Thursday, April 21, 2016

School Combat: Why Students are Getting Hit By Teachers and School Security

School Combat: Why Students are Getting Hit By Teachers and School Security

This morning's news brings yet another report of a student being "attacked" by a teacher in a classroom.  This is just another in a string of reports of students being pushed out of their desks, thrown to the ground or otherwise strong-armed in the classroom by teachers or school security guards during the school day.

Why is this happening?

I know some of you may say I'm blaming the victim here, but... well, there is plenty of blame to go around.  This epidemic of Adult to Student abuse has come after decades of student coddling and befriending by the school system, resulting in an air of disrespect and chaos in the classroom.

What's left is a bunch of burned out and yes, abused teachers and staff, spending days trying to teach disrespectful and defiant students - amid a group of students who want to learn and are trying to do the right thing.

Mix in the menagerie of social and cultural issues, poverty, drug use, kids coming from homes that allow disrespect and physical fighting amongst themselves and you have ... well.  THIS.  An environment where kids are afraid of their fellow students AND the staff.

In this particular case, it is said the student was talking back to the teachers-aide before the video was filmed.   No excuse... but... well..... Should the child have respected his teachers, his elders?  Should his parents have taught him that?

Below is a link to this newest case... but there will be more to come, no doubt, until kids are taught both at home and in Kindergarten how to respect the school system and the importance of their own education and those who are there to teach them.

Those of us who have troubled kids have spent plenty of time going to the schools to pick up the kids after an incident.  Angry outbursts, verbal abuse, Yes, I've had kids who have gone-off on teachers verbally - been stubborn and acted out - already in special ed classes because of their special circumstances, but the teacher's and staff I've worked with have always been prepared, - we've discussed what steps to take and they have spaces to remove the students too.  My foster kids have known that if I had to come to school to get them.. they would lose privileges and well... they knew I had greater expectations for them and we would troubleshoot with the care team to deal with their behaviors.  Let's just say they'd come home and be splitting wood for days. :)

Most of these cases that hit the news result in lawsuits against the schools and no consequences for the child's behavior that may have initiated the issue.

What do you think?  Can we do better?

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Spring Cleaning with Foster Kids Could Mean Wake Up Calls

By John and Diane

April 9 2016

Spring Cleaning is something the whole family can contribute too. Remember - if a child can operate a cell phone or gaming device, they can operate a broom!

When you have foster children in the house, or kids who have suffered trauma, you want to supervise and "help" in cleaning their private spaces so that you can key into troubles that they may be hiding - things that you may have missed up to this point.  Troubled kids are great at hiding the things that clue you in to their distress, and you may have been lulled into a false sense of security when things seem to be going well in the household.

Things you might find and what you should do:

*  Kids room or bathroom area:   bottles, or containers of urine.   I've had kids store urine in containers IN THE BATHROOM.  Boggles the mind, right?

What to do: Talk about it.  Kids do this for many reasons. Insecurity, fear, it is usually seen in children who have been sexually traumatized, but really, it's a fear response, so, it needs to be dealt with frankly and honestly.   Ask the child to dispose of the urine and clean the bathroom or room/area that it was stored in.  Ask the child what would make him/her feel safer.   Read:

Why is My Foster or Adopted Kid Urinating in The Closet (in a Jar, Towel, Hamper, Soda Can): The Red (or Yellow in this Case) Flag and How to Deal with It.

*  Kids Bedroom:  Drug paraphernalia :  Discuss it with the kids - Case workers - Remove items

*  Kids Bedroom:  Sexually Used Items:  i.e.: teddy bears with holes cut in them etc.  Discard and have an open discussion with your kids about how to masterbate.  I KNOW.  But - you have to have an open and healthy approach to sex, especially if you have a household with kids who have been sexually traumatized, so, if it's not treated as a big deal by you - you can make it a healthy discussion and be aware of any troubling sexual thoughts or actions between kids. 

This is also a great time to refresh your HOUSE RULES and put new rules into place. For example, if you kids are old enough - teach them now how to do their own laundry or take on new chores.  If you don't have a rule about CELL PHONES (Turn in all devices to parents at night for charging), put this into effect NOW.  We also recommend that you have passcode to all your child's devices. IF they change the code, they lose the device for a week. 

