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7.5.3 Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy


This chapter was reviewed and updated throughout in July 2021; it has been written to help staff and Foster Carers develop behaviour management strategies which are tailored to meet the needs of each individual child.


  1. Introduction
  2. Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy
  3. Legal Framework
  4. Child's Placement and Care Plan
  5. Consultation and Children's Views
  6. Aims of behaviour management
  7. Techniques
  8. Preventative Intervention
  9. Consequences
  10. Suggested Strategies
  11. Sanctions
  12. Non Restrictive Contact – toddlers and young children.
  13. Sanctions which are Not Permitted
  14. Legal Considerations
  15. Physical Interventions
  16. Recording Incidents of Sanction and Restraint

1. Introduction

Negative and challenging behaviours can be the result of a child's difficult start in life. Children may have observed adults acting in a neglectful or scary way, and the adults available to them may not have been good or appropriate role models. In addition, all children who are looked after suffer from loss.

When children are abused, or neglected, or exposed to violence, their brains may form differently to children who have a normal, happy childhood. These changes are tiny, but can influence the way a child behaves and experiences the world.

There is significant research looking at the effects of abuse and neglect on a child, we need to tackle a common question raised by carers: Why don't the techniques I use to deal with misbehaviour from my own children work with some children who are looked after, and children who have been abused or neglected?”

By “techniques” most people mean things like:

  • Raising our voices: Shouting at children. (“Sit down and be quiet!”);
  • Reprimanding: The “telling off”. (“This sort of behaviour is just not good enough!”);
  • Punishing: (“Right! That's it. You're grounded!”).

We may have used techniques like this to deal with misbehaviour from our own children. They are instinctive; they come naturally to most parents and can work fine in a normal loving family. But with children placed in foster care or residential care, at best they can have little or no effect, at worst they can antagonise and trigger the child into more extreme behaviour.

2. Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy

The purpose of this Policy is to help staff and Foster Carers understand that each child is an individual, and that behaviour management strategies need to be adapted to meet the needs of each individual child. Each child will have a different background and experiences, and a different personality. In promoting positive behaviour, full account must be taken of a child's background and experiences - these factors may influence a child's reaction to authority and the exercise of power. Children who cannot verbalise their distress may act it out through their behaviour. Children need to be cared for with due regard to their gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, language, culture and diet and any special need or disability – above all each child is an individual who is entitled to be accepted and respected as a unique individual with their own needs.

This Promoting Positive Behaviour Policy is linked to the Therapeutic Crisis Intervention model (TCIF) and is applicable to all Foster Carers approved by City of York Council, and will be referred to within staff and Foster Carer supervision and explored during staff and Foster Carer training and supervision.

3. Legal Framework

The National Minimum Standards and Fostering Regulation 2011 (England) emphasise the importance of promoting positive behaviour and the provision of advice and support to Foster Carers to assist them to do this:

3.2 Foster Carers provide an environment and culture that promotes, models and supports positive behaviour.

3.8 All Foster Carers receive training in positive care and control of children, including training in de-escalating problems and disputes. The Fostering Service has a clear written policy on managing behaviour, which includes supporting positive behaviour, de-escalation of conflicts and discipline.

Foster Carers obligations are covered in the City of York Council, Foster Carer agreement which is agreed yearly at review.

The legal framework we work within states clearly that corporal punishment is not permitted.

4. Child's Placement and Care Plan

Full information about a child's background, needs, and routines should be shared throughout the placement planning process. Children should be matched with an appropriate Foster Carer capable of meeting their needs.

Foster Carers should be given as much information as possible from the child's Social Worker and birth parents or previous carers. With this background knowledge, the Foster Carer can then adapt any behaviour management strategies to meet the child's needs.

The child's Care Plan and the Placement Plan must cover ground rules and agreed strategies for responding to identified behaviours so that the child knows the expectations of those around them and has confidence in the arrangements. This can be explored further at the placement meeting.

