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Salford Children's Services Procedures Manual Salford City Council website

3.13.7 Managing Behaviour in Foster Homes


  1. Introduction
  2. Scope
  3. Policy Statement
  4. Procedure
  5. The Use of Physical Restraint

1. Introduction

1.1 Relationships between foster carers and children are based on mutual respect, understanding and clear professional and personal boundaries which are effective for both the individuals and the group. Foster carers and their families respond positively to acceptable behaviour and where the behaviour of children is regarded as unacceptable by carers, it is responded to by constructive, acceptable and known disciplinary measures approved by Salford's Fostering Service.
1.2 Salford Fostering Service is required by Regulation 13 of the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 to prepare and implement a written policy on acceptable measure of control, restraint and discipline of children placed with Foster Carers. In accordance with these regulations, all Salford foster carers enter a written agreement prior to any placements (The Foster Care Agreement) which includes the requirement "Not to administer corporal punishment to any child".

This policy covers the range of ways in which children living in Salford's foster homes will be supported in their behaviour including:

  • Use of positive behaviours and rewards
  • Consequences
  • Physical Interventions
  • Use of calming techniques

Statutory basis for the Policy

  • The Children Act 1989
  • National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011
  • Fostering Services Regulations 2011

Link to other policies

  • Safe Care policy
  • Foster Care Agreement
  • Children's Guide

2. Scope

2.1 This procedure applies to children placed in foster homes managed by Salford Children's Services. The principles of this policy apply to the placement of all Looked After children including those with independent agencies where social workers must ensure these or other adequate procedures are applied.
2.2 This policy is expected to be used by foster carers, children's social workers and family placement social workers in their supervision and support of foster placements and those children placed within them.

3. Policy Statement

3.1 The principles of managing behaviour are based on providing a warm and nurturing environment where foster carers provide a young person with high levels of praise and encouragement for all appropriate behaviours.
3.2 Children also need clear guidelines and consistent messages about behaviour which is not appropriate. Looked After children are particularly vulnerable to displaying negative behaviour and need ongoing support and encouragement to improve their skills in managing their daily life and relationships.

Negative and challenging behaviour in Looked After children can be linked to a variety of reasons which include:

  • Neglectful early life experiences which cause a child to lack the skills necessary to respond appropriately to situations.
  • Abusive life experiences which cause children to build up resilient behaviours to protect themselves from ongoing traumatic experiences. This can include a child's experience within the care system and in relation to managing placement moves and possible rejection from carers.
  • Early and ongoing experiences with birth family and within the care system which cause the child to learn inappropriate ways of managing behaviour from the adults and other children around them. This can include such as the use of physical punishment.
3.4 Foster carers play a key role in helping children meet their potential and managing their behaviour appropriately is crucial to helping children do this. Foster carers require ongoing training, support, patience, skill and humour to continue to help children learn new skills and create positive relationships.

4. Procedure

4.1 In order to provide the best possible care for a child, it is important that care plans, risk assessments and specific behaviour management documentation identify any known behaviours and positive ways to address difficult behaviours. These will be monitored and updated as foster carers build relationships with children and start to understand a child's behaviour.
4.2 All foster carers will be required to implement a safe care policy which states clear rules around acceptable behaviour within the home. This will need to be updated as specific children are placed within their home to ensure particular behaviours and risks of an individual child or children are managed within the safe care policy.
4.3 On entering foster care all children will receive a copy of Salford's Children's Guide which explains to children some of their rights within foster care, how to seek help and unacceptable sanctions, such as corporal punishment. Social workers and foster carers are required to discuss this further with children, helping them to feel a sense of safety and predictability within the placement.
4.4 Any measures taken to respond to unacceptable behaviour will be appropriate to the age, understanding and individual needs of the child; taking into account that behaviour may be the result of illness, bullying, disabilities or communication difficulties.
4.5 Prior to approval, foster carers will be required to attend the 'Skills to Foster' training which includes guidance on behaviour management, safe caring and child development. Following approval, carers are required to attend the rolling programme training session on 'Managing Behaviour'. In addition, Salford Fostering Service and STARLAC provide 6 week intensive behaviour management programme's. These are for small groups of foster carers to attend where they are provided with specific strategies and advice particular to the ages of children they care for and follow-up consultations.

