I would like to share a typical scenario of a foster child arriving to meet you, his foster family for the first time. The foster child arrives at your house. For most of his life he has been abused, ignored, forgotten, hated and ridiculed. So, it is understandable that his attitude is not cheerful and his heart is hard.
Meet Stacy. He is a sixteen year old boy. Or would you consider him a man because he is already a father. He's been arrested dozens of times. His mother won't let him come home anymore. Finally he commits a more serious crime. Enough is enough. So he is put in jail. The crime is unimportant. The system does not know how to change him. The Children & Youth Department supervisor asks the Judge to give Stacy one more chance. Stacy is sent to specialized foster care. He arrives at your door step. You are thinking what have I gotten myself into? His clothes are pathetic. He is filthy. And oh my! He owns only what he is wearing.
Stacy: "I am Stacy, I sense that you don't want me. I'm just trash any way and you are a bunch of stupid people and I won't follow any stupid rules.. Just try and make me." (Stacy then thinks to himself--Why am I such an idiot...why can't I be normal??)
Mom: (You have made a commitment and you are determined to help this person.
You want to be there for this person. It's been said that if the community would
show some concern for the underprivileged their problems would diminish. Here he
is in front of you, can you do it? Yes!)
Stacy: "This is a nice home. Where's my room? Who else lives here? I'm not going to stay very long! You're not my mother! Nobody tells me what to do!!"
Mom: (You have just been challenged-within 60 seconds. You better establish yourself as the one in charge.) "Stacy you are welcome to be a part of our family. We really want you to consider this your home. Whether it is only for a day or for many years. In our home rules will be followed, we will discuss this later." (good job, taking a position of authority)
This little scenario gets us to "HOUSE RULES". You must have them in writing. Your new child must read them and sign them ASAP. The house rules address questions that arise to maintain structure for the child. For example this child will need clarification regarding how long to shower, food or candy allowed in his room, visitation of friends, watching TV, talking on the phone long distance. You get the idea. Below is a sample of my present house rules. Remember, if it is not written down they cannot follow them. In their world they may have had NO restrictions. Please adapt them to fit the your own needs. Good Luck!
1A. When leaving your room, turn off your room light.
B. You are expected to dress neatly with clean clothes and to keep yourself well groomed.
C. Your room is to be cleaned weekly: straightened up, dusted, and vacuumed. The bathroom should be left tidy. You are expected to brush your teeth after breakfast and before bed.
D. Every child will be assigned chores to be done daily/weekly.
E. On school days, be at the breakfast table ready for school 30 minutes before bus arrives.
2. Telephone calls are limited to 10 minutes per hour, unless permission is obtained in advanced to talk longer. No toll calls (long distance) or 900# calls.
3. Children age 10 and up will bring towel, cloth and bed sheets to the laundry room once a week. Children 14 and up will do the same and also turn on the washer. When the laundry is done remove clothes and put them in the dryer.
4A. Prior permission must be obtained for all outside activities including going to neighbors, visiting friends, after school activities etc. If you are missing for more than 30 minutes, you will be considered a runaway and the police will be notified.
B. Prior permission must be obtained before riding in anyone else's car.
C. Prior permission must be obtained before inviting any guests to the home.
D. There is mandatory attendance at family events. Failure to comply will result in losing privileges.
5A. The following are not allowed: running in the house, fighting, profane language, kicking, roughhousing, punching, throwing things, hitting, scratching, screaming, threatening to do or doing damage to any person or property, etc. No property destruction, including one's own property. No mistreatment of any pet is allowed.
B. You are not allowed to play with guns, knives or sticks - real or fake.
C. Agitating behavior such as, scaring others (including pets), being rude, stealin and refusing to answer will be disciplined by writing an appropriate amount of " I will not ?".
D. For out of control behavior (having a temper tantrum, arguing, fighting, or having difficulty getting along with others) - children are required to go to their room (or a separate safe place if not at home) until they have calmed down - out of control behavior may result in loss of privileges/activities.
6A. No hard rock music, heavy metal music, or any music that contains profane language. No magazines, clothing or posters that contain any of the above. Questionable materials need to be reviewed by the foster parents before they may be allowed.
B. Stereos, TVs walkmans, etc. must be turned off at bedtime. Any violation will result in losing the item for one week.
C. No smoking at any time which includes in the home or away from home. No possession of matches, lighters, tobacco or drug paraphernalia. Matches should not be found in one's possessions at any time.
D. No drug or alcohol use.
7A. Maximum Curfew when behavior is satisfactory: Ages 1-12 bedtime will be 8:30pm. Age 14-15--9:00pm on school nights and 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday. Age 16+--10pm on school nights and 11pm on Friday and Saturday. Later bedtimes will be allowed for special occasions.
B. Children of the opposite sex are not permitted in bedrooms at the same time for any reason. Children of the same sex must get permission to visit another child's bedroom. Bathroom use is one person at a time.
8A. Satisfactory school report cards are necessary for permission to attend social events. A minimum grade of "C" is satisfactory. Grades that are above "C" are rewarded with extra privileges or money.
B. Extra money can be earned by doing yard work, outside work, washing cars, etc. Daily chores must be completed first.
9A. All food is to be eaten in the kitchen unless special permission is granted.
B. You are required to clean up your messes and spills etc. If you are unable to, then you will be helped by an adult.
I have read and understand the house rules and I agree to follow them while I live in the this home.
Every child likes to know their limits and what is expected of them. With House Rules everyone knows where they stand. There is no favoritism. The rules and the disciplining is always consistent. I hope this gives you an idea of where to begin setting limits in your own home.
Jeffrey Silla is the proud father of four biological children and two foster children. You can contact him with ideas or questions at Jeffrey Silla.