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  #1  
Old 03-17-2006, 06:06 AM
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happyinhazard happyinhazard is offline
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Angry Stealing food

How do you handle this? We have a 14 yr. old boy who has been in a group home for the past three years. He was with us for a week before his therapist sent him to another group home for "intensive therapy" for a week before he got sent back to us. He is "home" again for one night and in the middle of the night, gets up and steals food....food that I had planned on for lunch today!

I'm so steamed right now I could spit....
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  #2  
Old 03-17-2006, 06:16 AM
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Wow...did you even bother taking the foster parent training courses?

First of all, he's a teenage boy. He was probably hungry. How on earth was he supposed to know what you had planned for lunch?

Second, considering the fact that this boy has had a rough life, he certainly may have some issues understanding that food will always be available to him -- although, after this post, I'm not certain that it is always available to him. A lot of fkids hoard food. It makes them feel safer knowing that they have food in case the adults in their life stop feeding them.

If I were you, I would give him a shelf in the fridge or in the cupboard, and stock it full of foods he likes and let him know he is welcome to eat any of that stuff whenever he wants.

Then again, considering how upset you are that he "stole" food, maybe foster parenting isn't for you.
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Old 03-17-2006, 06:25 AM
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I used to serve food in a lunchroom, and teenage boys ate a LOT. Also, like the previous poster said, he might not have known what the next day's menu was. I accidentally ate the main ingredient (can of tuna) of my family's supper (unknown to me, tuna casserole was planned) as an after school snack when I was 8. My father made such a big to-do about it you'd think I'd meant to starve my family. It was a very traumatic thing for me, I still remember it, and I still feel resentment about being so harshly treated for a mistake.
So, I feel pretty sympathetic toward your fson. Of course that isn't to say doesn't have serious problems, maybe there is more to the story than you posted.
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Old 03-17-2006, 06:28 AM
Hadley2 Hadley2 is offline
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Stealing food, hoarding food, hiding food and/or other life essentials is part of the territory for foster kids. They have legitimate reasons for doing it--including lack of trust that basic needs will be taken care of by the adults around them, that the adults themselves won't withhold or hog what they need, the psych. need to feel self-sufficient, etc.

The first month, our FD often stashed her stuffed animals, books, favorite toys, etc., under her bed. Then she seemed to get over it. Six months later, cleaning up her room, I found a box mix for cake and a can of frosting under her bed along with some special possessions again. It just takes time to build trust. She is only six and will come around quicker than your 14 y.o., who may never fully trust enough to shed these habits.

There are different ways to handle it, but punishment or reprimand isn't, IMO, one of them. Where he is 14, has been in a group home, etc. and is probably at least your size, I'd avoid direct, angry confrontations. If it were me, I'd make something else for lunch and calmly tell him (A) I know you took the food, it's OK, (B) you don't have to worry about getting enough here, (C) if you didn't eat it right away, what you took will probably spoil/go stale and make you sick or attract little unwanted pets to your room, etc. (humorously) so you might not want to do that again.

Then you can say, I was going to use that ham/chicken/whatever and now I don't have it. Establish a snack cupboard with some at least semi-healthy munchies and snack bowl for veggies/fruits in the fridge and let him know he can take from those whenever he wants.

If you need a consequence down the line, it could be that he must replace what he takes.

Good luck and blessings.
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Old 03-17-2006, 06:32 AM
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Before you all crucify me, I haven't said a word to him about this. No, he would not have known what was for lunch today and NO, he was not hungry since I made him his favorite dinner and he ate more than everyone else put together.

The underlying issue is that he is NOT supposed to come out of his bedroom in the middle of the night (per his social worker btw) unless it is to go to the bathroom.

Since he has been here, just a week now, he has stolen from us, lies continually, accessed porno sites on a teacher's computer at school (which is still under investigation)...the list goes on and on...

However, when I asked his "therapist" yesterday if this kid was a pschopath or just a troubled teen.....he said: "I don't know, there is no way of knowing until he acts out again."

I'm thinking this kid probably needs more than I could possibly give him.
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  #6  
Old 03-17-2006, 06:46 AM
Darci Darci is offline
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I sometimes get hungry after dinner even if I've eaten more than usual.

If you don't want him coming out of his bedroom at night, buy a door alarm. You will be able to hear whenever he opens his door and you can get up to see what he's doing.

Most teen boys access porn sites on the internet whenever there is opportunity. That sounds normal to me. Take away all access to computers.

If he steals from you (I'm not talking food here) make him pay you back, or work it off.

