Saturday, October 11, 2014

What Do I Do When My Foster Child Hits Me?


By John and Diane.

Foster kids often have behavioral issues and hitting or striking-out at a foster parent or sibling is not uncommon. The first time it happens to you can be confusing.

There are steps that must be taken to protect yourself and the child in the foster care system. A discussion with your caseworker and pre-planning for such an incident would be the best way to approach this likely event, However, I wanted to offer some advice for those of you who might be caught off guard or otherwise confused or unprepared for this type of behavior.

The first thing you want to do is make sure yourself and the other children in the home are safe from the child doing the hitting.  Send the other kids out of the area and make sure that you have an open route of escape should the situation escalate.  I know that sounds dramatic, but safety first.

After the incident, write down everything you can remember about what happened. Write down what you were saying and what the child was saying. Was the child mad at you or at another person or child in the home? 

If you are not sure, you can write down your thoughts or guesses as to what happened, but be sure to note that these are only your impressions of the events and not facts. You want to think about the cause of the incident so that you can trace back the trigger for further counseling work later.

Report the incident as soon as you can to the caseworker or counselor.  I have 24 to 72 hours to report something to a caseworker with the organization I work with, but yours may be different. Check with your caseworker to be sure you know your requirements.

You may be thinking: “Why do I have to report small hitting incidents if they aren’t really big deals. No one was hurt and I don’t want to make a big deal out of it.”

The answer to that is this: The hitting behavior is a red flag and undoubtedly only the beginning of what could be escalating aggression. Not doing anything about it implies that there are no consequences and the child will think it is okay to continue the behavior.  It also must be addressed for the child’s own benefit to give him or her help for their behavior.

The other reason it is important to document these smaller incidents is so that you have evidence of previous behavior should it happen again.

 You can’t report an escalated incident later on and say, “Well, he has hit me in the past and this time he really hurt me so, I just grabbed him so he would stop hitting me and the other children in the home ” without being able to prove it.  Now it’s your word against the child’s.   You or the child will be calling the police for an escalated incident and you will have to answer questions like, “have you ever hit any other children?”  When you try to tell them that the child has a history of hitting, you had better be able to back that up with documentation and the child should be working on that issue in counseling.

Now, how to handle the child that has hit, you when it happens...

You may hold them in a safe manner to protect yourself or to protect the child from hurting himself. Get training on how this is done or talk to the caseworker and ask them how they would want you to do this.

Try to calm the child down. You will not be able to get a caseworker or the police to help you immediately so you have to take control of the situation yourself.   Get the child to a safe part of the house. Sometimes I had to just put them outside and wait until the police showed up to talk to them or even take them away.  Sometimes you can’t help the kids and that was the hardest thing for me to learn.

If you can get them to talk about what happened to make them want to hit, don’t forget what they are saying. Write it down. This may be the only time they will open up and share.  If they can identify what started the incident they are helping you identify their “triggers.” Learning and remembering the child’s triggers are an important part of later therapy and future growth.

Hitting behavior and anger is a symptom of a bigger problem or of changes happening in the child, good or bad. So, even if you can stop the hitting at home, trust me, it will happen somewhere else, like at school, if the root cause of their anger isn’t addressed.

 Get help for hitting or fighting from caseworkers and counselors and keep a record of all the times that it happens. This will help. You will see a pattern develop and will be on the path to discovering the underlying issues.

Most importantly, protect your family and educate yourself. Learn the history of the kids coming into your home before you take them on, determine whether you and your family are mentally, physically and emotionally able to handle kids with behavioral and anger issues and then take all available training on dealing with tough kids. Although challenging and heartbreaking at times, these are the kids that need you the most. 

image: 
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AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by glowbird