The child /young person should actively contribute to this plan and to all discussions on rules and strategies for behaviour management. Any individual ‘Behaviour Management Strategies' must also be agreed with all parties and lead to child centred behaviour management plans. Where it is known that a child or young person presents a risk to self, or others, strategies should be discussed and recorded fully in the individual safety plan, this must also cross reference with the Foster Carer Safe Caring Policy.

5. Consultation and Children's Views

Children have a right to be consulted. In the spirit of Article 12, of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Foster Carers and Supervising Social Worker should endeavour to obtain the views of children and young people. E.g. what is the child or young person's view of what positive behaviour is? What do they see as challenging behaviour? Do they view any aspect of their own behaviour as risky? What environments and what life styles work best for them? Gradually building self- awareness will promote resilience and individual strength.

All children and young people’s views as detailed above should be recorded within Foster Carers recordings and the recordings of the supervising social workers.

Regulations clearly state that the written Plans (Care Plans, Safe Care Policy etc.) must be created in consultation with the service user.

Any concerns expressed by a Child or Young Person should be listened to and the Complaints and Representations Procedure should be made available.

Whilst children have rights they also have responsibilities (dependent on age and levels of understanding and ability) they include:

  • Treating others with respect, respecting that others have rights and not behaving in a bullying or violent manner;
  • Being responsible for their own behaviour and actions;
  • Respecting other people's property.

A child/young person who is new to a placement may attempt to test out boundaries and see what controls are put on their behaviour and this is to be expected and managed. It must always be understood that to be separated from their familiar environments, their family and community is traumatic and many children and young people will communicate their trauma and distress through their behaviour.

A TCIF Support Plan may be appropriate. This can be discussed and shared with all parties to make sure that appropriate risks are assessed and well managed. This will be completed by the child's social worker as well as the SSW and foster carer. This needs to be regularly reviewed and updated when needed.

6. Aims of behaviour management

Firstly. The short term goal:

  • Calm the child by reducing the stress.

Secondly. The long term goal.

  • Help the child learn better ways to deal with stress.

7. Techniques

  • Organising Techniques

    Adults have responsibility for organising children's lives. This means organising the physical environment: making it safe, comfortable and stimulating. It also means organising what children need to do: the routines and activities. Being an organiser doesn't mean being heavy handed. It means being flexible and collaborating with a child to find solutions to problems like bedtime, homework and getting back on time after an evening out.

    The organising techniques also includes managing the environment and reminding children of what they need to do through using prompts, i.e. don't forget it's bedtime In half an hour.
  • Friendship Techniques

    Adult carers need to make a connection with a child and provide a stable, caring relationship. They need to get involved, spend time with the child, do things together, and show pleasure and interest in what the child is doing. And they need to provide help, support and affection. Many neglected and abused children, are not used to this sort of relationship. These children need to bond with adults who are tuned in to their needs.
  • Listening Techniques

    Listening is essential to help children talk about their problems and concerns. It helps children understand their feelings and learn to express these feelings verbally – helping children talk out rather than act out. The listening techniques involve expressing empathy and letting a child know its ok to be angry or upset.
  • Authority Figure Techniques

    At times adults need to take a clear, calm approach to children's behaviour and act as authority figures. But it's important to recognise that this is just one way to respond to misbehaviour, not the only way. Some adults jump to being an authority figure too quickly and use the instinctive techniques mentioned above – shouting, being bossy and punishing. This can make things worse with a traumatised child.

    It's important to remember that an effective authority figure is not aggressive but is also not weak and submissive. A carer needs to be firm but fair and respectful.
  • Teaching Techniques

    If adults rely only on being organisers or authority figures, always reminding or telling a child what to do, this doesn't give children the chance to learn to control their own behaviour. Teaching helps children learn from previous experiences and make the right choices. It means using expressions like, “What happened last time you did this?” or, “What's going to happen if you carry on like this?” This approach involves guiding a child to make the right choice.
  • Activity Technique

    Children should be encouraged to participate in a range of activities that they will enjoy, this helps to build their confidence and self-esteem.

