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Derby City Children's Social Care Procedures

7.9 Behaviour Management and Safe Caring


This chapter provides guidance on managing behaviour, which includes supporting positive behaviour, de-escalation of conflicts and discipline.


Restraint and Physical Intervention (Light House Community Support Team) Procedure


This chapter was updated in September 2022.

Derby City Council uses a Strengths Based Approach for all work with children and families.


  1. Introduction
  2. Positive Behaviour Support
  3. Minimum House Rules
  4. Managing Challenging Behaviour and De-escalation of Conflicts
  5. Consequences
  6. Searching
  7. Serious Incidents and Use of Physical Intervention
  8. Further Information

1. Introduction

Whilst children bring their own values and behaviours to placements, foster carers and residential staff play a key role in influencing children.

There should be an holistic approach drawing on established theoretical bases, research, best practice and guidance in order to promote and develop positive behaviour, and a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and supporting children and young people.

A robust assessment of need should determine the approach to be taken and the most effective matching of placements. The referral information, Placement Plan and reviews are central to the ongoing planning and evaluation of the support in relation to behaviour. Foster carers and residential staff should be given such information, which is kept up to date, as to enable them to provide appropriate care for the child, in particular the most recent version of the child's care plan. Foster carers and residential staff should be aware of all the necessary information about a child's circumstances, including any significant recent events, to help them understand and predict the child's needs and behaviours and support the child.

The approach to behaviour support should:

  • Aim to create a safe, caring environment;
  • Ensure that all children have opportunities to become confident and achieve their full potential;
  • Encourage the child's consultation and participation in setting rules and consequences;
  • Ensure that all children and young people live in placements where they have clear expectations in relation to their behaviour, are supported to understand and to develop alternative positive approaches to challenges within their lives;
  • Ensure that all children and young people understand how positive behaviour is recognised and rewarded;
  • Ensure that all children and young people are supported to understand the consequences of negative behaviour;
  • Ensure that all foster carers and residential staff understand and share the principles of positive approaches to behaviour;
  • Accept the individuality of children and young people and celebrate the diversity of their backgrounds;
  • Recognise that placements are different, unique and represent many notions of family, yet they share a common value base.

2. Positive Behaviour Support

Foster carers and residential staff play an important part in the day-to-day life of a child, therefore good parenting, supported by training on behaviour management techniques and strategies, will enable them to achieve and develop a more positive relationship with the child and a more harmonious life and will enable the child to feel good about themselves.

The approach to positive behaviour support should ensure that:

Foster carers/residential staff provide an environment and culture that promotes, models and supports positive behaviour, and sets high expectations of all of the children in the placement.

Children are enabled to build trusted and secure relationships with their carers, who know them well, listen to them, spend time with them, protect them and promote their welfare.

The care and help from foster carers and residential staff assists children and young people to develop a positive self-view and to increase their ability to form and sustain attachments and build emotional resilience and a sense of their own identity. This care and help can also help them to overcome any previous experiences of neglect and trauma.

Foster carers and residential staff will be prepared and supported to manage the behaviour of children and young people placed with them and situations arising from and leading to this behaviour.

Foster carers and residential staff are expected to understand, manage and deal with children's behaviour including encouraging them to take responsibility for their behaviour and helping them to learn how to resolve conflict. Carers should have positive strategies for effectively supporting children where they encounter discrimination or bullying wherever this occurs.

Children should be able to develop and practice skills to build and maintain positive relationships, be assertive and to resolve conflicts positively. Children should be encouraged to take responsibility for their behaviour in a way that is appropriate to their age and abilities. Foster carers and residential staff should respect the child's privacy and confidentiality, in a manner that is consistent with good parenting.

All foster carers and residential staff will receive training in positive care and control of children, including training in de-escalating problems and disputes.

All placements will have clear, consistent and fair boundaries, to enable children to feel safe, encouraged and appropriately rewarded, to help ensure that they will thrive and do well and to contribute to a feeling of well-being and security for children.

