Consequences I need ideas for Consequences!!!


My wife and I are going into our third month of being houseparents for teenage girls. The girls that we have range from ages 14-18 and can be quite difficult. Here where we are we use a level system to hold them accountable for their actions. To give you an example level one girls are not allowed to have any of their own belongings and are required to wear uniforms on all outings, as well as many other consequences. Whereas the other levels (2-4) are allowed certain privileges. Our level ones have recently started to revolt and not care what level they and have no motivation to move up to the next level, and they feel like they can do what they want when they want to. I need some ideas or consequences in dealing with them. Anyone have any interesting things that work.


We use a similar level system it seems, but our level 1 does not seem to be quite a strict and we don’t have uniforms. This is coming from someone who doesn’t work where you are and I don’t know how much you can change things in your own home and what you have to run by your director and get approval for. I sounds as though level 1 seems very suffocating. My director (and I agree with him) feels that a kid has to have a light at the end of the tunnel. I understand that at level 2 you get privileges, but to a teenager (especially if they have ADD/ADHD) it’s hard to see how to get there. If you have no instant rewards for good behavior and they have to wait a week or 2 before moving up to the nest level, then is it really worth it to them? One thing I have learned is that even though they may still be on level 1, if they do something very well, then they need to be rewarded for that. For example, one of my boys got bumped down to level one a few weeks ago, and had no TV, computer, iPod, stereo, etc. However, one day, he had done very well at school and come home and did his homework and I let him play a game on the computer for 10 minutes. It was only 10 minutes, but it wet his tongue and made him want more. Therefore, the next day he worked even harder. However, if he were to slack off just a little, NO WAY.

I’m not in your home, so I don’t know what all is going on, but if a kid feels as though they can’t do anything right or even if they do they don’t get anything for it, then why do the right thing, you know? After all, it is kinda funny to see the hp get upset and frustrated – and I already have nothing, so what’s the big deal.

I would attempt to begin giving a little back and really rewarding the good behaviors (stay up 10 min later than the rest of the girls that night, 5 min of TV, change out of uniform for the night, etc.)

These are just suggestions, but again, I don’t know your campus, director, or how exactly things are done there. I may be way out in left field for you, but it sounds like they need to see a light at the end of the tunnel.


I totally agree with Seamus. It sounds like the girls need to get a little of something to keep them motivated and moving forward.

Hopefully your program and facility is flexible enough to find something that they are interested in achieving in the short term. As crazy as it sounds, some kids could care less about achieving a facilities’ pre-set goals. Especially if the kid never had any say in what it is they would like to achieve.

Personally I would be motivated to get to the next level to get all my stuff back, but for some kids they have a hard time actually seeing themselves achieving a goal beyond the end of the day, let alone next week. It can lead, for some, to a feeling of hopelessness. I think finding out what each individual girl would like to be rewarded with and setting short term goals for them to achieve may work.


I just want to say thanks for the information. We know why we are here and it is not to punish the girls, and sometimes you get caught up in do this. I am glad for the info and that fact that I have never thought about why they didn’t care but it makes sense seeing as how most of our girls do have add adhd. I will surely take this and run with it, as much as I can. We are in a really good program and they allow us to make a lot of the decisions about rules( of course we do have a set book of guidelines). Thanks again for the feedback.

“The Safest Place is in the Center of God’s Will”


Sometimes we have to do something to give the kids hope. If they dig themselves a hole it can be hard to get out of. We have to let them smell a little bit of success from time to time. We have to dangle the carrot in front of them sometimes so they want to go for it. Who knows when it will be the time that they turn their life around and continue to want to be on a higher level.


If you have one or some who are misbehaving find out what they like to do. When they are not on level have the others do what they like to do and do not allow them to participate. This might mean that one of the houseparents stay back. For example we had a girl who really liked this part and to go down trails we made sure that when she was not on level that we went to the park. Another idea is movies. You can have show a movie like on the weekend and have the ones who are not on level to set in another room etc.


