;
- Loss of privileges, for example the withdrawal of the privilege of staying up late;
- Suspension of pocket money for short periods.
3.4 Recording of Sanctions
If a child receives a sanction it should be recorded by the foster carer/residential staff on their daily recording log, sanction log and on the child's case notes so that these are reviewable if need be.
Foster Carers or residential staff are not under any circumstance permitted to carry out body searches, search bedrooms or a child's personal belongings. This is intrusive of a child or young person's personal space.
However, in the event that carers suspect that a child or young person is carrying or has concealed an item which may place the child or another person at risk, they should liaise with the police as a safeguarding measure but make best endeavours to obtain the item by using co-operation and negotiation skills. Other children, young people and adults should be asked to remove themselves from the situation to minimise the situation escalating.
5. Serious Incidents and use of Physical Intervention
In the event of any serious incident (e.g. accident, violence or assault, damage to property), foster carers/residential staff should take the necessary action to protect children and themselves from immediate harm or injury; and then notify the relevant agencies immediately, namely the allocated social worker and/or out of hours.
If there is a risk of serious injury/harm, foster carers/residential staff should not use any form or Physical Intervention except as a last resort to prevent themselves or others from being injured or to prevent serious damage to property. If any form of Physical Intervention is used, it must be the least intrusive necessary to protect the child, carer(s) or others and they must be aware of the relevant Physical Intervention techniques.
At no time should carer or residential staff respond unless they are confident of managing the situation safely, without it escalation.
The carers/ residential staff should endeavour to deal with as many of the challenges that are involved in caring for children without recourse to the involvement of the Police, who should only be involved in two circumstances:
- An emergency necessitating their immediate involvement to protect the child or others;
- Making best endeavours to have a discussion with the allocated social worker and/or relevant Team Manager, Senior Manager from the local authority.
If any serious incident occurs or the Police are called, the allocated social worker must be notified without delay and a written incident report should be provided within 24 hours after notification. The relevant Team Manager/Senior Manager within the local authority should determine from the report if there is a need to take matter further and the relevant Regulatory Authority to be notified, if need be.
6. Younger Children
Managing the behaviour of younger children within a foster placement requires the carer to be sensitive to the needs of a young child. They may have limitations due to their individual health, emotional or other developmental needs.
The behavioural management of younger children will be explored at an age appropriate level to ensure that they have opportunities to learn by example from their carers.
The early years foundation years underpin a good practice guide for those working with young children and this is essential for their transition as they grow older.
(See Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS)).