Behaviour Management Policy For the Fostering Service

1. Introduction and Key Principles

Kirklees Fostering Unit are bound by the requirements of Fostering Services Regulations 2011 (Reg.13 Standard 3.8) to prepare and implement a written policy on acceptable measures of control, restraint and discipline of children placed with our foster carers.

This document outlines to foster carers, social workers and parents our policy with regard to the use of sanctions, control measures and forms of physical intervention.

As a service we know that there can often be difficulties and dilemmas when foster carers are managing children away from their family home. We also know that often foster carers are dealing with children who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society, who have experienced abuse and neglect, and who also often have difficulty in accepting rules or boundaries laid down for them. We recognise that foster carers and their families have a right to a safe living environment and that in addition to this foster homes are also a work place and as such, foster carers have the right to expect that all appropriate risk assessments and safe guards will exist for the safety of all involved.

The ways that carers manage the behaviour of children living with them form a crucial part of their Care Plan. All parties to the planning of the care of the child need to be aware of the rules and boundaries that are in place. This should be discussed at every Placement Planning Meeting.

2. Aims of this Policy

It is the aim of this policy to outline the general principles which will be used in caring for a foster child / young person in the areas of sanction, control and physical intervention, as well as offering guidance about how these specific interventions can be planned, monitored and recorded.

This policy will also outline the circumstances in which these interventions can be used and also which types of approaches to children are not allowed, as well as the consequences for foster carers taking such actions. In doing this we are ensuring that all reasonable steps are undertaken to ensure that foster carers, their families and the children have a safe living and working environment.

As no two children or carers are the same, this policy / guidance will need to be considered at the time of planning and new placement or when difficulties arise. Avoiding confrontation and rewarding good behaviour rather than punishing 'bad behaviours' are often more successful techniques.

3. Purpose

This policy will:

  • Offer fosters carers, support staff, parents etc clear guidelines about what are acceptable control measures and how they can be applied within the fostering environment;
  • Identify how control measures will be agreed upon by those involved in the care of the child / young person in placement;
  • Identify how these measures will be implemented, monitored and reviewed;
  • Identify how these interventions will be recorded.

What do we mean by behaviour management?

This next section considers what would be regarded as acceptable and unacceptable forms of discipline and control.

4. Acceptable Forms of Discipline and Control

Any measures taken to respond to unacceptable behaviour must be proportionate and appropriate to the age, understanding and individual needs of the child, for example taking into account that unacceptable or challenging behaviour may be the result of a child past experiences, physical illness, bullying, and special educational needs or disabilities or communication difficulties.

Carers should explain to the child what will happen if there is unacceptable behaviour and any actions taken should be relevant and reasonable and carried out as close to the time of the incident as possible.

Children should always be helped to develop socially acceptable behaviour through the encouragement of positive behaviour and constructive adult responses to inappropriate behaviour.

Individual carers will need to discuss the forms of control and discipline to be used within their home with their supervising social workers and child's social worker. This may vary from placement to placement and should be considered at the Placement Planning Meeting.

Areas that need to be considered:

  1. The experience and background of the foster carer;
  2. Whether the child being placed is within approval experience range;
  3. The usual forms of control and discipline used with the carer's own children;
  4. The carers experience of what works well for them;
  5. The age and ability of the children to be placed;
  6. The fosters carers history, including any personal experience of abuse;
  7. Any needs of foster children arising from their special educational needs or disability;
  8. Religious and cultural issues.

The following list provides guidance on the forms of control and discipline that are generally acceptable in foster homes.

The list is not meant to be exhaustive, nor is it meant to imply that all these methods are appropriate and acceptable in all circumstances.

Carers should think carefully before employing any of these methods and if necessary seek further advice. These methods should be kept under review in discussions with your supervising social worker and child's social worker, in supervisory visits or statutory visits by the child's social worker.

Time out / isolation

This should be used to affect positive change and should be used in a time limited manner (i.e. one minute per year of child's life). It should be used as an opportunity to break a pattern of behaviour and give the child time to think about what they have done. This could mean isolating the child within a room occupied by others to sending them to a room on their own. Care must be taken to ensure the child's safety, and carers will need to think about the child's previous experiences before isolating a child in a particular room. For example, a child who has been regularly abused in a living room should not be isolated in the carer's living room.

Guidance around the use of time out / isolation:

'Time out' is a commonly known behaviour technique widely used when a child's behaviour is deemed unacceptable to foster carers. But 'time out' needs to be used with care where a child is anxious about rejection and separation. It is important to give some thought to the use of 'time out' as for some children being removed from the person they love / care for can remind them of earlier unhappy times / memories.

