Behaviour Management Policy for Foster Carers


Safer Caring Guidelines for Foster Carers


This chapter was fully refreshed and updated in December 2020 and identifies that Behaviour Management Plans should be agreed within the placement plan and children looked after reviews. All social work staff involved should understand the rewards, sanctions and behaviour management within the foster carer's home.

1. National and Legal Framework

The legal and statutory framework provides guidance regarding the management of behaviour of children in foster care (Annex 1 - Legal and Statutory References). There is an emphasis on safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child and certain actions by foster carers are prohibited (see: Section 3, Behaviour Management). 

National fostering regulations and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011 emphasise the importance of promoting positive behaviour on the part of foster carers of children in their care; and support the provision of advice and training to foster carers to assist them to do this.

2. Background in Knowsley

This policy is consistent with and part of the overall policy for Children's Social Care. It has been endorsed by the Children's Social Care Divisional Management Team. In all dealings with the child, their family and carers, the Directorate's commitment to anti-discriminatory practice and culturally sensitive services must be evident. Working in partnership with parents and carers should be balanced by the rights of the child and the statutory duties of the Authority. 

This policy is applicable to Knowsley MBC foster carers and those carers employed by independent agencies but caring for children looked after by Knowsley MBC. Children and young people who are looked after will be made aware of the policy and the agreed permissible forms of control. 

Foster care can be a complex, difficult, stressful yet rewarding task. Knowsley MBC recognises that carers need relevant information, support and training to assist them in offering good quality care to children who are looked after. As a Corporate Parent, Knowsley MBC recognises that children who are looked after require foster carers who have the skills, knowledge and abilities to manage their behaviour appropriately if they are to be able to take advantage of the "life chances" which they are afforded. 

Support given to a child or young person who is fostered must ensure that the child is safeguarded and protected and that the welfare of the child is paramount. Children who are looked after are all subject to individual circumstances, which can result in feelings of hurt, fear and sadness. Such feelings, together with previous experiences, can at times be expressed in behavioural terms. At the same time, children and young people will grow up into a world where people will not always take account of their difficult past experiences. They need to be able to act with consideration for others and for themselves. 

3. Behaviour Management

The aim of the policy and associated procedures and training is to equip carers with the skills to be able to manage children's behaviour with confidence. 


Underlying this are certain principles which seek to guide carers in managing behaviour effectively. They are:

  • Seeking to reward good behaviour (instantly and planned);
  • Adopting a non-confrontational approach;
  • Establishing a good relationship/rapport with children based on mutual respect;
  • Establishing house rules which are consistent, explicit and applicable to all children within the household;
  • Acknowledging and appreciating the past life experiences which children bring;
  • The use of age, and developmental stage-appropriate sanctions - but only when necessary, not as routine;
  • Receiving training which covers both the origins of behaviour and standard techniques/strategies;
  • Having access to resources, including the Foster Carer Handbook;
  • Working within a multi-agency context.

Safer Caring

Each fostering family is encouraged to develop a "safer caring policy" to help them to care safely for the children who are placed with them. A "safe caring statement" should be completed with confirmation that the foster carers have been advised of any possible behaviour issues which can be expected from a child. The information should also include how those issues will be dealt with on a practical basis. Such practical arrangements should be in line with this policy.

See also Safer Caring Guidelines for Foster Carers.

Permitted Sanctions

The techniques that are deployed will be largely dependent on the child's individual circumstances and needs and should also be relevant to their age and developmental stage. The aim is always to reduce and/or eradicate behaviours by responding in a positive and consistent manner. 

Occasionally though, foster carers will need to exercise sanctions for unacceptable behaviours in the home and the following actions are permitted: 

  • Additional house chores, loss of privileges, use of increased supervision;
  • The appropriation of pocket money or savings to repair damage or for the replacement of loss. Restitution may be in full, in part or merely token but children and young people must not deprived of more than two thirds of their total spending money for the week;
  • The confiscation, temporarily or permanently, of any article or substance belonging to a child if that same article, material or substance be considered potentially dangerous or injurious to property or persons.