When caring for children, carers should at all times endeavour to:

  • Listen to and empathise with children, respect their thoughts and feelings and take their wishes into consideration;
  • Look for things that are going well, or any step in the right direction, and appropriately reward it;
  • Use rewards in a creative and diverse way, specific to children's needs, capabilities and interests. This may mean that children are rewarded with activities or rewards that they enjoy. But all 'tangible' rewards should be accompanied by use of 'non tangible' encouragement and support – by carers demonstrating to children that they have done well. Such 'non tangible' rewards include smiling and praising children.

Children usually benefit, early on, from rewards which may appear to outweigh that which is expected. This is normal; over time rewards can be more relevant as children's self-esteem and skills improve.

For example:

  • Children who have few social or life skills and whose self-esteem and confidence is low may require forms of encouragement and reward which are intensive, frequent or even excessive in order to help/remind them that they are doing well and appreciated;
  • A child who has previously been unable to get up for school may be offered an incentive for getting up on time for a few days.

Over time, as children achieve what is expected, such rewards should be reduced or children should be expected to achieve more for the same or a similar reward.

The PACE model can help a carer work successfully with a child.

PACE stands for:

Caption: The PACE model
Playfulness Using a light-hearted, reassuring tone – similar to parent-infant interactions – to creating an atmosphere of safety and reassurance where no one feels judged and your child feels able to cope with positive feelings.
Acceptance Acceptance is about actively communicating that you accept the feelings, thoughts and internal struggles that are underneath the child's outward behaviour. It is not about accepting the behaviour itself but helping to teach the child to not feel ashamed by their inner turmoil.
Curiosity Curiosity, without judgement, is how we help children become aware of their inner life. It's about wondering out loud without necessarily expecting an answer in return. Phrases like "I wonder if…" will help the child to put a name to their emotions and thoughts.
Empathy Feeling a child's sadness of distress with them, being emotionally available to them during times of difficulty shows the child that they are not alone and that the adult are strong enough to support them both through it.

(Sometimes 'L' for Love is included, making PLACE).

3. Minimum House Rules

All placements should have house rules, setting out expectations for how things are managed within the home. This should be explained to children, with the reasons for the rules and they should also know that that there are rules for everyone. They should not feel that they are being treated with less regard than other members of the household. Ideally children should know these expectations before they are placed.

These house rules should be recorded on the placement plan and in the safe caring document.

4. Managing Challenging Behaviour and De-escalation of Conflicts

All foster carers and residential staff will receive training in positive care and support of children, including training in de-escalating problems and disputes.

Conflict management should be used by foster carers and residential staff and should include the appropriate use of restorative practices that improve relationships, increase children's sense of personal responsibility and reduce the need for formal police intervention. This approach to care is designed to minimise the need for police involvement to deal with challenging behaviour and avoid criminalising children unnecessarily. Proactive and effective working relationships with the police should help to support and protect children.

Children should be encouraged and helped to develop skills and strategies to manage their own conflicts and difficult feelings through developing positive relationships with carers. There should be clear, consistent and appropriate boundaries for children.

Children should receive help to manage their behaviour and feelings safely. Foster carers and residential staff should respond with clear boundaries about what is safe and acceptable and seek to understand the triggers for behaviour.

Positive behaviour must be promoted consistently, with carers using effective de-escalation techniques and creative alternative strategies that are specific to the needs of each child and planned in consultation with them where possible.

Foster carers and residential staff will receive support on how to manage their responses and feelings arising from caring for children, particularly where children display very challenging behaviour, and understand how children's previous experiences can manifest in challenging behaviour.

Difficult or challenging behaviour in children can occur for a number of reasons, for example:

  • As a way of expressing emotions;
  • As a result of developmental delays or learning disability;
  • As a result of attachment/relationship difficulties with staff/carers;
  • Learned behaviours in which challenging responses have become habit in the face of frustration or anxiety.

It is helpful if staff and carers can understand the causes of the child's behaviour and provide the child with help and support.

When working with, or caring for, children with challenging behaviour it is useful to bear in mind the following:

  • The age and emotional maturity of the child;
  • That the aim of any positive behaviour management is to help the child learn how to behave more appropriately and not to punish or to purely keep the child under control;
  • Challenging or undesirable behaviour should not result in emotional distance between the child and the staff/carer;
  • No matter how difficult or challenging a child's behaviour, staff/carers should never resort to similar behaviour;
  • The more staff/carers are able to understand a child's behaviour and are able to meet their needs in a consistent manner, the less likely they are to encounter difficulties with control.