Outside of the home, choose a close convenient spot to take 'time out' together - on a park bench or seat in a shopping centre. This kind of 'time out' provides the child with an opportunity to experience being calmed, something they may not have had before, and which is an essential part of being helped to learn to calm themselves.

Being able to take on the views or arguments of you as a carer will be a difficult task for a child when emotions are high, so don't expect 'time out' to be a useful tool for this. 'Time out' is much more helpful as a way to help children to calm down and 'pause for thought' during an incident - helping them step away from starting destructive behaviour or finding a way to stop it once it has begun. Practicing 'pause for thought' is best achieved during calmer times, using real situations and stories to help the child think things through and find ways to communicate their feelings more appropriately.

To see things from the viewpoint of others (perspective-taking) is an essential skill to learn for a child if they are to communicate well, cooperate, plan, share and negotiate. During 'time out', perspective-taking prompts such as, "how do you think your behaviour is making me feel? Do you think I will want to talk to you when you're like this?" are more likely to being about fear and panic with a child who has experienced loss and trauma. It's probably better to wait until later on when things are calmer to talk about the feelings and experience of others.

Delay of giving pocket money

It should be noted that in extreme circumstances pocket money may be delayed up to a maximum of 48 hours. This delay should not prevent the child being able to participate in an event that is important to them e.g. sporting event, contact session.

Withdrawal of privileges

Privileges may be withdrawn for unacceptable behaviour. This may include denial of recreational facilities, but should not normally include denial of attendance at a regular out of school activity such as swimming lessons or attendance at cubs or brownies. The reason for this is because Children in Care are often more socially isolated that their peers and the use of such a sanction may further disadvantage the child.

Grounding (keeping a child in the house)

A child can be denied permission to leave the house for a set period of time or in specific circumstances. As with withdrawing privileges, the carer may still need to ensure that the child is allowed to attend specific activities.

Denial of personal belongings

Children have a right to their own clothes, toiletries and other possessions. However, personal belongings may be removed if they are deemed to be harmful to the child or others or they are being misused and likely to be damaged.

Carers may also restrict access to the use of personal possessions, for example a mobile phone or games console, as a sanction for a specified period.

Comfort items, such as a favourite doll or bear, should never be removed from a child as a sanction.

Restricting mobility / locking doors

Subject to the usual measures of the household such as locking external doors at night, children should never be locked in a room.

It may be appropriate to deny a child access to a particular room or a specific area such as the garden. This may apply when a young child leaving the home would place them at risk and therefore action to prevent this is clear.

This may be achieved in a number of ways such as verbal requests, locking doors or standing in the way, while taking care to avoid the risk of a physical confrontation.

5. Physical Intervention

Principles behind the use of physical intervention

Foster carers could face either criminal or civil proceedings if they commit an act against a young person that amounts to a civil wrong or a criminal act.

Definition: Is the positive application of force with the intention of overpowering the young person as a way of protecting them from harming themselves or others. Physical intervention should only be used if all other methods of dealing with the situation have been dismissed as unsafe.

Physical intervention can only legally be used where there is the belief that immediate action is required to prevent injury or prevent serious damage to property. These criteria for restraint would therefore apply:

  • When the child is attempting to harm themselves;
  • Where there is substantial risk of physical injury to another child;
  • Where there is substantial risk of physical injury to a member of the public or a staff member (usually a foster carer);
  • Where there is likely to be serious damage to property;
  • Where serious damage to property is occurring.
If it has been identified, either during the referral process or as a result of subsequent incidents, that a child may reach the criteria for restraint, then a planning meeting involving the foster carer, the placing social worker and the supervising social worker will be convened where a "Behaviour Management Plan" and a children and young person's risk assessment will be discussed, agreed on and completed.

The plan will form the agreed basis for any subsequent physical intervention strategy and will outline

  1. The reasons why a Behaviour Management Plan is necessary;
  2. The agreed Physical Intervention Strategy, including, a completed risk assessment document, any specific triggers, types of behaviour exhibited the forms of de-escalation techniques that will be attempted and the specific types of physical intervention strategies that are permitted. It is also useful to identify what de-escalation strategies and physical intervention techniques are to be avoided;
  3. The review timetable for the Behaviour Management Plan and the risk assessment;
  4. Who the relevant parties to the plan are and who may need to be consulted and / or informed. (This may depend upon the status of the child and who holds Parental Responsibility). It should also outline who holds responsibility for conducting this consultation;
  5. When implementing physical intervention only the minimum force and duration necessary to achieve this intervention can be legally used. If the situation becomes unmanageable it may be appropriate to call the Police.