Non-permitted Sanctions

Other sanctions are not permitted and foster carers cannot:

  • Use any element of force as punishment including smacking, slapping, pinching, squeezing, shaking, throwing missiles, rough handling, punching or pushing in the heat of the moment in response to violence from young people;
  • Punish or treat in any way which is humiliating, including requiring a child to wear distinctive or inappropriate clothing;
  • Refuse meals or deprive of food and drinks, deny access to the amounts and range of foods and drink normally available to children being cared for (unless this is on medical advice);
  • Use or withhold medication, medical or dental treatment;
  • Use accommodation to physically restrict the liberty of any child;
  • Restrict contact to and from family and friends - this will include Independent Visitors, advocate, any officer appointed by CAFCASS, solicitor, social worker, independent person re complaints and any person representing OFSTED;
  • Intentionally deprive a child of sleep;
  • Impose fines except for reparation and restitution;
  • Conduct intimate physical searches. Occasionally and not as a punishment, a search of a child's clothing may be necessary e.g. for weapons. If it is suspected that a child has secreted drugs on his person, then consideration should be given to notifying the police, following consultation with the child's/young person's social worker;
  • Allow participation in the consideration of, or the administration of any form of punishment by a child/young person on any other child or young person;
  • Any threat to use any of the above.

The emphasis is on individual children and behaviour management which is tailored to each child's needs. Some of the behaviours which carers may find difficult could include persistent lying, persistent stealing, sexually harmful behaviours, self-harming, aggression, repeated destruction of property and going missing from home. 

Wherever possible, rewarding acceptable behaviour should be the preferred and usual method of reinforcing and encouraging acceptable conduct and behaviour. 

Carers will be encouraged to seek help and advice, where appropriate, from other agencies such as health and education.

4. Restrictive and Non-Restrictive Interventions

Physical Intervention refers to direct contact between one person and another or to physical contact related to the use of an aid, such as a protective helmet. Non-restrictive physical interventions cover such areas as touching, obstructing and holding and restrictive physical intervention involves the use of force to restrict movement or mobility or the use of force to disengage from dangerous or harmful physical contact initiated by young people.

Non-restrictive intervention - permissible by foster carers

Touching - Normal physical contact (as would be expected between good parents and their children) is expected between foster carers and the children they look after. Although physical contact may, on occasions be used to assert authority over a child or young person, it is more often an important element of care and parenting.

Holding - Holding would discourage a child from harming him/herself, others or property. Young people may be successfully engaged by a hand placed firmly on the arm or shoulder to reinforce the attempts of foster carers to reason with them or to emphasise the concern felt for them. Carers may also firmly encourage a young person to move away from a situation by placing a hand on their arm or around their shoulders and moving them away. This does not include Restraints of any form.

Obstructing - the use of a carer's physical presence without touching to obstruct or restrict a child's movement. An example of obstructing would be to restrict a child's movement around a room or building to prevent him or her picking up an object to use as a missile.

Non-restrictive physical interventions should not be used as a matter of routine but only if absolutely necessary to the situation, in order to safeguard the child or another person. Holding should involve no more than a hand placed on an arm or shoulder or leading a child by one or both hands and/or possibly by the flat of one hand placed against a child's back in order to guide him/her to some other place or activity. An example of holding would be to avoid external danger, (holding a child's hand while crossing the road).

Children who are looked after have various needs which the adults caring for them should respond to. Those needs will include the need for guidance, personal example, influence, sensitivity and in some circumstances control. Foster carers have broadly the same rights and responsibilities as a parent would to promote a child's welfare, safeguard a child from negative influences and protect others from harm. It is recognised that foster carers who have day to day care of a child or young person will from time to time be required to exercise control in a manner which safeguards and promotes the welfare of the child. There may be circumstances where a child or young person may be at risk of committing harm to themselves or to other people, whether intentionally or not. In such circumstances non-restrictive physical intervention may be necessary (touching, obstructing or holding). 

Any physical intervention will be justifiable and appropriate to the child's circumstances and will enhance safety. Any physical intervention must take account of the physical, emotional and medical needs of each individual young person. Physical interventions should not in any way be used as a substitute for other types of intervention.

Risk assessment and behaviour management will inform any physical intervention and will indicate necessity for the use of physical intervention.

Where this is indicated foster carers will receive relevant training and information about the management of behaviour, which will emphasise positive approaches and alternatives to the use of physical intervention wherever possible.