The best suggestion I have to offer...Calm down or don't be a foster parent. I'm not trying to be mean, but if you get this upset by what sounds like mostly normal behavior (lying, looking at porn) then maybe this isn't right for you.
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  #7  
Old 03-17-2006, 06:55 AM
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I think it is important for you to realize what you can live with and what you can't. We have fostered 20 teenage boys, All of them of course came with a lot of backgroung baggage. There where a few that I just could not deal with. One of the boys had a real problem with hoarding food. I would find ice cream hidden in his clothes hamper. This was not a pleasant find. Idaily I woulkd find cookies, candy, gum and crumbs in his bed. You name it he stashed food everywhere. He lifted food and candy from the stores, and stashed them. I allowed him food when he wanted it and also did the designated shelf of food. I even places a basket of food in his room at night. None of this worked. This drove me nuts, but I think more than the hoarding it was all the other behaviors combined he had combined with the hoarding , stealing and lying. I felt terrible for disrupting, but it was best for everyone involved. What I am trying to say is that we as foster parents can't be expected to be able to handle all situations. I know I had a couple of boys who I knew I just was not going to be able to handle from the start, but I held out hope and tried longer than I probably should have. It disrupted not only my life but also the lives of the other children in my home. What I am trying to say is trust your instincts on what you can handle and what you can't. Just because we are trained in these situations doesn't mean we can live in peace with them. Just wanting to spread a little support your way.
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  #8  
Old 03-17-2006, 07:11 AM
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echaos echaos is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by happyinhazard
However, when I asked his "therapist" yesterday if this kid was a pschopath or just a troubled teen.....he said: "I don't know, there is no way of knowing until he acts out again."


WOW!! What behaviours is he exhibiting that made you jump all the way to psychopath within the first week? That's a pretty serious word to start brandying about for a 14 year old.

I hope that both you and he gets the help that you need.
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  #9  
Old 03-17-2006, 07:36 AM
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TexasJingles TexasJingles is offline
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I also would suggest a door alarm. We use them, not to keep them in, but to let us know when they are "up".

We installed them after we discovered our little one taking the can of mixed nuts to his room (he'd bring them back, but the lid was broken). We then found that the eldest was eating chocolate (huge no-no for his diet). And then to top it off, they were lighting candles in the boys room (including our daughter, who is not supposed to be in the boys room and is only "basic" level, and not supposed to have any of these "behaviors" HA!). We had told them at the beginning that they could have their candy and snacks in the kitchen (on the counter even), but never have food in their rooms due to the ants.

Anyways, the best advice I can give you besides the door alarms is to read Nancy Thomas. She gives great advice on this exact situation. I've been using some of her advice for 3 months now. It really does work!

I love her stories! The one about food is something like "you have an empty space here (pointing to their heart) and sometimes kids try to fill up here (pointing to their tummy) to make up for the empty space in their heart. So, we'll work on filling up your heart and until then, you eat as much as you need to". She goes out of her way to find reasons to give ice cream and other sweet treats often. Her thoughts on this are also insightful (don't know how scientific they are, but she's had great results!).

Good luck and hang in there! I know what it's like... but it was my brother one time (he was in college and living with me) and another time it was my husband!!!
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  #10  
Old 03-17-2006, 08:21 AM
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aMarylandfamily aMarylandfamily is offline
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Frustrations ...

The hardest part to being a parent is understanding some of whatever is going on ... and taking in a child, particularly a teenager complicates things all by themselves!

Most of the behavoirs you have mentioned are typical in any household with a 14 year old - just more under scrutiny because of this current and past history.

As far as meals go - I'm not sure if we will have any college fund left after we feed our 14 year old for the next four years - not only does he eat a full meal at dinner time, he has a "snack" at 7:00 and then will often raid the frig for a Dagwood Bumpstead style sandwich at 9:30 before turning in ... and yes he does have that pudge kids this age get but also gained 3 inches in height in two months - so this eating which us adults often think "excessive" is normal! Best way to combat that is to leave something out at night (or give instructions on what he can and cannot have) - often takes away the need for it ...

Just a thought -

Last edited by aMarylandfamily : 03-17-2006 at 08:21 AM. Reason: change fun to fund
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Old 03-17-2006, 08:32 AM
Kate1129 Kate1129 is offline
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It sounds to be like this is the "spilled salt" of the situation. There are many other issues that are happening but this is the one that "breaks the camels back".