Overall, Spring cleaning together teaches foster kids many things. 1. that they participate in an event as a family, 2. that you are aware of what happens in ALL SPACES in the house and that 3. you are an ally in the home and will deal with all issues directly and properly.  

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New House Rules: Starting the Year Off RIght

By John and Diane.

The House Rules  post is our Number 1. read post on this blog, and it's no wonder. Getting house-rules to work in your home means setting boundaries that allow kids to understand expectations and consequences...and to follow them.  It doesn't mean your kids will be perfect, but it is the foundation that tells your kids that you are in control and that defiance has penalties. Especially important for foster homes or homes where your kids have behavioral problems, having and posting house rules clearly defines expectations, which is a vital, first step.

Having said that, we thought this would be a good time to go back over the House Rules and encourage those of you who don't have any to start the new year off right by posting your own in your home. You might want to tweak them a bit to reflect your own circumstances and kids, but overall, you want to be clear about the rules and the penalties and always leave room for additions and changes to be made by YOU. (kids always look for loopholes.)

Once you have your house rules developed, go over them with the kids so that everyone understands them.  Remember, although kids might complain about the rules, rules also give your kids comfort and security. They help ease anxiety and let the kids know that the rules apply to everyone and help keep Everyone safe and happy.

Now, my example set of rules has been created with my foster kids in mind, and has been tweaked over the years to include areas of concern including things like inappropriate sexual behaviors and the like.

Don't forget: Go over house rules with the children's visitors as well.

House Rules should be incorporated with Chore Lists and Disciplinary Action Forms, all available to download off our Facebook page.

Here is our basic list of house rules:
1.    Do not steal

2.    Do not lie

3.    Do not swear

4.    Do not fight

5.    Do not back talk to adults

6.    Do not enter other people’s bedrooms without permission from John.

7.    Always knock on the bathroom door before entering, wash hand after using, flush toilet, and put toilet seat down.

8.    Always pick up your toys or anything you were using and put them back.

9.    Always ask before taking food. Pop/ juices/milk can only be drank at mealtime. All other times.  Water is available for you to drink.   

   10.  Do not eat in your bedroom or any other room   other than the kitchen and dining room area without permission from John.  Always put your dishes away.

12. No cell phone or computers in the bedroom after bedtime.

13. No sitting next to each other on the couch or being under a blanket together, you must always be able to be seen.

14. No grabbing or holding any other children when playing a game or any other time or reason.

15. No taking revenge on other kids for any reason.  Any of these rules can be modified by John at any time.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

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. 

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Friday, October 23, 2015

Is Your Foster Child SAD?: Identifying Seasonal Affect Disorder

By John and Diane.

It might be hard to tell with your foster kids, but at this time of the year if they are especially anxious, grumpy, sleepy and have difficulty concentrating they might be suffering from symptoms of SAD: seasonal affect disorder.

 When days get shorter and the amount of sunlight exposure your kids have because of school and time spent indoors because of the weather changes, a study by the National Institute of Mental Health showed that three percent of kids may suffer from seasonal depression or SAD.

Now, with foster kids, who may already have many of the issues that are part of the seasonal affect disorder symptomology, more notably a change in eating (a craving for sweets)  or sleeping patterns may be the key to determining if your child is also affected by the seasonal light changes.

Treatment for SAD is usually non-drug related and focuses on light-therapy, including dawn-simulating light alarms that gradually increase the light in the child's room to simulate a normal summer sunrise. Increasing outdoor winter activities to spend time in the sun and a healthy diet also help seasonal depression.

For more information check out the below article:

Seasonal Affective Disorder in Children

By Deborah Gray

Did you know that children can suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? I'm embarrassed to admit that I just found this out recently, after years of writing about mental health. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a condition that can cause depression, fatigue and overeating, among other things, and it is brought on by the change of seasons. According to Winter Blues by Normal Rosenthal, M.D., a survey done by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) showed that about three percent of children suffer from SAD, with a greater incidence occurring in the last three years of high school.