Monday, October 6, 2014

Being Good Through Competition: Pigs Trough Syndrome


by John and Diane.
I have this theory I refer to as the Pigs Trough Syndrome (no offense to pigs or kids out there.) The theory is based on this: A farmer can’t raise just one pig, because it would starve to death. One pig will not eat; it needs another pig at the trough to compete with for food, in order to stimulate its appetite, and inspire it to eat and thrive. I have noticed similar behavior among some of my past foster kid’s with attachment disorders.
I had one child who loved to clean the house and do chores to please me and make me happy. He would receive praise for these activities, and would do these things without being asked. The other child (who had an attachment disorder) would never normally initiate doing routine chores without prompting and would usually not complete his normal assigned chores on his assigned day without continual prompts and encouragement. Even then, his cleaning or assignments were done quickly and without care.
Once the child who enjoyed cleaning came into the house, the other boy observed the positive feedback he received, and began cleaning and performing the same tasks to compete with the other kid for attention and kudos. The competition for attention and praise compelled him to behave in a desired manner where monetary rewards, activity rewards or other routine household allowances or reward programs failed.
If the other child weren't around to do the activities, the inspiration to perform the tasks would be missing. Without the competition, and the feeling that one child could “win” the affection or praise over the other foster child; the normal lazy approach to chores would continue.
Unfortunately, in my experience, the good behavior inspired through competition does not become a habit for kids with attachment disorder, once the competition is gone. That is the problem with attachment disorders, the child doesn't’ really seek the affection or praise of the foster parent, so that is not the reward… in this case, the reward is winning a competition or beating out another child.
This behavior could be monitored. However, over time to see if it does continue without competition. This might be one way to determine if an attachment has formed between a child with an attachment disorder and his foster or adoptive parents.

photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/emeryjl/888931891/sizes/m/in/photostream/

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Importance of House Rules/Chore Lists for kids with Trust Disorders and RAD


by John and Diane
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Having and posting house rules in any home with children is useful, but in a foster home or in a home with RAD kids or children with Trust Disorders it is especially important.

House rules and written chore lists provide a feeling of safety and security to enhance a loving and trusting environment vital to RAD and TD kids.They, especially, need to prepare themselves for each day and enjoy a routine they can count on so that they can feel safe and secure.

Develop your house rules with the natural flow of the day and the household in mind. Start with the morning activities and grooming and end with bedtime. Include interactions with others in the house, and pet care.
The presence of the house rules and chore lists allows and insures equal justice for all the kids in the house. Everyone in the house is aware of the rules and can point out other kids breaking the rules or inconsistencies in the rules to the caregiver. RAD and TD kids always feel like they are being cheated and this allows them to feel like have recourse in the house.

When a foster child first the enters the house, you go over the rules with them and make sure they understand them. Rules are posted in the home, and each child is given a copy. Kids are asked to sign a copy of the rules and an agreement with the parent that the parent can search the child’s room (amongst other things to be discussed in later posts) and enforce the rules.

There is also a disciplinary chart and a reward chart. Again, giving the RAD and TD child a clear understanding of what to expect, therefore helping to build a sense of situational security and safety. (We will discuss these charts later as well.)

House rules may be adjusted to the child’s abilities to follow the rules (for example, ability to clean his or her room.) It must be explained that the house rules are not there as a punishment but as a way to help everyone get along in the house and to create harmony. It is not wrong or being “mean” to say to someone in the house “I am sorry honey, but you broke the house rule and you have to be punished because it is not fair to the other people in the house that you didn’t follow the rules.”

Never refer to the house rules in an angry fashion, but in a sincere, “teaching moment” fashion. This way the child doesn’t resent the presence of the house rules, but sees them as a guide to live peacefully with others as part of a family.

Follow up on the discussion of the breaking of the house rules with the Love and Logic or 123 Magic systems, but begin the initial discussion of the breaking of the house rules in this calm manner.

The other benefit of the House Rules is that they extend to friends of the children. When a friend visits, they, too, are instructed of the rules, and thereby feel safe in the home, and have a clear understanding of what behavior is expected of them, and others in the house.


Always have as the last thing on the House Rules list, “ Rules can be Modified by (your name)” as undoubtedly you will need to modify them, and one of your kids (a future lawyer) will tell you that you can’t unless you have this on the sheet. Be prepared to defend this stance.


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Here are our house rules you can use as an example:
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CHORES
Morning:
Make your bed
Clean your bedroom
Get dressed
Turn off your Lights and night light
Eat breakfast
Brush your teeth.
Make sure you have everything you need for school or work before you leave the house.
Go to school/go play
Afternoon:
Do homework
Put your clean clothes away and bring back your basket to the laundry room. Dump your dirty clothes in the laundry room on laundry day.
Do chores that are asked of you
Take a bath or shower before bedtime when told.
Clean your bedroom.
Brush your teeth
Go to bed and be quiet and turn off your lights you may have a nightlight.
John will check your bedroom each day they must be as neat as possible based on your age and abilities will check all bedrooms.

