What the Child Says, He Has Heard at Home: Behaviour Management Strategies for Children in Foster Care Settings

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Foster care placements aim to provide stability and a nurturing environment for children in need of care and protection. However, managing the behaviour of foster children poses unique challenges due to their history of exposure to adverse childhood experiences, which often leads to behavioural problems. A single-case study mixed-methods design was used to explore the perspectives of foster children on the disciplinary practices used within three foster care houses in Gauteng, South Africa. Findings from the study highlight that the use of a predominant punishment-focused approach hinders opportunities for positive reinforcement and the development of prosocial behaviours, efficacy, and self-discipline.  The short-term effects of this punishment-driven strategy raise concerns about its long-term effectiveness in behaviour modification. Moreover, predominantly relying on punishment as a behaviour management intervention overlooks the emotional and developmental needs of foster children and fails to address the underlying causes of antisocial behaviour. To address these issues, there is a clear need for a more balanced and comprehensive approach to behaviour management in foster care settings. The proposed guidelines include adopting a cohesive approach to behaviour management, establishing clear boundaries, rules, and consequences, using positive discipline techniques, understanding different parenting styles and their impact on behaviour management, creating an enabling environment to support behaviour modification, and providing effective training for foster caregivers.

Keywords: Behaviour management, positive discipline, punishment, children in need of care and protection,  foster care,  good practice

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