When developing a Behaviour Management Plan that includes physical intervention the following factors will need to be taken into account:

  • The child's previous history of physical contact, this may be very important where a child has been subject to physical abuse;
  • The age and gender of the child;
  • The child's wishes and feelings as far as they can be ascertained;
  • The physical environment i.e. how the house is arranged, health & safety checklist;
  • The proximity of other people and the effect the physical intervention may have on them;
  • Cultural and religious factors.

Foster carers will not be allowed to implement a restraint strategy / Team Teach or other recognised intervention unless they have been trained and regularly update themselves in and are accredited in an appropriate, recognised restraint method.

(NB : Foster carers will be required undertake reaccreditation at the prescribed intervals in order to be able to continue to practice any taught restraint techniques).

It will be clearly stated that no foster carer will restrain a child unless the child meets the criteria for restraint. Restraint will not be used as a means of compliance, and will only be used as a last resort, and when all of the identified de-escalation techniques have been tried or considered and rejected as not working or unsafe the attempt.

Any instance of restraint must be reported to the Family Placement Unit as soon as possible and recorded on the appropriate form and returned to the Family Placement Unit within 48 hours. Carers should detail and record any use of restraint as soon as possible after the incident.

Basic conditions and expectations regarding the use of physical restraint or intervention

  • It is the last resort wherever possible;
  • Minimum force, duration and maximum care is used to ensure the safety of the young person and others;
  • Any pain, injury or distress to the child/young person is avoided;
  • If it is not possible to restrain a child safely, then no attempts should be made to exercise further control without further help;
  • Other children should not be asked to assist in restraining a child;
  • Ideally a second adult should be present, even when only one adult is able to restrain a child safely;
  • Once the young person has calmed, allow recovery time and later, a debriefing to talk through why restraint was necessary (within the child's ability and understanding).


On the form it needs to be made clear what happened, who was involved and what other options were considered, the techniques used and the timescales. Both the supervising social worker and the child's social workers should be informed immediately.

Subsequent to a restraint a Restraint Incident de-brief meeting will be held between the foster carer, child's social worker and the supervising social worker to examine the events leading up to the restraint and to advise on any further actions. An independent person may have spoken to the child or young person and contribute to this meeting.

Should the Behavioural Management Plan prove ineffective a further meeting will be convened and at this point the risk assessment should be reviewed and updated alongside the Behavioural Management Plan.

If at this point the risk assessment suggests that no safe Behavioural Management Plan can be formulated consideration should be given to terminating the placement.

Restraint must not be used as a punishment, as a means to enforce compliance with instructions, or in response to challenging behaviour which does not meet the criteria for restraint.

Inappropriate use of physical intervention may be considered as assault and could lead to disciplinary action.

Injuries to young people

Whilst physical injury to a child or young person can and should be reduced, there remains some risk when (for example) two or more people engage in and force is used to protect, release or restrain.

Appropriate restraint techniques seek to avoid injuries to the child or young person but it may be possible that bruising or scratching may occur accidentally. This should not be automatically regarded as a failure of professional technique, but a regrettable and infrequent side effect of ensuring that the young person remains safe.

Any injuries must be recorded on the Restraint Incident form.

6. Immediate Responses to Actual or Threatened Violence

Assaults on foster carers

  1. Child/young person should never be hit in retaliation;
  2. Carers should take steps to avoid the need for the use of restraint i.e. through dialogue or diversion, if possible, be made aware of the consequences of his/her action - i.e. that physical violence is not acceptable. Children/young people need to know that foster carers also have rights and an assault of a foster carer will be dealt with seriously;
  3. Physical restraint is acceptable if the child/young person is putting themselves or others at risk through violent behaviour, and the carer feels confident that action is appropriate. Only the minimum force for the shortest period of time necessary to prevent injury or damage should be applied and carers need to be aware that excessive force can leave them open to allegations of abuse, e.g. holding a child/young person around the arms may be acceptable, whilst holding around the neck is not;
  4. Before the use of restraint, every effort should be made to secure the presence of another carer to provide assistance or observe the situation;
  5. If a carer does not feel confident about the appropriateness of the use of physical restraint, the child/young person should not be restrained. The carer should make the situation as safe as possible (e.g. removing themselves and others from danger);
  6. Where physical restraint has been used it will be important for the carer to be talking to the young person while they are being restrained, reassuring them and letting them know what is happening. This will help you to judge when it appears safe to relax the restraint;
  7. It may be possible to assess from the child/young person's body tension whether they have calmed down sufficiently. You should loosen your hold to test the response.