I'm surprised that it hadn't occurred to me before. After all, if children could have clinical depression and other depressive disorders, why not SAD? Apparently even animals can suffer from SAD. Of course, it's worth nothing that all creatures on earth have a tendency toward SAD symptoms in the winter, but when normal functioning starts being impaired, it's time to take a closer look.

So, is there a chance that a child you know has Seasonal Affective Disorder? Well, if he starts off the school year doing well, but his grades start dropping after the holidays, it's possible. If she bounces out of bed after eight to ten hours of sleep in the summer but can barely drag herself out of bed after more than twelve hours of sleep in the winter, it's worth looking into.
SAD in children can go undiagnosed fairly easily, especially in adolescents, who are expected to be moody and have trouble getting out of bed. A few seasons may need to pass before anyone notices a seasonal pattern in behavior.

Symptoms of SAD in Children

  • A change in appetite, especially a craving for sweet or starchy foods
  • Anxiety
  • A drop in energy level
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • A tendency to oversleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • As with diagnosing SAD in an adult, the single biggest clue is whether the symptoms are seasonal.
    It's important that your child be evaluated by a qualified professional. If you think that your child has SAD, chances are good that your instincts are correct. But she still needs to see a doctor and have other possibilities eliminated first, and any treatment should be under a doctor's care, even if the treatment is purely non-drug.


    Read more at :  Health

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    Tuesday, October 13, 2015

    Hoarding Food Behavior Amongst Foster Kids: An Opportunity for Understanding and Building Trust

    by John and Diane

    Hoarding behaviors of all kinds are not uncommon amongst foster or adopted kids. Hoarding food is especially common and often times overly worrisome for new foster or adoptive parents.  Food issues can be scary.  Let’s face it, watching your new kids gobble up the food on the dinner table can be a bit distressing and although your first approach might be to simply try to teach them some table manners and basic etiquette, the behavior can be a symptom of something bigger.

    Typical types of food behaviors foster parents will see are:
    ·      Eating too much- weight gain
    ·      Not eating enough – weight loss
    ·      Monitoring food supplies
    ·      Hoarding and hiding food

    Most of these issues have some kind of relationship with control and comfort. These kids have just been removed from a place where they felt some measure of security, even if the home was neglectful or abusive, so controlling food by eating too much or too little or by hoarding it, is a way to get control over their environment.

    Children that seem to monitor the amount of food in the house, or hoard food so that a sibling or others in the home have food, are dealing with a continuance of the caregiver role they most likely had previously.  Often children in neglectful homes took on parental responsibilities and continue to exhibit survivalist “hoarding” even when they first arrive in a safer environment.

    Some children will gain weight or lose weight in response to a history of sexual abuse. They will attempt to alter their appearance to make themselves less attractive, even after the immediate threat or actor has been removed.

    Other times children will simply turn to food as a form of comfort to help them deal with their new surroundings. 

    No matter what the circumstances, your approach towards a new foster child’s food hoarding behavior is to… do nothing.   

    Make sure the child is safe, allow the child to have access to food and monitor the situation.  Your focus at the beginning of your relationship with the child is not to monitor their weight gain (although extreme weight gain or weight loss should be brought to the attention of doctors or caseworkers) but to gain and build their trust. 

    Work towards assuring the child that there is plenty of food for everyone and that they have ample access to it.  Do not allow caseworkers to make you the “bad cop” and to force you to deal with a pre-existing obesity problem. Your main concern will be to build trust and provide a sense of safety and security.  Once you have a well-established relationship with the child you can gently work on better eating and a more active lifestyle along with the child's doctor and caseworker.

    Fighting over food hoarding with your new foster or adoptive child will only create distrust and prevent you from building an important bond with the child.  Fighting the hoarding behavior without having a trusting and solid relationship with the child will only make the behavior worse.

     Allow the behavior to happen and view it as an opportunity to learn about the child’s history and background… why they do what they do.  Ultimately, this knowledge will help you and the caseworkers work with the child and the hoarding behavior will eventually stop on its own.

    Food hoarding is only a symptom of bigger issues, so do your best to allow it to happen safely (provide a fridge in the room if necessary) while you work on the more important goals of building trust, and making the child feel safe and secure.

    See also:Help: My RAD Child Needs A Door Alarm....

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    Tuesday, August 18, 2015

    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.... 


    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