In this final part of our series on navigating the tricky landscape of sexualized behaviors with foster kids, we talk about recognizing some Red Flags that should alert you to the potential for behavioral issues to develop. The list here is based upon personal experience during years and years of working with foster kids …
Things you should ask yourself, behaviors and Red Flags:
1. Was there sexual abuse in the household that the child may have seen or been victim of?
2. How did the child grow up? Did the streets raise him or her?
a. If yes, this will let you know that they may have been exposed to things that a child of their age would not normally have experienced. Ask questions like: “Have you watch R rated movies and what were the movies you watched?” “What did you like about them?” Now, I may check out the movie myself to see what they were exposed to. Find out what kind of music they have been listening to. This will let you know something about what the child thinks about. This is a red flag to me but not always a problem, but time will let you know for sure.
3. How old is the child?
a. I found girls would act different at 12 and 13 then at 1- 11. I’d much rather have the 1-11 in my home.
b. If you have boys that are 15 and older, this can be a big red flag in the home and needs to be watched. Obviously, normal puberty will wreak havoc with any pre-teen or teen, but unknown previous experiences and personal histories of your foster kids might lead to more dangerous behaviors in your home.
4. Does the child have friends his or her own age?
a. If No, unless this is due to learning problems, this can be a red flag. If the child does not have a peer group that they can learn normal social skills within, they may move to a younger peer group. Their “normal” sexual social skills learning becomes predatory among younger children which makes this a red flag to watch for.
5. Is the child too “touchy-feely” with others?
a. Do you see a child touching or even bothering a child for no reason? You may see their hands on anther child’s head and touching the child’s face or legs. It may even look like they are patting the child. This is so they can get the unknowing child used to them touching them, and is otherwise known as “grooming behavior.” This can move into sexual touching. Kids may even try to make it look like a game but they stop playing as soon as you can see what they are doing. Big red flag.
6. The child is holding a another child and pressing they hips in to the child they are holding more than once and not letting the other child go when being asked. Big red flag.
7. When you walk in on your children playing and they stop playing and shut up. Red flag!
a. Find out why they stopped playing as soon as you entered the room and ask lots of questions. Ask how the game they were playing is played. Look for red flags on how the game is played; if someone has to hold someone down or some kind of touching is involved that they would not do in front of you, and then you have a red flag.
8. Hanging around bathroom doors or other children’s bedroom doors when children are changing.
9. If a child is giving presents to another child to try to keep a child quiet. You’ll notice it happening if you start to ask questions about behaviors and then you see the children getting gifts. You can tell when this is happening if you’re watching for it. The timing gives it away.
10. Children under blankets and acting differently when you or other children come in the room. This can be a red flag.
11. You have been watching a child do patting and other kinds of touching that seem to be out of place and you say “I can see what you are doing, Stop it.” but nothing else, and they say “ok” as if they know what you are thinking, Big red flag. Why?
a. They have been caught before doing things with other children. This is when I take them aside and tell them right out, what I am seeing, and sometimes they will say, “I did try to do it, I will watch where my hands are from now on.”
b. When they say “I’m sorry,” and make some kind of an excuse for the touching and blame the other child for it, that’s a Red flag to watch for further behavior.
12. Words that a child may use that are sexual in nature.
a. Does the child know what the words mean or is it just something they heard someone else say and thought it made them sound big or older? If they are a young child and do know what they are saying, that indicates some exposure to sexual things, which is a red flag.
These are some of the ones I found in my own home and there are more that I may add to the list later. You may see one or all of them, but any of them should make you look harder at what may be going on in your home with your own children and the foster children. You have to protect the actors of the sexual behaviors by getting them help, and the innocent children in your home. If you have some red flags that I have not mentioned, please feel free to add them.
(edited by Diane.)