1. Focus on Behavior, Not Beliefs, Feelings, or Attitudes
The key to improving inappropriate behavior is to focus on the target behavior (e.g., cursing, assault, stealing, etc.) of the individual and “home team” (child, family members, social services workers, physical and occupational therapists, speech therapists, etc.) behavior programs that contribute to creating new habits.
Selecting and targeting the right behavior outputs is among the most difficult yet important responsibilities of any foster parent or child advocate.
Maintaining schedules of reinforcement by the home team and the social services support personnel is the weakest link in the behavior chain.
By anchoring one’s understanding and description of human behavior in behavior outputs – not thoughts, not feelings or knowledge, and not beliefs – we link the day-to-day activity of our foster child to the behavior based results you need to achieve.
2. Establish Links to Reduced Discharges and Criteria for a “Good” Foster Parent follow-up
We use intended post-placement results, as well as child requirements and relevant child-centered values, to help us identify the features or characteristics the behaviors must have in order to be considered valuable. This process of identifying links to post-placement results, child requirements and organizational values enables foster parents and social services support personnel to clarify expectations, define what they will measure (count), and sharpen the training, and follow-up provided to foster children and their families.
3. Identify the Behavior Needed to Produce Target Work Outputs
Once a foster family or educator can identify behavior(s) needed from the foster child and their home care team, and they communicate with the child to set expectations, the next step is to specify – in some cases very precisely, in other cases more generally – what program will be required to produce the desired behavior. When foster parents work with their home teams on the plan of care, for example, they must decide with the team about who needs to produce what tasks, and why (i.e., how the tasks will contribute to achieving the desired results). They must often define at some level of detail the behavior(s) that the foster child will need to produce the desired results. This discussion allows home teams to communicate and clarify expectations about priorities, time, and resources needed to support the child’s BeTr™ plan.
4. Select Measures and Goals
Once a foster family or educator has determined what is required in the plan, (e.g., specifying behavior that produces increased post placement behavior) deciding how to measure the behavior is the next step. All behavior can be measured. Depending on specifics we can monitor the target results, count “adherent” behavior events and those that do not meet criteria, and measure behavior, either by sampling it periodically or by continuously recording or counting pinpointed activities. We generally recommend counting behavior as the most direct measurement approach. Counting behaviors that meet criteria allows us to provide feedback to foster child as well as to make decisions about whether we should change reinforcers to improve success or reverse non-adherent behavior.
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This is where another simple yet powerful model comes into play.
We have found that the BeTr™ Six Circle Approach™ is capable of encompassing any and all of the variables affecting behavior, based on information from research in the behavior sciences as well as more than a decade of working in the applied behavior arena. By using this model to understand and configure combinations of behavior influences, foster parents and social services support personnel can approach behavior change and behavior in a more systemic and systematic way.
The purpose of Behavior Transition (BeTr™) is to change behavior. Quality foster parenting and effective social support programs for foster children can easily become competing topics on their own. Many community service organizations expend significant resources to develop social services support personnel who behave in certain ways. Because of this the link to post placement results can sometimes be lost in the shadow of improving individual attributes or competencies thought to characterize good foster parenting and social services support programs.
BeTr™, as described below, provides a powerful antidote to disconnected and uncoordinated foster child behavior management programs, when practiced and shared by parents, and the variety of therapists and social services professionals across the community. As such, it offers a vehicle, not only for improving individual teaching and management practices, but also for executing strategy, strengthening corporate culture, and driving important initiatives and processes through all levels and functions within a social services organization and with community organizations that provide follow-up services after placement.