Where physical intervention has been necessary, foster carers will make a written record. The social worker/supervising social worker should be informed as soon as possible so that the child can be seen. Children, young people and foster carers will afterwards receive additional support, when required. 

Please see the good practice guidelines regarding non-restrictive physical interventions, within Annex 2 - Essential Required Good Practice Relating to Physical Intervention.

Restrictive physical intervention (restraint) - not permissible by foster carers

Restrictive physical intervention is the positive application of force with the intention of protecting a young person from harming him/herself or others or seriously damaging property.

Foster carers are not permitted to use restrictive physical intervention (restraint)

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. Resources and Training Available to Foster Carers

Training underpins the development of understanding and insight for carers seeking to establish behaviour management strategies for individual children. 

Foster carers receive information about behaviour management in a variety of ways and formats:

  • The Skills to Foster preparation course covers areas of child development and children who may have needs beyond what would normally be expected for their age and developmental status. Separation and loss are discussed and all strategies and interventions suggested are based on the needs of the individual child. Case studies are used to create discussion which incorporates "house/home rules" and "safer caring". These discussions are then related to applicant's feelings about the kind of children they would like to foster and potential behaviour issues which may arise. Each discussion is based on the circumstances of the individual family. There is also a focus on the need to understand a child's background in order to understand the behaviour;
  • Foster carers can access training regarding de-escalation;
  • Foster carers also have opportunities within their contact with both supervising social workers and social workers for the children they care for, to discuss issues of behaviour management, both generally and specifically.

It will be appropriate for further written information to be made available to foster carers. The Foster Carer's Handbook is being updated to contain advice on behaviour management and The Fostering Network produces a suitable leaflet, "Managing Behaviour" which may be appropriate for circulation to carers.

6. The Planning Framework

Planned Admissions

Matching - At the matching stage any known difficult behaviour should be considered, together with any risk posed to the child and/or foster carers - see Placements in Foster Care Procedure (The Placement Plan and Risk Assessment must be accessible to carers).

Placement Planning - It is essential that foster carers receive the relevant background written information on the child, (Children Looked After documentation) - Placement Plan and Care Plan. A safeguarding statement should be completed with confirmation that the foster carers have been advised of any possible behaviour issues expected from a child and how those issues will be dealt with on a practical basis. Such practical arrangements should be in line with this policy. 

Risk assessments should be completed and accessible to carers. There are various forms within the Integrated Children's System that can outline and set out strategies to manage children's behaviour. For example, the Placement Plan and Care Plan has a section entitled "Emotional and behavioural development".

Carers will be informed of the out of hours' helpline support arrangements. They should attend pre-placement planning meetings and be informed of any known difficult behaviour which the child has and where particular behaviour is indicated for the future. In these circumstances a behaviour management plan should be completed and distributed to the foster carers.

Unplanned Admissions

Despite the emergency nature of unplanned admissions, it is essential that there should be an element of matching discussion and risk assessment. In line with the Placements in Foster Care, the placement planning meeting must be held within 10 days of placement and the relevant background information provided to foster carers. Where appropriate, a behaviour management plan should be completed. 

7. Post Placement

Any behaviour management planning will be regularly reviewed and amended as required. 

Ongoing training will be made available to foster carers. Where a specific training need is identified within a foster carer review this will be addressed in supervision - see Supervision of Foster Carers Procedure.

Carers are encouraged to seek the help and advice of their supervising social workers and support will be provided when needed. 

Annex 1 - Legal and Statutory References

Guidance on how the behaviour of children in foster care should be managed comes principally from the Children Act 1989. 

This is explained in volume 4 of the Associated Guidance (Fostering Services) (2011) and the National Minimum Standards for Fostering 2011.

The relevant regulation is Regulation 13 of the Fostering Services Regulations (2011).

The relevant minimum standard is Standard 3 of the Fostering Services National Minimum Standards 2011

Also of interest of relevance to carers of children with learning disability and autistic spectrum disorder is the "Guidance for Restrictive Physical Interventions" July 2002 DHSC publications.

Annex 2 - Essential Required Good Practice Relating to Physical Intervention

The permissible types of non-restrictive physical intervention which involve the physical involvement of foster carers are described. They are not intended to be progressive and failure of one method should not necessarily automatically lead to the next.

