On Stealing

Submitted by PeterAKenny on October 22, 2019

Foster dad got a call from the Middle School principal.  His two foster sons, Trevor and Kevin, were peddling some dried substance they have relabeled as marijuana.  Mom has been missing her home-grown herbs. So that’s where the herbs had gone… Jadon’s two older brothers were missing money and seven-year-old Jadon was suddenly “rich.”  He said he found it….Foster mom is missing some of her favorite jewelry.  She suspects her teenage foster daughter of taking it but Harmony professed her innocence.  What to do?

Often, the foster parents become angry, feeling we have provided a safe home and this is how we are repaid.  Then perhaps, based on minimal evidence, they revert to a lecture, even to yelling and punishment.  They may even threaten to return the child to the DCS pool.

A better approach is to begin with prevention.  You are taking a damaged child into your home.  Don’t tempt him or her.  Instead, secure your valuables. 

Then if things still go missing, invite a confession. If you fail to get one, respect the child’s right not to self-incriminate. Instead, gather information and come to the best decision possible, recognizing that truth is elusive and one can never be one hundred percent certain, not even with a forced confession.

Blaming the “thief” labels him or her as a bad person, and is usually ineffective at changing behavior. Consequences are the simplest and best discipline for theft   Better to prevent the theft, or to require that the offender make things right again. 

In the situations described above, Trevor and Kevin were each given three hours of home chores to do before they could use their handheld devices again.  Jadon’s dad paid off his older brothers for the money they lost and Jadon had to pay dad back by working around the house for a minimum hourly wage.  

When a room search failed to turn up the missing jewelry, Harmony was given a pass. However, since valued items were disappearing from the homes, the children were briefly frisked before they left for school or play.  Bookbags were scanned. This was done lightheartedly in all three homes, even with a smile.  It became almost a game. The thefts were controlled. 

Fix the problem, not the blame.

Subscribe by Email

Get news on foster parenting and legal issues related to foster care and adoption.

Sent twice a month. Free of charge.



Contact me anytime (24/7) for a free consultation.