I had two young men that did not ‘care’ about rising up thru the ranks. Life’s experiences for them had convinced them that it did no good to advance, because someone or something would always beat them back down. Nothing seemed to motivate them…UNTIL… we discovered their passion. Sometimes it is hard to see a child’s passion when they are conditioned to express nothing, but we were blessed. When we went the extra mile to provide an outlet for their passion (for one it was individual guitar lessons with a really good instructor), we found these two young men responding to us with real emotion (mostly positive). HOWEVER, we could not use these lessons as reward or consequences… that would have just shut the boys down again. For the one child – the lessons cost money, we worked with others to give him opportunities to earn his lessons. We had to use opportunities not connected to our house or regular chores, he worked for other people on the facility grounds. We kept the requirements very low, so that the boys could not fail. Within one month, the boys began to do better in school and at home, and we were able to build some relationship bonds that were healthy…it felt like a miracle.


You just can’t keep giving negative consequences to these kids. Are you changing or modifying the behavior just giving out consequences. If one of your Natural children was in trouble you could give very harsh and long consequences and it would change their behavior. With the children we care for we can’t keep piling it on. They have to have hope. If we take privileges away they usually can earn some back. These kids have been through so much, it makes me laugh when I hear someone say they are going to break them. Most of my guys have been beaten, some with lamp cords and who know what else. Yet we think we can break them by taking stuff from them. Some people are motivated by the positive and some by the negative, you have to know what will work for each child. We use a chip system, some will cry if we take a chip some do no care, yet will respond when they earn chips. We made a modified family teaching model with the chips. Family teaching is 4 to 1 ratio positive to negative we used Family teaching in a DJJ home with teens most gang members, I thought it worked well and they teach don’t pile it on, give them a chance to earn something back. You also need the teaching part, they need to be taught correct behavior and rewarded when the do it.

Our Rad daughter was giving us problems we used love and logic all she had was a mattress on the floor. She said you did everything you can do I’m still going to do what I want. F YOU and walked out the door and we did not see her for weeks. That taught me that you need not only consequence but give positive reinforcement and bait them back.


Every person I have ever known to live by the break-em philosophy is now doing something else for a living. Though the so called breaking of a child may work for the very few, it won’t work for the vast majority of children in placement. They have already been broken by their situation and have learned ways to cope and deal with it. They have to be taught that adults can be dependable, caring and respectful, that not every situation is bad.

I’ll be the first to admit that this is a very hard thing to do. It’s hard to be caring a respectful when you are being cussed at, yelled at, spit on, or disrespected, but it has to be done. Our daughter that we raised in placement and that chose us as her parents, put us through test after test after test to see if we would stick around and continue to care. We did and now she calls us mom and dad. But even if she had never decided to make us her parents, but only learned to be a productive member of society and how to treat others, it is worth it.

Craig Bridges 

The other problem with the break them philosophy (control) is it is usually external and only works while when the kids are in the “break them” environment. It is a combination biblically of truth & grace. How does God deal with us? He tells us what or how we should do things, tells us the consequence of both obedience & disobedience, allows us to make a choice & experience the consequence of our choices. What I love is his blessings, mercy, & grace far outweigh the penalties. Also he is always there with open arms, willing to forgive & give us the support & love we need to get back on track.
We need negative consequences when raising our children but they should not be the focus. We should go out of our way to give grace, build relationships, find hot buttons (blessings) and have open arms. I don’t know about everyone else but I need Jesus because as the webmaster said it is hard when time and time again you are being disrespected, disobeyed and everything else. Thank you heavenly Father for your example on how to be a house parent.

Finally starting a home-questions on younger kids

Well, the day has finally come. We are beginning visits with a boy that may become our first kid. We’ve been doing relief while waiting for our house to be finished and now its finally done. We were trained for teenagers and cut our teeth on them too. Now it looks like we will be starting our home with a 5 year old. Although I’m used to little kids, its different when you are hping them. Any advice?

What do you do when a 5 year old tantrums in the store? I assume you take them to the car until they either calm down or you have to leave but what if they are flailing uncontrollably? Its just so different with teens. The worst thing our girls ever did was beg for favorite food! I know I got spoiled doing relief for our relatively stable girls (although it didn’t feel like I was being spoiled at the time) 

What about attachment issues? My little goddaughter started calling me mommy when I kept her for very long so this worries me a little.

