by John and Diane
What is a Safety Plan for dealing with sexual incidents with foster kids? We talked about it briefly in the first part of this series.
Basically, it is this: A plan of attack for when the inevitable situation arises with your child that places the parent and children of the opposite sex (for the heterosexually acting-out child) in jeopardy. Incidence such as if a teen girl would expose herself to the Father or son in the household, or a boy in the house becomes aggressive with a daughter or Mother in the house.
Any physical or verbal situation that could be interpreted as an inappropriate interaction must be addressed when dealing with foster children who act out sexually. This is vitally important in foster homes to protect both the child and the foster home (and everyone included in it.) It is NOT unusual for foster kids to get angry and accuse foster parents or other kids in the household of inappropriate acts…true or not, and you need to be prepared for such a time when you accept kids with this behavior. Having a Safety Plan is part of that preparation.
So, what do you need to do to have a Safety Plan?
1. Know everything you can about the child, his background, his/her history of sexual abuse or activity. Be open about it and follow all the rules we talked about in the first part of this series.
2. When you first witness an incident, talk to the caseworker first before doing anything about it. They may have a plan and may need to “gather evidence” or have a specific approach they want to use and may want to handle it personally.
3. Document to the counselor over the phone when something happens. As soon as an incident occurs, call the caseworker or counselor and give him or her all the details about what happened.
4. Leave it up to the counselor or caseworker if they want to come to the house and deal with it. If they give you an option and say, “Well, do you want me to come out there,” always say, “it’s up to you…” Never refuse or say no… be sure it is documented that you left it up to the caseworker to further review the incident.
5. Tell spouse immediately and let them confront the child on camera about the behavior. I realize not every home has cameras, but they are now so reasonably priced that foster homes should have at least one cam in the home for documentation purposes. You want the spouse of the same sex to deal with the issue. Have a witness if possible and talk bluntly about what happened. As discussed previously, this is just like any other bad behavior, so consequences should be given out for breaking “house rules” for acting out.
6. Know your limitations and stick to them. Document where your limit is so that you don’t get caught up trying to help the child beyond your abilities. When you do this, mistakes happen and you may end up in trouble yourself or put the child at risk.
7. Never let the parent of the opposite sex be alone with the child i.e.: drive home from school, babysitting etc. I realize this is difficult, but until the behavior is handled and dealt with, and there is a long history of non-behavior and acting out, I would not allow such risky one-on –one time. You may have to explain yourself to the police at some points during your foster parenting –life, and when dealing with kids with sexual acting-out, having a witness is vital to your self-protection.
8. Don’t use another child as your witness. Even if there is another child in the room, chances are they aren’t paying attention and would not be a witness for you if a claim were made against you. Again, cameras in public areas of your house are a good investment if you are taking on troubled kids such as these. When faced with the police…you’ll appreciate the preparation.