Challenging Behaviour In Children

Training foster carers to deal with challenging behaviour – a person-centred approach helps learning to “stick”

Investment in training for a foster agency is not just about meeting statutory obligations. It needs to also ensure that the foster carer becomes more capable and confident in their role – and that the foster child experiences support and encouragement of their own positive behaviour.

What is “challenging behaviour”?

Challenging behaviour can take different forms. Research from 2013, “Children in foster care: What behaviours to carers find challenging?” by Octoman, McLean and Sleep, identified four distinct profiles of behaviour that carers themselves identified as problematic:

  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Sexual or otherwise risky behaviours
  • Behaviours of an aggressive, controlling and violent nature
  • Anxiety-based behaviours

Challenging behaviour can manifest itself as:

  • Aggression
  • Destruction
  • Self-harming
  • Resistive or awkward behaviours
  • Repetitive behaviours

Foster carers need to be equipped to provide an environment and culture that promotes and supports positive behaviour so need to understand how to de-escalate problems, disputes and stressful situations that can prompt or exacerbate challenging behaviour.

Training foster carers in challenging behaviour

With such a range of challenging behaviour that they could face, it is likely that much is initially outside the realm of their own experience, especially for new foster carers. It can help, therefore, if their training is designed to draw useful parallels between the experience of the child and that of their own day-to-day experience.

For example, an exercise such as analysing their own pattern of escalation in response to stress levels can help them to understand and empathise with a child even though those stressors and circumstances might be different. An experiential and enjoyable approach to training helps the foster carer to better understand and absorb the information and how to put it into practice in their day-to-day life.

This person-centred approach to training helps to reinforce the person-centred approach to caring for a foster child. It is:

  • Relevant to the individual foster carer, developing their capability and confidence in applying a person-centred approach to their caring responsibilities.
  • Relevant to the foster child – as the approach to training is in tune with the ethos of putting the needs, rights and views of the child or young person at the centre of all practice and provision.
  • Relevant to the statutory obligations of the foster carer and foster agency as it enables clear evidencing of the relevant Training, Support and Development Standards.

Foster Care Agency views

Delegate comments from recent training:

  • “The host was great, good humour to what could have been a dull and daunting course.”
  • “Andy our trainer was fantastic. He was knowledgeable, informative and fun. He had a great sense of humour and made the course content really interesting.”
  • “The best first aid course I ever attended.”

Their Team Manager said:

“I am delighted that our foster carers are enthusiastic and motivated to attend the courses offered, whilst being reassured that Able Training is consistently providing an excellent standard of training.”

Related training:

Challenging Behaviour in Foster Care

Breakaway and Safeholding for Foster Carers

Safeguarding and Child Protection

Useful links:

“Children in foster care: What behaviours to carers find challenging?” by Octoman, McLean and Sleep

Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers

Training, Support and Development Standards for Foster Carers workbook