Children need clear boundaries and to know what is expected of them.

The key points of a positive behaviour approach are:

  • The ground rules are discussed with the child so that their views can be taken into account;
  • Staff and carers should be honest about any non-negotiable issues, such as smoking on the premises;
  • Rules need to be realistic and ideally phrased as a "do" rather than a "do not";
  • Children may need to be reminded from time to time of the expectations regarding their behaviour and of why we have rules.

It is important to consider that a child may have disabilities that affect their behaviour, social skills, communication and understanding so require extra help with behaviour management.

Staff/carers need to be aware that children under pressure can have strong feelings of frustration, distress or anger. For example, acknowledging that a child's feelings are legitimate may help them to understand that their behaviour e.g. hitting out or swearing is not OK.

It is important to work with the multi-disciplinary team to work out a positive approach to supporting the child or young person with their behaviours. This plan should be followed by all to ensure that the child or young person receives consistent messages around what is expected. Ongoing support around behaviours may be needed to keep the child or young person safe and healthy.

5. Consequences

5.1 Guidance on use of Consequences

Consequences can be very effective but, before imposing them, think about it. Staff in residential care will be expected to apply restorative parenting principles when dealing with challenging behaviour as part of the concordat arrangements in Derby.

Most Children in Care have come to view themselves, and are viewed, as failures. They may have experienced inconsistent application of consequences as a form of abuse.

Before imposing consequences, carers should do all they can to support and encourage children to do well. If children do not behave acceptably, strategies should be adopted that are encouraging and rewarding.

Rather than noticing and sanctioning misbehaviour it is always better to notice and reward good behaviour - or any step in the right direction. For example, it may be more effective to allow a child to have use of a games console or TV at bedtime for getting up on time; rather than taking the TV away for getting up late. Same deal, different meaning!

The former is discouraging and causes resentment; the latter is encouraging, can improve self esteem and relationships between children and carers.

Be creative, think outside the box!

If children continue to behave in unacceptable ways, they should be reminded about what is expected and given further encouragement to get it right. If misbehaviour persists or is serious, effective use of reprimands can act as a disincentive or firm reminder. If this does not work, or may not, consequences may be effective.

Where consequences are used they must be reasonable and the minimum necessary to achieve the objective. Also, there should be a belief that the consequence will have the desired outcome - increasing the possibility that acceptable behaviour will follow.

If consequences are imposed, carers should apply the following principles:

  1. Consequences must be the exception, not the rule. A Last Resort;
  2. Consequences must not be imposed as acts of revenge or retaliation;
  3. Think before imposing the consequences; don't apply it in the heat of the moment;
  4. Consequences may only be imposed upon children for persistent or serious misbehaviour; where reminders and reprimands have already failed or are likely to fail;
  5. Consequences should only be used if there is a reasonable chance they will have the desired effect of making the point and in reducing or preventing further unacceptable behaviour;
  6. Before applying any consequence, make sure the child is aware that their behaviour is unacceptable and, if possible, warn them that consequences will be applied if the unacceptable behaviour continues;
  7. It is the certainty not the severity of consequences that is important;
  8. Consequences should only last as long as they need to and allow the child the opportunity to make a fresh start as quickly as possible.

5.2 Approved Consequences

The following consequences may be imposed upon children:

  1. If not part of an agreed strategy in the child/young person's Placement Plan, confiscation or withdrawal of a telephone or mobile phone in order to protect a child or another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged;
  2. Restriction on sending or receiving letters or other correspondence (including the use of electronic or internet correspondence) in order to protect a child or another person from harm, injury or to protect property from being damaged;
  3. Reparation, involving the child doing something to put right the wrong they have done; e.g. a letter of apology, repairing damage or returning stolen property;
  4. Early bedtimes, by up to half an hour or as agreed with the child's Social Worker;
  5. Short term removal of equipment from their bedroom, as a consequence of inappropriate use for example the use of a TV or games console (e.g. 24hours removal of equipment);
  6. Loss of privileges, for example the withdrawal of the privilege of staying up late.

