Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Working with Foster Kids and RAD Kids: Part 2: Building on Situational Trust: Bartering for Goods

by John and Diane

Following up on “The RAD Child: Situational Trust and Safety Zones” article, I want to discuss how to proceed with your RAD child and how to work with multiple kids in the home.

Now that the child has his safety zone (his bedroom) and is feeling more confident in the home overall, you should expand his safe spaces to his bathroom as well. This is done by the enforcement of strict house rules regarding privacy and occupancy of the bathroom (one child at a time) and use of personal bathroom supplies. Personal responsibility for dirty laundry hampers and cleaning of the bathroom should also be enforced if age appropriate. If they feel responsibility for the bathroom, they will feel some ownership of the space and therefore feel like it is a safe space for them.

Although I allow some personalization and control of spaces like their bedroom and bath, I take control of their surroundings in other, subtle ways, which allows me to begin to work on having the child trust me. For example, although they can watch television, they have limited access to TV stations and programming.  I make sure the programming my kids watch is free of violence and foul language and watch movies and evening programs with them to insure it is appropriate.

Borrowing and Buying from the In House Store

Part of feeling ownership, responsibility and security in a new home for a RAD or any foster child is decorating and setting up their own space. I help encourage this by providing a way for the kids to get items to enhance their personal areas.

Since I am a group home, I keep a pantry filled with items the kids can earn through chores. I have things kids might want like small stereos, clock radios, toys, gadgets, novelty items, etc. 

Sometimes the kids find things in my storage rooms that they’d like, and I let them borrow the items for their room.  I always use the term “Borrow,” which is important.  I say to them: “ I am letting you borrow this from me because you are doing so well, and I love you because you are trying so hard.” 

By making it clear that the item is “borrowed” I am maintaining ownership of it, so that if the child’s behavior reverts (which is usually does) I can take the item back and there can be no argument about it.  If they argue about my taking the item, I get the chance to tell them that the item was given for good behavior, and that bad behavior has consequences.

Now, items that they had paid for through their allowance I will not take away, as this would be a break in our trust.  This helps build trust when the child sees that I am not behaving in an unfair manner, and that I will not take away what is rightfully their without a truly just cause.

Of course, there are always exceptions to any rule based upon the behaviors of the kids and the situations. There are times when really bad behavior may result in the total strip down of a child’s room. Should that happen, the child would eventually get their “owned” items back, but would not get their “borrowed” items back.

Although this might sound overly complicated or unnecessary for some of you, this is just another way for a foster parent or adoptive parent to begin to build trust. You have to provide opportunities to interact on trust issues (like ownership, bartering and borrowing) and this “pantry-shopping” is just a natural extension of the allowance –for-chores/ rewards and house rules system.   It all works together.

Want to get a bartering/buying pantry set up in your home? Here are some things to consider:

·      Purchase small items at the dollar store, goodwill or gather from friends
·      No pocketknives or anything that can be used as a weapon even if your kids are “outdoorsmen.”
·      Keep batteries for items as part of the “stock” that the kids can purchase with allowance money
·      Consider bartering between kids with rules. You must okay all trades for items to make sure that the trades are legitimate and fair. No trades can be made unless Okayed by a parent.
·      Remember: Having the kids possess some “borrowed” items is good. You want to have the opportunity to take things away so that the child knows that you have the ultimate control in the home and so that he or she can see that bad behavior has consequences and affects relationships negatively. 

image:  Silly Band Traders:
Attribution Some rights reserved by woodleywonderworks

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