Does your facility run TCI, CPI, TFM or another program?

Are there any written guidelines in regard the children’s consequences/ behaviors?

I know a lot of others here will disagree with me, but as far as attachment goes- It’s a good thing. If they want to call you mom and the facility does not mind- I say go for it. Sometimes they need that. The attachment is what makes them feel like there is someone that loves them.

As for tantrums in public places? Get ready for it. I’ve had more dirty looks at the mall from people who thought I should be spanking my six year old who is cursing while I’m leading him out to the van for a time out than I care to think about.

A good program, clear and well established boundaries and lots of patience will help when dealing with the younger kids. Actually I’ve worked mostly with teens, but now that I’m in a elementary cottage I enjoy them more. It’s more work, but it seems like we have more genuine moments with them. I also don’t have to worry about them running an underground tobacco smuggling operation. 

What do you do when a 5 year old tantrums in the store? I assume you take them to the car until they either calm down or you have to leave but what if they are flailing uncontrollably? Its just so different with teens. The worst thing our girls ever did was beg for favorite food! I know I got spoiled doing relief for our relatively stable girls (although it didn’t feel like I was being spoiled at the time)

You are correct about going to the car. Lead them out by the hand if they will let you or pick them up and carry them out. If they are too big to carry and have tantrum issues you don’t take them to the store until you have had sufficient time to work with them in other situations to reduce or hopefully alleviate their tantrums. Make sure that as you lead them or carry them from the store that you don’t strike them, shake them or grab them in a way that can appear abusive (hair, ears, collars, etc.) and remain calm.

What about attachment issues? My little goddaughter started calling me mommy when I kept her for very long so this worries me a little.

The children I work with are very long term kids that could spend their entire childhood with us. Some of them call us mom and dad and we may be the only mom or dad they ever know. We do however have many discussions with them about birth mom & dad and foster mom & dad; that we are here to care for them and love them because their birth parents are not able to.

Our facility allows us and the children to do this, but I know of several facilities that don’t allow the children to call you mom and dad. When we were foster parents, our state regulations prohibited the children calling us mom and dad. You need to find out what your facility’s policy is and follow it. There are some ways to avoid the mom and dad name issue and still be personal. We have had older couples that had the children call them mamaw and papaw. We have a housemom that goes by Aunt Becky. I have known several housedads that go by pop or pops.

wow, ok. Thanks for the replies, that helps a lot. I was worried about picking them up but that makes the most sense. My director even said to let them tantrum on the floor but I was worried about them destroying things. I think I like the idea of waiting to take them to the store until we’ve spent time together and tested out other outings. We were going to start with an open area such as a park, then work slowly up to grocery stores and restaurants. You know, McDonalds before Lubys kind of a deal.

The first pre-placement visit went well. I’m really confused about the family situation. I can’t tell what is “wrong” with this kid. I’m sure there will be a brief honeymoon period but that doesn’t last as long with little kids as with teens right?

Launchpad, I think I really enjoy working with the little ones too. They are so honest. They just talk to you. Its very obvious what the sensitive issues are…they aren’t afraid to talk (if they are comfortable with you). This kid adored my husband. It was so funny because he wanted to be with both of us at the same time. If dh wandered off to do something, it only took a few minutes before he asked where dh was. I can tell that if we take him, he is going to break my heart. Since we have been doing relief, I’ve been able to keep the relationship on a relational but definitely more of an aunt and uncle level. A little one living with us all the time will definitely change that.

Change of topic- what do y’all think about taking elementary age kids off of meds for add/adhd for the summer? I’ve heard theories that since they don’t have to do schoolwork in summer, they should be off of them.

We almost always take our kids off of ADD medications during the summer, with Doctor’s permission of course. They don’t need to concentrate as much, and hyperness doesn’t bother us that much. School starts in 4 weeks and we have a child that is trying meds for the first time. He is the most hyper child I have ever met, it will interesting to see how they work. We got the Rx today and will start him right away to see how the meds affect him. The first day of school is not the time to try new meds if you don’t have to; there are too many things that can go wrong. 

