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1.29 Positive arrangements and Behaviour Management in Foster Care


All Northumberland Foster Carers and supervising Social Workers


  1. Introduction
  2. Behaviour Management
  3. Promoting Positive Behaviour
  4. De-Escalation
  5. Sanctions
  6. Prohibited Sanctions
  7. Approved Sanctions
  8. Physical Intervention
  9. Monitoring of Significant Events

1. Introduction

The Family Placement Service should ensure that ensure that children in foster care enjoy positive and safe relationships with their foster family, interact positively with others and behave appropriately. Building relationships with children includes respecting their privacy and confidentiality, in a manner which is consistent with good parenting. Foster carers will be expected to have high expectations and to provide children with a home environment and family culture which promotes models and supports positive behaviour.

Children should be encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour in a way that is appropriate to their ages and abilities, and emotional development, but with the scope to develop and practice skills which enable them to build and maintain positive relationships, be assertive and resolve conflicts positively. Foster carers will need to have positive strategies for effectively supporting children wherever and whenever they encounter discrimination or bullying.

Discipline is an important part of behaviour management, but it is important that foster carers understand how previous experiences can manifest themselves in challenging behaviour, but know that they will be supported and trained to manage, not only the behaviour, but also the responses and feelings arising from caring for children who display such behaviour.

Supervising Social Workers should support foster carers in providing a positive and safe environment. The service should provide training and monitor the use of sanctions and physical interventions.

2. Behaviour Management

A Risk Assessment should be provided when a child is first placed and be regularly updated. This informs a foster carer’s Safe Care Policy and should identify any behaviour which may need ‘management’, rather than ‘discipline’, with advice and guidance being provided by the Social Worker and Supervising Social Worker about the parenting style which will be most helpful to the child. Any Behaviour Support Plan should be contained in the child’s Placement Plan.

It is accepted there will be times when children and young people will experience difficulties in managing their behaviour. In order to maintain their safety and dignity, focused interventions, which allow growth and promote positive wellbeing, are expected to be used by foster carers.

The department’s policy for foster carer’s is that positive behaviour management is the preferred approach to managing behaviour and that, in crisis situations, de-escalation is the primary objective.

3. Promoting Positive Behaviour

Positive behaviour is promoted through a number of strategies:

  • Praise. Praise any positive behaviour, however small, so the child/young person gets a clear message about what is expected of them and to enhance their self-esteem. The recommended ration is Praise 5:1 Discipline;
  • Ignore Negative Behaviour so the child/young person does not get attention for inappropriate behaviour;
  • Reproof. Explain to the child/young person that their behaviour is not appropriate or acceptable;
  • Reprimand. Explain to the child/young person that their behaviour is not appropriate or acceptable and that there will be consequences if it does not change.

4. De-Escalation

To be prepared for potentially difficult situations, foster carers need all the relevant information about the child, including any behaviour that has caused concern in the past and any ‘triggers’ that can lead to an aggressive outburst. This information should be covered in the placement agreement meeting and recorded in the child’s Placement Plan.

When faced with a volatile situation, foster carers should try to stay calm and not raise their voice. De-escalation strategies foster carers could employ include:

  • Being aware of our own body language and verbal interactions;
  • Walking away to defuse the situation if there is no immediate risk to self or others;
  • Verbal advice, support, encouragement and reassurance (reminding of past successes);
  • Distraction (activity, key word, job to do);
  • Humour;
  • Change of task;
  • Negotiation (delayed compliance);
  • Contingent touch (hand on shoulder, guide away);
  • Inform of desired behaviour;
  • Remind of rights and responsibilities;
  • Remind of rules, boundaries and limits;
  • Give choices, options and consequences (get out with dignity clause).

5. Sanctions

In selecting a sanction, account should be taken of the appropriateness of the sanction to the misdemeanour and, before imposing a sanction, foster carers must be satisfied that:

  • The child/young person was capable of behaving acceptably and understands what was required of him/her;
  • Other positive behaviour management strategies have not, or would not, work in the circumstances;
  • The sanction is relevant, fair, timely and does not last longer than necessary;
  • The sanction will encourage acceptable behaviour;
  • The child understands the relevance of the sanction;
  • The sanction is individual to the child and does not affect any other child in placement.

Sanctions should only be imposed as a last resort, where it is not possible to use other more positive methods of control and should be time limited and flexible enough to be reviewed and rescinded at any time.

Caution should be exercised to ensure that sanctions are not imposed repeatedly with little or no effect, or where they may act as positive re-enforcement of unacceptable behaviour.