    Research has found a clear link between lack of activities for children and young people and the whole range of challenging behaviours. Family trips and activities, education (in its broadest sense and employment) are all-important in supporting and encouraging positive behaviour.
  • Positive Reinforcement

    Foster Carers should where possible reward, reinforce and recognise good behaviour, for example:
    • Verbal encouragement;
    • Praise;
    • Appropriate rewards and incentives for example treats and outings;
    • Acknowledging positive impact and positive feelings;
    • Giving more responsibility or autonomy as a reward (where appropriate);
    • Indicating that the child or young person is a role model for others. Children and young people should be guided in their behaviour by the foster carer, their extended family and community, providing good and consistent role models;
    • Foster Carers must keep reflecting on their own expectations, to ensure that they are fair and appropriate to the individual child and their life experiences. What may seem a small action may be a real move forward for a particular child and the Foster Carer must ensure they recognise any positive action or attempted action by the child.

8. Preventative Intervention

Preventative intervention is designed to reduce the probability of challenging behaviour occurring in the first place, one of those is information and planning as already mentioned, but also if you know what may trigger a distressed reaction in a child or young person you can take measures to avoid those triggers, also relevant are:

  • Safe Child/Person Centred Environment;
  • Positive reinforcement;
  • Appropriate consequences;
  • Sanctions and Strategies;
  • Physical Interventions.

9. Consequences

Once children and young people are aware of expected behaviour, boundaries and rules, (and the positive consequences and rewards for behaving well) and once relationships are established they should be aware of what consequences they can expect if they are repeatedly broken.

Foster Carers also need to reflect frequently on their own expectations to ensure that they are realistic and accept that difficulties are bound to arise at times. Negative, unwanted and inappropriate behaviour should be met with positive, consistent and clear responses.

10. Suggested Strategies

Foster Carers might consider not responding to some negative behaviours, but show positive responses at times when the behaviour is positive and more contained.

The Foster Carer may be able to divert a child or young person by skilfully using:

  • Humour;
  • Subject change;
  • Activity;
  • Reverse psychology;
  • Using planned ignoring strategies.

11. Sanctions

Sanctions need to be shaped for the individual child and their circumstances, e.g. age, stage of development, life experiences and what is going on for that child or young person at that particular time. Other factors such as culture, religion ethnicity need to be appropriately considered and respected

Any list will not cover all circumstances and must be used as a general guide:

  • Encourage reparation e.g. if they take something from another child giving it back, if something is broken repairing/replacing it, clearing up messes;
  • Time away/ time in  – It can be useful for a child to spend time in a calm space if appropriate, however, for some children and young people ‘Time in' is a more appropriate response and ‘Time Out' may isolate/escalate rather than de-escalate situations. The Positive parenting tool called ‘Time in' or positive time out is when a child that is having a difficult moment is kindly invited to sit somewhere, near by a care giver to express their feelings and eventually cool down. During the time in, carers are encouraged to empathise with the child's feelings and often just quiet connection is all that is needed until the storm has passed. It doesn't mean that you must let the child continue with a behaviour that is inappropriate. The time in gives you the opportunity to try to connect and then address whatever change needs to be made;
  • Reprimand – this must not humiliate or denigrate a child/young person;
  • Withdrawal of treats/confiscation of items or access to items for a period of time (e.g. television or computer game). Note - that comfort items should not be removed. The withholding of pocket money should not be used as a consequence unless agreed beforehand with the Supervising Social Worker or the child or young person's social worker, if pocket money is withheld it should be kept for the child or young person and given to them the following week or placed in their savings;
  • Withholding contact with family members cannot be used as a sanction;
  • Grounding where appropriate – e.g. for an appropriate limited period the child/young person is not allowed out. This must be (as with all sanctions) in keeping with respective Care Plan and cannot be applied to a regular positive activity such as brownies, cubs, lessons etc. As stated above, it must not impact on time with family.