Follow-up action (carers)

  • Any incident should be reported to the supervising social worker, or child/young person's social worker as soon as possible. In their absence, the carer should ask to speak to their Manager or a Duty Officer;
  • Do not leave a message, insist on speaking to someone;
  • If out of hours, the Emergency Duty Team/out-of-hours service must be informed unless otherwise stated in a specific child's risk assessment;
  • A careful written record should be kept by the carers of the incident. This should include details of:
    • The time and date of the incident;
    • The events leading to the incident;
    • Who was present;
    • What actually happened during the incident;
    • Any relevant dialogue (words used in the situation);
    • Any injury or damage to property;
    • Any injury or damage to the young person or foster carer;
    • The action that was taken as a result of the incident, and by whom and will be used in the completion of a restraint log in conjunction with your supervising social worker, as soon as possible after the incident.
  • Carers are entitled to report the incident to the police, but in most circumstances would probably wish to discuss this with their supervising social worker and the child/young person's Social Worker in the first instance, before making a final decision. As an overarching principles, children should not be charged with offences resulting from behaviour within a foster home which would not similarly lead to Police involvement if it occurred in a family home;
  • When a carer has been assaulted they should consider seeking medical advice, both for his/her own health and wellbeing and also for insurance purposes if a claim is to be considered.

Follow-up action (department)

The worker receiving the verbal report from the carer must immediately pass the information to the child/young person's social worker and/or fostering department.

The child/young person's social worker and Fieldwork Manager (in conjunction with the carer's supervising social worker) will need to make the following decisions:

  1. Any immediate further action needed to safeguard the child/young person, carers or any other member of the household;
  2. Check out with the carers the state the child/young person is now in, and the general situation;
  3. Check out how the carers are feeling about the incident;
  4. If the child/young person has run away as a result of the incident, to decide who will contact the police and parents, and when;
  5. Consider whether a medical examination of the child/young person who has been involved in the incident is needed (it might be important evidence at a later date).

N.B. The decision about informing the police and parents should be based on:

  • The child/young person's state of mind when last seen;
  • The child/young person's age and understanding;
  • Any high risk indicators known about the child/young person;
  • The child/young person's degree of vulnerability.
In some circumstances, removal of the child/young person from the placement may be appropriate, either for a brief period of respite or permanently, depending on the circumstances.

Review of the incident

The carers and supervising social worker should examine the incident in detail to see what can be learned from it, e.g. training issues, management and control issues.

The supervising social worker and carers will complete the daily log sheets, before copies are placed on the carer's and the child's files.

7. Assaults on Carers' Children

Foster carers have a responsibility to discourage physical violence in their homes. However, the nature of children's relationships is such that incidents can arise without warning, particularly with foster children who may lack the boundaries and self-control to prevent themselves from entering into physical conflict and injuring another child/young person. This can be especially so, where a foster child feels insecure about their position in the family.

If a foster carer's child is assaulted, the West Yorkshire Consortium Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures will be considered. Such incidents will be taken seriously and should be reported immediately. All the advice and guidance given above applies in these situations.

8. Further Supporting Guidance

Principles relating to the use of physical restraint (extract)

Please note: Although these are written for staff working in children's homes, not foster carers, the principles may be equally useful to foster carers and are reproduced here as guidance: The principles relating to the use of physical restraint may be summarised as follows:

  1. Staff should have good grounds for believing that immediate action is necessary to prevent a child from significantly injuring themselves or others, or causing serious damage to property;
  2. Staff should take steps in advance to avoid the need for physical restraint, e.g. through dialogue and diversion, and the child should be warned orally that physical restraint will be used unless he desists;
  3. Only the minimum force necessary to prevent injury or damage should be applied;
  4. Every effort should be made to secure the presence of other staff before applying restraint. These staff can act as assistants and witnesses;
  5. As soon as it is safe, restraint should be gradually relaxed to allow the child to regain self control;
  6. Restraint should be an act of care and control, not punishment;
  7. Physical restraint should not be used purely to force compliance with staff instructions when there is no immediate risk to people or property.

9. Physical Interventions that do not amount to Restraint

Some physical interventions do not carry the force of physical restraint. Such actions including holding a child who his very distressed, placing a hand around a child's shoulder to comfort them or to discourage or divert them away from danger, or standing in the way to discourage them from leaving. All of these actions cover contact which foster carers might commonly expect to have with children / young people in their care.

They are acceptable actions provided their use is persuasion and not coercion. The main factor that distinguishes such actions from restraint is the use of force. Restraint uses force to prevent whereas holding etc can discourage but is unlikely to prevent a child from causing harm or damage.