HOUSE RULES
Do not steal
Do not lie
Do not swear
Do not fight
Do not back talk to adults
Do not enter other people’s bedrooms without permission from John.
Always knock on the bathroom door before entering, wash hand after using, flush toilet, and put toilet seat down.
Always pick up your toys or anything you were using and put them back.
Always ask before taking food. Pop/ juices/milk can only be drank at mealtime. All other times. water is available for you to drink.
Do not eat in your bedroom or any other room other then the kitchen and dining room area with out permission from John. Always put your dishes away.
No cell phone or computers in the bedroom after bedtime.
John can modify any of these rules at any time.

flickr: License Attribution Some rights reserved by DrGBB

Monday, September 8, 2014

Tough Love: Fostering Young Kids with Attachment Disorders and Dysfunctional Parents



I know, of course, children who have signs of attachment disorders must have dysfunctional or non-functional parents right? Probably true, but kids are not always kept from their natural parents once entered into the foster care system. In my experience, neglected children who enter the system sometimes end up going back to the family members who put them in the bad situation in the first place.

Of course, the hope is that the parents are trained and educated between the time we take in the children, but as a Foster Dad I always feel a sense of urgency when I get a young child with an attachment disorder that is going back to his parents.

Children develop their foundations (trust, safety, security, love) between the ages of 0-5, and even the very most neglected and under-developed (mentally, socially, etc) kids with the beginnings of attachment disorders can make great headway if treated intensely early on.

For example, a 5-year-old child came into foster care with minimal verbal skills, in diapers and with a diagnosis of attachment disorder or autism. His parents were expected to get him back after retraining in spite of his regressed behavior and skills. Although he was not where he should be verbally and socially, he was independent in other ways (feeding himself, structuring his time by watching TV) and spoiled (didn’t respond well to having his established routine changed.)

Although I didn’t have this child in my care, I have had children like him and I have found that with intense, 24-7 care, and treating the child like you would an infant, the child can begin to attach and learn the social and verbal skills he has missed, in a short period of time. You must lovingly taking away the independence he had established and provide the dependence and nurturing an infant would normally experience.

This means limiting his independence, setting boundaries and rules that would limit his independence and bring him back to a point where he would be tended to as if he were an infant.

This approach, of course, requires a full time foster parent, just like a full time mother or father would care for a newborn, and the toughest part of all, restricting the biological parents from visitations for 6 months while the attachment and foundations can form between the foster parent and the child.

Hopefully, with this kind of approach and all the constant attention, talking to, and love a parent would give a newborn, a regressed child like this will gain skills and perhaps avoid the challenges children with attachment disorders suffer from throughout their lives. Prayer, of course, can’t hurt either.

image:AttributionNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Dawn Ashley flickr.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Taking Control of Tantrums: Tips for Working with ADD, RAD and "Average" Kids

Tantrums are something all parents have to deal with, whether they are your own bio. kids, or foster or adopted children. Kids with behavioral or psychological issues of course add an additional complexity to dealing with anger issues, and require some sensitivity, however, at the very core of a tantrum, the approach is the same.

We have talked quite a bit about tantrum behavior here on Foster Parent Rescue, but some of our newest readers may not have stumbled upon those articles in our archives.  I wanted to mention them now, as we approach summer-break from school, since the kids will be home more and behaviors may initially worsen from boredom or a change in their routine. (Something we will discuss next week again as well.)

For right now though, let me refresh your memories and point our new readers to some previously posted advice on controlling tantrums.  Please check out these links on our blog:
Blowing the Whistle on Arguing: 
Great Conversations: On RAD Kids and Introverted Tantrums: Trying the Whistle Technique
Tantrums and Trust Disorders: Doorways to Better Relationships
Dealing with the Introverted RAD Kid: Introverted Tantrums and the Fall Back Technique
Avoiding Temper Tantrums in Asperger (and other) Kids: A Link


 We also wanted to add this recent article from PsychCentral.com about dealing with tantrums and ADD kids (which is appropriate for all kids really.) Check it out:

ADHD & Kids: 9 Tips to Tame Tantrums

ADHD & Kids: 9 Tips to Tame Tantrums

By Margarita Tartakovsky, M.S.

In kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), impulsivity manifests in many different ways.
“Kids can impulsively run into the street. They can hit another student in line at school. They can climb up on the roof and jump off, hoping to fly like Superman,” said Terry Matlen, ACSW, a psychotherapist and author of Survival Tips for Women with AD/HD.
And they can have tantrums. There are many reasons why kids with ADHD have meltdowns. For instance, “for many children with ADHD there is no internal understanding of ‘later.’ It’s now or now,” Matlen said. They have a hard time putting their wants and needs on hold. Because they’re kids, they’ve also yet to learn how to calm themselves or express their needs and emotions appropriately, she said.
“A little disappointment becomes the end of the world and nothing seems to stop the child from, what looks like, obsessing over their intense needs of that moment.”
They also might feel overwhelmed by external events, such as “too much noise or excitement at a party… Combined, these symptoms make it very hard to stay calm when under stress or when they feel fearful or anxious.”
When your child has a tantrum, especially in public, it can be tough to know how to respond. Some parents vacillate from one extreme to another, from placating their child and giving in to punishing them and getting angry, according to Matlen.
But while it might seem impossible, you can navigate the rocky road of tantrums. Here are expert strategies to prevent tantrums or tame them when they start.
1. Pinpoint the source.
Psychotherapist Stephanie Sarkis, Ph.D, suggested looking “at what might be triggering your child’s behaviors.” When you can find the source of the behavior, she said, you can make strides toward changing it.
Knowing what triggers your child, Matlen said, can help you defuse their tantrum as early as possible. For instance, is your child hungry? Are they sleep-deprived? Are they experiencing strong emotions? Once you pinpoint the underlying problem try to solve it, she said.
This also is a good tool for preventing tantrums. For instance, if your child can’t handle the overstimulating environment of a local fair, just don’t take them, Matlen said.
2. Explain consequences in advance.
Before a tantrum ever starts, Matlen suggested talking to your child about the negative consequences of bad behaviors. She gave this example: “If you scream and cry when I turn off the TV, you won’t be able to watch it later today.”
Matlen took this approach when her daughter was 5 years old. She tended to have tantrums when she didn’t get a new toy at the store. “Before our next outing, I told her that if she had a tantrum, I would simply pick her up and take her home. No toys and no more visits to the store for a very long time.”
Her daughter still had a meltdown. But instead of getting furious or frustrated, Matlen picked up her daughter and took her to the car. She drove home without saying a word. And it never happened again.
“This, of course, may not work for all children, but it’s an example of planning ahead and having an outcome that everyone understands.”
3. Talk to your child, and encourage them to talk back.
Talk calmly and quietly to your child, and acknowledge their feelings, Matlen said. Doing so helps your child feel heard, Sarkis said.
For instance, according to Matlen, you might say, “I know you’re angry that I won’t buy you that toy today. It feels frustrating and it makes you feel like exploding inside, doesn’t it?”
Then, encourage your child to express their emotions, as well: “I’d be awfully upset too if I couldn’t get what I wanted right now — let’s talk about why this is so important to you so you can help me to understand.”
4. Distract your child.
For younger kids, distraction may work, Matlen said. “Talk about something completely different, like how excited you are to watch the TV show you planned, when you all get home.”

Read the rest here :  http://psychcentral.com/lib/2013/adhd-kids-9-tips-to-tame-tantrums/

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dealing with the Introverted RAD Kid: Introverted Tantrums and the Fall Back Technique


by John and Diane

RAD kids or children with trust, attachment or trauma disorders, tantrum or “go off” in two different ways. Some are extroverted: meaning they direct their anger outwards- towards You (lucky you…) calling you names, breaking your stuff etc, while others are introverted, meaning they try to get away from the problem. They may still have words for you, but most of the time they are muttered under their breath as they head towards their safe place, usually their bedroom.

Although it may seem that this type of child is easier to deal with, no outward explosion , they are really more difficult, because they are hiding, both their feelings and their physical selves from you, so you cannot work out their issues with them. They simply shut down.  The harder you push on them or try to force them to do something, the more closed off they get.

I have had a lot of success getting these type of RAD kids to open up (with time and God’s help) by using a Fall Back approach.

 When your child is closing him or herself off in their room, I use a couple of tricks to help bond, build trust and bring them out.

First, I stay lower than the child. That means I am on the floor most of the time when I am trying to talk to them, but only do this if you feel safe to do so. I may not even make eye contact when I am talking to them. I  always using a low voice and low voice tones.  I do a lot of blaming myself for what happened using words like, “I should have known better…. Its not your fault…”  I call this the Fall Back Technique.

Basically the Fall Back Technique is this:  I am always the one who is wrong, and I tell them why (which is sometimes comically difficult, so you better be creative.) For example, you might say, “I should have known better, I know you have this problem, I should never have done this or I should have stopped you from doing that, I am sorry.”  This way you take the pressure off the child. You remain present with them in the room and their mind begins to work and they start to open up. 