12. Non Restrictive Contact – toddlers and young children

This refers to situations where a Foster Carer has physical contact with a child against their will, but where the child retains a large degree of freedom and mobility and can break away from the carer if they wish. They are not overpowered and have options to move away from the carer. (As indicated in CoramBaaf Practice Note 63 -Normal parenting with toddlers and young children will involve non-restrictive contact e.g. holding a hand when a busy road is to be crossed (even where the toddler/child does not want it).

Non-restrictive contact permissible by Foster Carers covers: touching, holding and obstructing for younger children and children with special needs to keep a child / young person safe.

13. Sanctions which are Not Permitted

Most families have existing codes of behaviour and successful behaviour management strategies. Foster Carers are expected to care for a foster child in the same way that they would with their own children. However, there are some important differences. Often a looked after child has a different early life history and children's previous experiences can manifest in challenging behaviour.

City of York Council expects all its Foster Carers to comply with Fostering Regulations and the Foster Carer Agreement, which states prohibition of the use of corporal and physical punishments.

Corporal punishment should be taken to cover:

  • Slapping;
  • Pinching;
  • Squeezing;
  • Shaking;
  • Throwing objects;
  • Punching and pushing in response to violence or challenging behaviours from young people.

The following are examples of sanctions that must not be used or threatened:

  • The withholding of food or drinks;
  • The prevention of visits with family or friends;
  • Withdrawal from school or education opportunities;
  • Punish or treat in any way that is humiliating;
  • Forcing a child to wear distinctive or inappropriate clothes;
  • The unauthorised use of medication, including alternative medicines;
  • The withholding of prescribed medication, medical or dental treatment;
  • Preventing a child from sleeping;
  • The imposition of monetary fines;
  • Any intimate physical examination of the Child or Young Person;
  • Abusive language and language which humiliates a child or young person;
  • Locking a child in a room;
  • The threat of removal from a placement.

In addition, children or young people's pocket money/ allowance should not be withheld as a sanction unless specifically agreed with the Supervising Social Worker or child's social worker.

14. Legal Considerations

The use of physical intervention raises important legal and ethical issues. It is a criminal offence to use physical force, or act in a way that another person may apprehend the use of force (raise a fist) unless a situation is such that there is ‘lawful excuse' or justification. This may be investigated by the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO).

The use of physical intervention may also lead to an action in civil law for damages if it results in injury, including psychological trauma.

Service providers owe a duty of care towards service users which requires that reasonable measures be taken to prevent harm.

15. Physical Interventions

There may be some circumstances when all forms of behaviour management, negotiation, talking and listening fail when working with a child, or young person who is exhibiting violent behaviour. Physical intervention may be a last resort when all else has failed and only appropriate in certain circumstances.

An up to date Safe Caring Policy and risk assessment is required for all children and young people.

In an emergency situation a Foster Carer may have to call the police, this means quickly assessing the level of risk and taking prompt action to safeguard the young person and others.

Physical intervention must only be used in circumstances where a child or young person is physically out of normal control and could harm themselves, other people, or cause serious damage to property, and should be in a manner consistent with the actions of any good parent e.g. proportionate and only using the amount of force necessary to achieve the desired outcome and for the shortest time possible.

Physical intervention should not be used to prevent absconding or non-compliance with any request/sanction. Restrictive physical interventions are not used as a punishment or a means of enforcing compliance – rather they are a protection against serious harm/damage and must only be used when all de-escalation has failed.

16. Recording Incidents of Sanction and Restraint

It is essential that Foster Carers inform their Supervising Social Worker and the child's Social Worker if they are concerned about a child or young person's behaviour and they should discuss any behaviour management difficulties.

Foster Carers are required to keep a written record of any situation in which the child has been sanctioned and this should be brought to the attention of the Supervising Social Worker and the Child's Social Worker as soon as possible after the event.

 In the event of using a physical intervention Foster Carer should:

  • Contact their Supervising Social Worker as soon as possible, if they are unavailable the Foster Carer should notify another member of the fostering team via the duty system;
  • Complete a Restraint and Serious Incident Form (within 24 hours);
  • Make a record in the child placement folder;
  • Discussed with your SSW as a TCIF support plan may be needed or updated.