Foster carers should never threaten to impose a sanction that they are not prepared or able to enforce.

All sanctions must be recorded in the Foster Carers daily records.

6. Prohibited Sanctions

Sanctions should never include:

  • Corporal punishment;
  • Stopping contact with significant people in the child’s life;
  • Stopping attendance at significant cultural and religious events;
  • Withholding normal food or drink;
  • The wearing of distinctive/inappropriate clothing;
  • Preventing sleep;
  • Withholding medical/dental treatment or equipment of a disabled child;
  • The prolonged isolation of the child or young person from peers or normal routine;
  • The locking of doors;
  • Monetary fines - although the reduction of pocket money for reparation can be used as a sanction.

7. Approved Sanctions

Control of Pocket Money

In certain circumstances, for example where a young person is misusing pocket money by making unsuitable purchases, or in circumstances where it might be appropriate for a reasonable parent to stop a child’s pocket money, it is permissible not to give all the money to the child immediately. Any delay in pocket money should not exceed two thirds of the child’s normal allowance. Withheld money may be retained until its return is considered suitable, however it would normally be expected that the young person should begin receiving normal pocket money again within one month of the start of the sanction.

Reparation and Compensation

Reparation and compensation may be made where an offence of damage or theft would make such a sanction appropriate, but this should be reasonable with regard to the young person’s means, rather than necessarily seeking to cover the cost of the damage or loss.

Extra Chores

The child may be required to undertake extra chores or to carry out suitable tasks. These must be reasonable given the age and abilities of the child and must not necessitate prolonged isolation of the child from its peers or normal routine. An explanation should be given to the child and the sanction recorded.


The child may be placed under extra supervision by the foster carers, both on and off the premises for a time-limited period.

Removal of Possessions

If a child’s own possessions are used in a way that causes a nuisance to others, the possessions may be removed for an appropriate length of time and returned on an undertaking of responsible use. Where possessions are dangerous or are used in a dangerous manner, they should be confiscated and kept in a safe place.

Withdrawal of Privileges

These may include:

  • Exclusions;
  • Activities;
  • Edible treats; and
  • Favourite pastimes which do not form part of the normal routine of the child.

The sanction must be specific and time limited.

Amendment of Routine

The child’s normal routine may be amended in a number of ways, all of which must be specific and time limited. For example:

  • The child’s bed time may be brought forward, although care must be taken that the child is not required to go to bed at a wholly inappropriate time of day;
  • Contact with friends may be delayed or postponed, subject to review, as contact can never be withdrawn;
  • The child may be required to leave the usual activities in the home and spend time in their bedroom or other suitable room. The level of supervision should be such that the child is not unduly isolated and doors must never be locked.


It is appropriate to tell young people that they are not allowed out as a sanction, providing it is specific and time limited.

8. Physical Intervention

Foster carers are not usually permitted or trained to use any form of physical intervention to control a child or young person.

Only in exceptional circumstances carers may be authorised to undertake planned interventions or escape in situations where a child or other person, including the carer is at physical risk. Such exceptional circumstances must require a written plan specific to the child, agreed by the carer, the child’s Social Worker and the Family Placement Manager. Carers must have received specific accredited training and only carry out the actions agreed in the plan. The foster carer must record the intervention and notify the Supervising Social Worker as set out in 8.4.

In exceptional unplanned events when a child places themselves or others at immediate serious physical risk. For example, running into traffic, physical intervention may be necessary. The foster carer must be prepared to be fully accountable for their actions, especially whether there was time to anticipate the need for intervention and involve another adult to be a witness or to call for support from the department or the police.

Reporting and Recording

For any panned or unplanned physical intervention used, the full details must be written in the daily log and the supervising social worker (duty worker in their absence) and the child’s social worker must be notified within 24 hours or as soon as practicable verbally.

The Supervising Social Worker must complete a Physical Intervention Recording and Reporting Form and follow the Notification of Events Procedure.

The child’s social worker must make a decision about whether to inform the child/young person’s parent(s) and if so who should do so.

The record must include:

  • Date and time of incident;
  • Location of incident;
  • Name of child/young person;
  • Names of people present;
  • The events that led up to the need for Physical Intervention;
  • Any substance use involved;
  • An exact description of the actions taken by the foster carer, the nature of the physical intervention and its effectiveness;
  • The outcome including any injuries caused to or reported by the child/young person;
  • How the incident was resolved.

9. Monitoring of Significant Events

The Family Placement Manager will monitor the use of any measures of control, restraint or discipline in respect of children in foster homes.