Now they let you ask questions, like, “So, if this happens again, what can I do to help you?” or “ “How come that made you so mad, I am sorry, but what happened, tell me so I don’t do it again…”

By taking this Fall Back position you make the child feel like they are helping YOU by expressing how they are feeling and what they were thinking when they were having their issue.  This way it doesn’t feel like you are pushing them but they are Teaching you about who they are.  Even if they are misleading you or saying things that are not entirely true, they are still giving you clues about how they really feel.  This is all information you can use later on when your bond is stronger and they are more ready to face their truth. (A subject for another time.) 
Don’t get confused. You are taking a lower position, but the child will not think you are weak. Once the episode is over, you go back to enforcing your house rules and maintaining the control over your home as you did before. This is a gentle moment to help your RAD child open up, an embrace of sorts that helps build the foundation for the future. 

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Attribution Some rights reserved by libertygrace0


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Back to School Planning for Kids with ADD, Trust Disorders and More


By John and Diane.

NOTE: This posting is about ADD and Trust disorder kids who CAN attend school.  For all those parents who are dealing with kids who aren't attending or cannot attend school yet due to behavioral issues, we have information for you as well, and are working on our post about home-teaching and transitioning to school.  We know you are out there... and we hope you are hanging in there.... 

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All parents are anxious to get their kids back to school, but those of us with high energy ADD, ADHD or kids with other impulsivity issues and trust issues, well, we are even MORE excited about the prospect of a break from the endless attention-needy kids.

If you have been successful and diligent about sticking to a schedule as I suggested in my blog post  
The ADHD and RAD Kid Summer Planner: or "Why I Didn't Lose My Mind While My Kid's were on Summer Vacation"  then the transition won’t be too difficult. Having a routine that you have stuck to with wake up and bedtimes means less of an adjustment to your routine-loving kids, so that will be to your benefit.  If you haven’t been able to keep the school routine going, you still have a chance to create one that will make the back –to-school transition less dramatic for your kids.

So, let’s just focus on the most important thing that kids with ADD, ADHD and trust disorders need and want.  STRUCTURE AND ROUTINE.   If you have fallen out of the usual wake and bedtimes from the school schedule, begin adjusting those times now so that the child is waking and going to bed at normal school times at least three weeks before school begins.

If you haven’t done any homeschooling during the summer and have let your ADD and RAD kids do their own thing, start pulling in the reins.  I had recommended keeping to a regime throughout the summer of learning and exercise programs to mimic lesson times at school to keep kids use to the school day schedule and to minimize anxiety and tantrums. If you have done this you are probably having a realatively decent summer.  If not, you are Definitely ready for school to start. :)

Re-introduce a daily schedule of play, chore and learning times. ADD and RAD or kids with trust and impulsivity issues do better when they have structure and routine, so their anxiety levels will decrease and outbursts will be limited. A schedule similar to their school day with outdoor play and lunchtimes about the same as at school will help them make a smooth transition back to class.

Finally, get yourself organized. Start planning now for doctors appointments, teacher meetings and purchasing school supplies so that you don’t feel stressed as the big day approaches. Your kids can pick up on your stress levels, which will set them off, so do yourself a favor and plan ahead for all those things you need to take care of so that you aren’t feeling pressure.

Here is a week to week planner for you that might help:
 July 9 – 15   Start adjusting the child’s schedule to school schedule times.
July 16 – 22  Make doctors appt. to check on medications levels, get immunizations, and physicals for sports if necessary.  Update immunization records.  Update your emergency contact numbers. Make sure any medication changes are given to school nurse. Start putting together a file to give to the school with the list of medications,caseworkers names and numbers, your phone numbers and doctors and any allergies. Very important for New Foster Kids! (sometimes the schools have this information from the year before if YOU need it for new foster kids!)

July 23 – 29  Get back to school clothing and shoes.

July 30 – Aug 5 Get list of school supplies needed and shop the sales. Child should be on School Day time schedule now.

Aug 6 – Aug 12 Kids clean and organize their rooms and homework spaces. Get kids hair cut and prep for school pics.

Aug 19 – Aug 26  Get teacher’s names and email addresses, Get digital copies of IEPs that you may have to send to various caseworkers, teachers or doctors throughout the year.   Start a file folder with the new school year marked on it for all of the upcoming paperwork you may get and want to keep track of. Put a list of child's meds in the folder for easy referral.
Get new school year calenders printed up to mark days-off, events and appointments.
Everyone celebrates a new and happy start back at school

Good luck everyone!

If you have more tips on how to make the transition easier on your foster, adopted or bio kids with issues like RAD, ADD or Aspergers, please comment here or on our Facebook page!

For more information, check out these resources:


Getting ADHD Kids Back to School


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