5.3 Actions that are Non Approved

The following actions are Non Approved, which means they may never be imposed upon children:

  1. Any form of corporal punishment; i.e. any intentional application of force as punishment, including slapping, punching, rough handling and throwing missiles;
  2. Any action relating to the consumption or deprivation of food or drink (with the exception of 'treats' such as sweets, take-away);
  3. Any restriction on a child's contact with their parents, relatives or friends; visits to the child by his or her parents, relatives or friends; a child's communications with any of the persons listed below*; or their access to any telephone helpline providing counselling or advice for children (N.B. This does not prevent contact or communication being restricted in exceptional circumstances, where it is necessary to do so to protect the child or others - see Family Time with Parents, other Adults and Siblings Procedure);
  4. Any requirement that a child wear distinctive or inappropriate clothes;
  5. The use or withholding of medication or medical or dental treatment;
  6. The intentional deprivation of sleep;
  7. The modification of a child's behaviour through bribery or the use of threats;
  8. Any action used intentionally or unintentionally which may humiliate a child or could cause them to be ridiculed;
  9. The imposition of any fine or financial penalty, other than a requirement for the payment of a reasonable sum by way of reparation;
  10. Any intimate physical examination of a child;
  11. The withholding of aids/equipment needed by a disabled child;
  12. Any measure which involves a child in the imposition of any measure against any other child; or the sanction of a group of children for the behaviour of an individual child;
  13. Swearing at or the use of foul, demeaning or humiliating language or measures;

*The persons with whom the child may have contact, in relation to c. above, are:

  1. Any officer of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service appointed for the child;
  2. Any social worker for the time being assigned to the child by their placing authority;
  3. Any person appointed in respect of any requirement of the procedure specified in the Representations Procedure (Children) Regulations 1991;
  4. An Independent Visitor;
  5. Any person authorised by the Regulatory Authority e.g. Ofsted.

5.4 Recording of Consequences

If a child receives a consequence it should be recorded by the foster carer on their daily recording log. In foster homes if Time Out or Withdrawal is used, this must be set out in the fostering risk assessment or in the Behaviour Management Plans (as part of the Placement Plan for an individual child).

6. Searching

Carers are not permitted to conduct body searches, pat down searches, searches of clothing worn by children or of their bedrooms.

Should carers suspect that a child is carrying or has concealed an item which may place the child or another person at risk, they should try to obtain the item by co-operation/negotiation.

If carers suspect that a child is concealing an item which may place themselves or another person at risk, they must notify the child’s social worker/local authority or, in an emergency, the Police.

7. Serious Incidents and Use of Physical Intervention

In the event of any serious incident (e.g. accident, violence or assault, damage to property), carers should take what actions they deem to be necessary to protect children/themselves from immediate harm or injury; and then notify the agency immediately. Foster carers are offered training on Attachment and Behaviour which addresses the effects of trauma, different attachment styles and behaviours associated with this. Further training using the secure base model provides further guidance on managing behaviour and supporting children to regulate feelings and build on developing trusting relationships with adults.

If there is a risk of serious injury/harm or damage to property, carers should not use any form or Physical Intervention except as a last resort to prevent themselves or others from being injured or to prevent serious damage to property. If any form of Physical Intervention is used, it must be the least intrusive necessary to protect the child, carer(s) or others.

At no time should carer(s) act unless they are confident of managing the situation safely, without escalation or further injury.

The carers should endeavour to deal with as many of the challenges that are involved in caring for children without recourse to the involvement of the Police, who should only be involved in two circumstances;

  • An emergency necessitating their immediate involvement to protect the child or others;
  • Following discussion with the child's social worker and/or relevant senior manager from the local authority.

If any serious incident occurs or the Police are called, the child's social worker must be notified without delay and will then notify the relevant senior manager within the local authority and arrange for a full report to be made of the incident and actions taken. The Regulatory Authority (Ofsted) must also be notified.

Residential staff please refer to Derby Children's Homes Procedures Manual

Further Information

Legislation, Statutory Guidance and Government Non-Statutory Guidance

Positive and Proactive Care: Reducing the Need for Restrictive Interventions - Department of Health and Social Care