It is frustrating when our foster kids don't listen to us. No matter what their age, if they are defiant, it's hard. You have to find a way to reach him. He's old enough to know that he's not allowed to wander the house at night. So the door alarm is a good idea. If not, perhaps he does need a new home. If it's not working for your family, the placment needs to stop. Being frustrated and angry with him will show through and it will benefit no one.

Good luck! Teens are hard!
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Old 03-17-2006, 10:29 AM
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happyinhazard happyinhazard is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by echaos
WOW!! What behaviours is he exhibiting that made you jump all the way to psychopath within the first week? That's a pretty serious word to start brandying about for a 14 year old.

After having to sit in on two very intense counseling sessions with him, both within the same week and hearing all the stuff he's been subjected to....and the therapist who had been with him the entire week of his being in a theraputic facility did not flinch when I asked him about "psychopath"....

Personally, I think there is hope for the boy. He has already made improvement in the short time we've had him. He was in a place where the workers did nothing but let the kids run wild and he has not been taught any "home training" type things.

As a matter of fact, this morning, I did NOT say a word to him about the food and while he was eating his breakfast we had an opportunity to talk about his table manners, not having to steal food, he will always have enough to eat while he is here, etc.....all this without me having to bring it up.

At the facility where he was, he had to hover over his food to keep the other kids from stealing it, he had to wolf down his food out of fear of somebody else stealing it and he was never given enough to eat...(his words, not mine)

After our conversation of this morning, I have a better idea of where he is coming from and what type of things would push my buttons and things I would not be able to tolerate.

He understands that he has no need to steal food, all he has to do is to ask and it will be provided.

I did have an alarm on his door until my bio son (17 year old) asked me to remove it due to HIS feeling it was offensive toward his foster brother.

When we did our parenting classes, they asked us to fill out a checklist of behaviors we would and would not tolerate.....this boy exhibits most of the behaviors we would not tolerate but there was NO WAY to know that on the spur of the moment when asked to take him for a short term placement.....he is being adopted by a more tolerant woman than I am.

I thank you all for your insight and especially to those of you who did not critize me but gave me the support I needed when I posted here in the first place.
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  #13  
Old 03-17-2006, 10:53 AM
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We had a 13 year old fs last year and he did the same thing. I did what someone else already suggested by giving him his own shelf in the refrigerator and his own cabinet of snacks and that is what he ate when he got up in the middle of the night. That worked wonderful for us. You may want to try that.
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Old 03-17-2006, 11:00 AM
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IMHO, I honestly think that this is normal 14 year old kid stuff, nothing to do with being in care. ALL 14 year old boys seek out porn, and the stealing this is probably to see what he can get away with. I never stayed in my room when told to at 14, either, and neither did my brother...unless we were told to spend time with the family, in which case the door was shut tight with a chair shoved against the knob and we stayed locked inside.

14 year olds are generally PITA's, which is why I asked for babies.
:-) Good luck with him.
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Old 03-17-2006, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aMarylandfamily

As far as meals go - I'm not sure if we will have any college fund left after we feed our 14 year old for the next four years - not only does he eat a full meal at dinner time, he has a "snack" at 7:00 and then will often raid the frig for a Dagwood Bumpstead style sandwich at 9:30 before turning in ... and yes he does have that pudge kids this age get but also gained 3 inches in height in two months - so this eating which us adults often think "excessive" is normal! Just a thought -

My 14 yr old daughter and my 14 yr old fd eat like this too- O M GOODNESS. They don't stop eating! I do buy fresh fruits and veggies...the other day I brought home 3 pints of strawberries, 1/2 a watermelon and some precut canteloupe. They (well all 5 kids- the others are 8, 10 & 12) ate ALL that fruit in one day. Part of the problem has been that the weather has been nice so they've been spending a lot of time in the pool. Anyone who's ever had a pool and kids knows that 10 minutes in the pool = 1 meal burnt off LOL. When they get out they are all in here raiding the kitchen! Our food bill is more than my electric, water and both car payments put together. We're working on getting that down (man I can't wait to get that subsidy so it can help offset the darned grocery bill!).

Hazard, have you ever checked into the reasons as to why children hoard food? Maybe something you could do is give him some food (granola bars, apples, whatever) in a plastic bowl with a lid that he can keep at his bedside in case he gets hungry. Hoarding is typically due to previous neglect....that maybe he did worry about when he would eat again. Take that fear away by offering him some options. Don't think his actions are being done to tick you off. While he may be testing you, this is really about HIM, so see what you can do to help him, which in turn will help you.

Good luck!!
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