The first pre-placement visit went well. I’m really confused about the family situation. I can’t tell what is “wrong” with this kid…….. I can tell that if we take him, he is going to break my heart. Since we have been doing relief, I’ve been able to keep the relationship on a relational but definitely more of an aunt and uncle level. A little one living with us all the time will definitely change that.

My wife and I have a house of little boys, now 6yrs – 12yrs old. Prior to taking this cottage, we relieved in teen boy and girls cottages. We’ve found that most of the time what’s “wrong” with the little kids are that those caring for him are totally incapable of doing it (i.e. jail, drugs, health, etc.) These little guys just need love and structure. We’ve traded the self-sufficiency and “attitudes” of teenagers for the hugs and tears of little ones. Yes, it is more physical work – laundry, dressing, baths, cleaning – but they’ve got our hearts and it’s a pleasure and honor to be the ones who get to teach them all the basics of life.

The heartbreaks are different too. Like when they go on “Home visit” and come back to the cottage not understanding why they can’t be with their family and then cry themselves to sleep because they miss their mom. But, I’ve gotten to teach them how to ride bikes, tie their shoes, make their beds, catch a ball, and pray to God. HOW COOL IS THAT?!!

We wouldn’t have it any other way!

Levels of Children in Care


We work in a level I basic care facility and we are getting children in that are ADD, ODD, PYRO’S just to name a few of the lesser problems some of these kids have, is this normal for a level I facility


It is normal to a point. It depends on their behavior. And their mental capabilities


Love4allkids is correct it is common to have this type in basic care, If their behavior gets out of hand consult with your intake counselor or the case worker for assistance but it is usually not anything to be alarm over.

Pyro’s are not normally level 1 in my experiences.


Where are you guys at that you have this leveling system? I am not familiar with it.

Texas is the only state in which it has a level system. All others do not. Level 1-3 is basic. It goes up to level 6 in Texas.


Texas is the only state in which it has a level system. All others do not. Level 1-3 is basic. It goes up to level 6 in Texas.

We work with “Level 12” kids in California and are aware of a Level system that goes through 14. We’ve toured other facilities geared through Level 6 as well so it seems there is a “Level System” alive and well in California.

As a matter of fact it seems that agencies work to get their ratings increased to be able to take in higher level kids as State reimbursements seem tied to the levels as well.

We are in N.C. and only go to level 4. We work in a level 1 facility and on occasion get kids in that are higher level worthy but don’t know until they’ve been in placement a few months. I would defiantly take my concerns to my Director. I have in fact on several occasions.


Until kids have been in placement a while the “system” typically does not react and adjust to their behaviors.

You need to always remember that the children have rights as well and that often times their rights and attorneys working to protect them and keep them out of more restrictive placements outweigh the sensibility of what a caregiver or case worker sees.

Until children have built a healthy size package of documentation supporting their “issues” they will be in basic care facilities or foster care. As more evidence is gathered and more visits to MH facilities adds to the documentation in their packages for the court to act on then they will move deeper into the system towards the level of facility best suited for providing their care.

We recently had a 13yo SED Fire Starter that had started a fire in a school bathroom, assaulted 2 teachers sending one to a hospital and when arrested the Police stated he was the most uncontrollable youth they ever dealt with.

He should have been in a Psychiatric Hospital or a Level 14 Lock Down Facility with on duty psychiatric care and the ability to restrain him but was placed in a Residential Group Home in the community because the behaviors manifesting were too new and lacked the psychiatric evaluation.

After finding him strangling another kid and then threatening to “burn him in his bed while he sleeps” I was able to have him detained. We took a half dozen packs of matches off him that day.

After 6 hours in juvenile hall he was released to DCFS and replaced in another facility with no history of his prior actions given to them.

It will probably take another year of these kinds of issues before he lands in a place suited to care for him.

All you can do is document as much of his negative behavior and get the information to the people that handle those things for your agency.