The type of physical intervention used will always depend upon and need to be in keeping with the circumstances including the age, competence and nature of the child and the potential risks involved. Wherever possible, physical intervention should be guided by a risk assessment and behaviour management plan. 

Any intervention should always be preceded by clear verbal instructions and warnings of the consequences of ignoring them and then accompanied throughout by attempts to "talk down" and calm the incident until any risk has passed. 

Physical intervention should only be used when required by the particular circumstances prevailing and never as part of a general regime. Consideration must be given to the health and cultural background of each individual child/young person before intervening.


See also Touch Guidance.

Carers should be able to express "parental affection" towards children and young people in their care and to provide comfort to ease distress. This may include a hug or friendly arm on the shoulder etc. Carers need to be mindful that a high proportion of children and young people who are looked after have experienced sexual and physical abuse. Therefore carers need always to be cautious and ensure that any physical contact is not misinterpreted. 

The Safer Caring Guidelines for Foster Carers Policy should give parameters of acceptable behaviour within the foster home. Reference should also be made to  any relevant background information about the child. Carers also need to be aware of issues of age and gender and to be clear on when it is not appropriate to touch a child or young person. 

Carers should ensure that care is taken not to touch a child or young person in any way they are uncomfortable with as certain physical contact may be open to misinterpretation. 

Where a carer is concerned that behaviour may have been inappropriate, they should discuss their concerns with their supervising social worker.

Children and young people who have been Sexually Abused may exhibit sexualised or inviting behaviour. Carers need to remain aware of their role and acknowledge any issues such as behaviour that arises for them, seeking advice and guidance from their supervising social worker. 


A carer may use his/her physical presence to stand in the way of a child who is ignoring instructions or losing control, or to obstruct an exit and, thereby, create an opportunity to express concern and remonstrate and reinforce the instruction.

However, "obstructing" must:

  • Be likely to be effective by virtue of the overall authority of the carer rather than simply his/her physical presence, and
  • Be used in the general context of trying to engage the young person in discussion about his/her behaviour and its implications, and
  • Be discontinued if the young person physically resists. Should this occur a decision will have to be made as to whether some other form of permitted intervention is justified and necessary.

The effect of the obstruction may be to restrict a child's movement around the room or building. This is acceptable only so long as the duration of the restriction does not extend into hours, unless in the case of a young child, or child with severe learning disabilities the potential danger of, say leaving the home, is real and obvious and there is a need to provide close supervision to prevent injury or risk of Significant Harm.


This should involve no more than a hand placed on an arm or shoulder or leading a child by one or both hands and/or possibly by the flat of one hand placed against a child's back in order to guide him/her to some other place or activity.

This may be necessary:

To avoid external danger (for example holding a young child's hand while crossing the road).

To divert a child from destructive or disruptive behaviour.

A child may be successfully diverted from destructive or disruptive behaviour by being led away by the hand, arm, or by means of an arm around his or her shoulder. Again, children having a minor argument or a fight, which in itself is not likely to cause serious harm, but is nonetheless disruptive and detrimental to the well-being of other children, may be successfully separated by being held firmly and guided away. Holding is more likely to be helpful for foster carers looking after younger children. Particularly for those whose behaviour is unlikely to respond to verbal influence alone. However, even young adults may be successfully engaged by a hand placed firmly on the arm or shoulder to reinforce the attempts of staff to reason with them, or to emphasise the concern felt for them. 

Foster carers should adopt the following principles when dealing with children in this way:

  • Whenever possible, the carer involved should have an established relationship with the child and should explain to the child what she/he is doing and why;
  • Holding should not arouse sexual expectations or feelings, and should cease if the child gives any indication of this;
  • Carers should be careful where they hold children. For instances, carers should be careful not to hold a child or young person in such a way that involves contact with breasts or genitals.

If on any occasion the child forcibly resists or clearly objects, then "holding" should no longer be used as a method of physical intervention for that particular child. 

Should the foster carer feel unsure about any responses to a child's behaviour he or she should consult with the supervising social worker, the child's social worker, the Emergency Duty Team. The telephone number for the Out of Hours Duty Team is 0151 443 2600.