Foster carers are required to promote a positive atmosphere based on warmth, understanding and praise. Children need to improve their self-esteem and sense of belonging. Target behaviours need to be small and achievable with allowances made for mistakes. Good behaviour should always be rewarded and this can be done in a variety of ways, suitable to the particular child such as:

  • Verbal praise
  • A star/points reward system to allow the child to earn points in order to achieve their goals, for example buying certain clothes or taking part in a particular activity.
  • The child can also earn extra points, money or vouchers towards a reward or 'treats' for exceptional behaviour.
4.7 Foster carers can also encourage positive behaviour by modelling appropriate behaviour within themselves and constant positive reaffirmation of what is acceptable behaviour. Children also need help learning alternative strategies for coping with their feelings that is more acceptable.

Consequences or sanctions should be designed to improve the child's behaviour in the future and not to inflict punishment. They should not intimidate, humiliate or frighten the child or infringe any of the child's human rights. When a child needs a consequence for unacceptable behaviour, account should be taken of the appropriateness of the consequence to the misdemeanour, and the age and development stage of the child. Consequences should never include:

  • Corporal punishment - hitting or smacking
  • Handling a child roughly
  • Verbal abuse, name calling or threatening a child
  • Withholding food
  • Isolating a child for a long period of time
  • Stopping contact with a family member/important person
  • Sending a child to their bedroom as a punishment
  • Withholding spending money, unless the young person is paying for damages to a property
  • Humiliation, sarcasm, withholding affection, racist or abusive language.
Examples of appropriate consequences could include withdrawal of privileges (such as computer games), extra supervision of a child, extra chores and reparation. Foster carers can receive further advice from the child's social worker or family placement social worker in considering the suitability of consequences. It is important to always try and create a positive environment where more positive behaviours are rewarded then consequences given. Children need ongoing motivation and clear goals to improve their behaviour.
4.9 Challenging behaviour and emotional difficulties which are more complex may require a referral to Salford's Therapeutic and Advisory Service for Looked After Children (STARLAC).

5. The Use of Physical Restraint

5.1 Restraint is the positive application of force with the intention of protecting a child from harming him/herself or others. Where it is recognised that a child's behaviour is likely to require the application of restraint, the child should not be placed with foster carers.
5.2 It is recognised that a child's behaviour can sometimes escalate further within foster care or that all information is not known about a child prior to placement. There may be occasions where a situation is so serious that physical restraint or enforced isolation may be necessary. This should only be in extreme circumstances when all other methods have failed.

Physical restraint should only be used on a child:

  • To prevent them harming themselves or others
  • To stop them seriously damaging property

The following principles should be used when considering the use of restraint:

  • Foster carers should have grounds for believing that immediate action is necessary to prevent the child for significantly injuring himself or others, or causing serious injury to property.
  • Foster carers should take steps in advance to avoid the need for physical restraint. For example, talking to the child, diversion or the warning of consequences. The child should be warned that physical restraint will be used unless he/she desists.
  • Only the minimum force necessary to prevent injury or damage should be applied.
  • Every effort should be made to ensure another adult is present before applying restraint to act as support and as a witness.
  • As soon as it is safe, restraint should be gradually relaxed to allow the child to regain self-control. An explanation should be given to the child as to why restraint was used.
  • Restraint should be an act of care and control, not punishment.
5.5 Foster carers should record any use of restraint as soon as possible after the incident. This recording should include details of what led to restraint, the method of restraint used and the outcome, including any injuries to the child or carer. A copy of this recording should be passed to the child's social worker and family placement social worker as soon as possible. The social worker will speak to the child and both the foster carer and child may require additional support.

Examples of appropriate alternative strategies to de-escalate behaviour include:

  • Verbal advice, support encouragement and reassurance (reminding of past successes)
  • Help Script (John, I can see you are upset, why don't you tell me what's bothering you)
  • Distraction (activity, key word, job to do)
  • Humour
  • Change of task
  • Negotiation
  • Contingent touch (hand on shoulder, guide away)
  • Removal of the audience
  • Inform of desired behaviour
  • Remind of targets for reward system
  • Remind of rights and responsibilities
  • Remind of rules, boundaries and limits
  • Give choices, options and consequences
  • Offer of withdrawal
  • Physical intervention (including moving away from the situation, holding/hugging a child)
5.7 Risk assessment and behaviour management plans will inform the need for any use of physical intervention. Where this is indicated foster carers will receive relevant training (Salford's 3 day D.I.V.E.R.T. course) and information which will emphasise positive approaches and alternatives to the use of physical intervention where possible. Strategies should be agreed with the child where age and developmental stage is appropriate.