Children should be encouraged to develop a proper awareness of their rights and responsibilities.

Children's views on physical intervention

When disciplinary measures or restraint are used, children should be encouraged to write or have their views recorded and should be encouraged to sign their names against the records that they have made. In the case of a restraint this record should be made on the restraint recording form wherever possible.

It is the policy of Kirklees Family Placement Unit to seek views (age appropriately) of children and young people where physical intervention or physical restraint has taken place.

It may also be appropriate to involve the CIC (Child in Care Council) representatives in supporting the young person regarding the use of physical intervention.

Needs of disabled children and young people

Every child is an individual and therefore behaviour management strategies will need to be considered on a case by case basis. When caring for a child with a disability it is important to understand that many children with learning disabilities have some communication issues; this may be in understanding what other people are saying or in being able to express themselves. Challenging behaviour can often be due to these communication difficulties.

Communication is one of the most important ways in which we control our environment and influence other people. If a child's communication skills limit this control, frustration is likely and challenging behaviour may follow. It is essential to have a good understanding of the ways in which a particular child communicates and of the ways in which information needs to be presented to them to help their understanding. This may include using simple, short sentences and trying to avoid saying something which could be misunderstood.

For some children objects, pictures and symbols are useful as a way of reminding children what will be happening throughout the day (knowing what is happening and being able to anticipate events is often important) and of supplementing spoken language, as is signed communication.

Physical restraint is a reactive strategy and should never be used on its own, but there should always be proactive, preventative plans for changing behaviour. This may include steps for reducing or avoiding known triggers for a person's behaviours, procedures for reducing dependence on challenging behaviours and short term behavioural or medication based strategies for more rapid change.

A child who is showing serious challenging behaviour should be subject to a 'functional analysis' of the behaviour which sheds light on the needs the child gets met through behaviours. There should then be a strategy to teach the child more acceptable ways of getting their needs met. Consistent approaches of this kind carried out in a co-ordinated fashion, coupled with strategies to prevent physical injury, can be very effective but they require investment of time and effort.

10. Unacceptable Forms of Discipline and Control

Corporal punishment

Corporal punishment includes smacking, slapping, shaking and all other humiliating forms of physical treatment or punishment. It should be noted that this is not an exhaustive list and these are only examples of some forms of unacceptable punishment and that other forms of control may also be viewed as corporal punishment.

Kirklees Council operates a NO CORPORAL PUNISHMENT POLICY and all foster carers are required to sign their acceptance of this policy in their Foster Care Agreement (terms and conditions).

In addition to the restriction on corporal punishment, none of the following should be used as a form of control or discipline in foster homes:

  • Any punishment relating to the consumption or deprivation of food or drink;
  • Any restriction, other than one imposed by a Court, on:
    1. A child's contact with their parents, relatives or friends;
    2. Visits to them by their parents, relatives or friends;

      Please note: Contact may be restricted if this is in the best interests of the child, but such restrictions can only be imposed by a Court or in certain circumstances by a social worker. Carers must not take a decision on their own to restrict contact unless there are clear signs that the child is in immediate danger, when the carer may then use their duty of care to protect the child.
  • The child or young person's access to any telephone helpline providing counselling for children;
  • Any requirement that a child wear distinctive or inappropriate clothes;

    Please note: Carers may insist that children wear distinctive clothing in terms of any requirement that a child wear distinctive clothing for sporting purposes, or for purposes connected with their education or with any organisation whose members customarily wear uniform in connection with its activities;
  • Withholding medication or delaying medical or dental treatment;
  • The intentional deprivation of sleep;
  • The imposition of any financial penalty, other that a requirement for the payment of a reasonable sum (which may be by instalments) for damage to property;
  • The locking of a child in a room;
  • Any intimate physical examination of the child;
  • The withholding of any aids or equipment needed by a Disabled Child;
  • Any measure or action which punishes more than one child or young person for the behaviour of another individual child.
Nothing in the areas raised above should restrict the taking of any action by, or in accordance with the instructions of, a registered medical practitioner or a registered dental practitioner which is necessary to prevent injury to any person or serious damage to property.

11. Training

Supervising social workers should ensure that they pay attention to the training needs of carers and other members of the household, addressing these in their supervisory meetings and using appraisal of their personal training and developmental needs.

Foster carers are encouraged to make use of any available training opportunities run by the council and / or external agencies brought in for this purpose.

In addition Kirklees Council will provide access to appropriate, recognised and accredited training for foster carers who are required to restrain children, as well as update and re-accreditation opportunities as required.