Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.2 Supervision and Discipline

2.2.0 Using Physical Restraint

Reader’s Note: It should never be necessary to physically restrain a typically developing child unless his/her safety and/or that of others are at risk.

When a child with special behavioral or mental health issues is enrolled who may frequently need the cautious use of restraint in the event of behavior that endangers his or her safety or the safety of others, a behavioral care plan should be developed with input from the child’s primary care provider, mental health provider, parents/guardians, center director/family child care home caregiver/teacher, child care health consultant, and possibly early childhood mental health consultant in order to address underlying issues and reduce the need for physical restraint.

That behavioral care plan should include:

  1. An indication and documentation of the use of other behavioral strategies before the use of restraint and a precise definition of when the child could be restrained;
  2. That the restraint be limited to holding the child as gently as possible to accomplish the restraint;
  3. That such child restraint techniques do not violate the state’s mental health code;
  4. That the amount of time the child is physically restrained should be the minimum necessary to control the situation and be age-appropriate; reevaluation and change of strategy should be used every few minutes;
  5. That no bonds, ties, blankets, straps, car seats, heavy weights (such as adult body sitting on child), or abusive words should be used;
  6. That a designated and trained staff person, who should be on the premises whenever this specific child is present, would be the only person to carry out the restraint.
A child could be harmed if not restrained properly (1). Therefore, staff who are doing the restraining must be trained. A clear behavioral care plan needs to be in place. And, clear documentation with parent/guardian notification needs to be done after a restraining incident occurs in order to conform with the mental health code.
If all strategies described in Standard are followed and a child continues to behave in an unsafe manner, staff need to physically remove the child from the situation to a less stimulating environment. Physical removal of a child is defined according the development of the child. If the child is able to walk, staff should hold the child’s hand and walk him/her away from the situation. If the child is not ambulatory, staff should pick the child up and remove him/her to a quiet place where s/he cannot hurt themselves or others. Staff need to remain calm and use a calm voice when directing the child. Certain procedures described in Standard can be used at this time, including not giving a lot of attention to the behavior, distracting the child and/or giving a time-out to the child. If the behavior persists, a plan needs to be made with parental/guardian involvement. This plan could include rewards or a sticker chart and/or praise and attention for appropriate behavior. Or, loss of privileges for inappropriate behavior can be implemented, if age-appropriate. Staff should request or agree to step out of the situation if they sense a loss of their own self-control and concern for the child.

The use of safe physical restraint should occur rarely and only for brief periods to protect the child and others. Staff should be alert to repeated instances of restraint for individual children or within a indoor and outdoor learning/play environment and seek consultation from health and mental health consultants in collaboration with families to develop more appropriate strategies.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Discipline Measures
  1. Safe and Responsive Schools. 2003. Effective responses: Physical restraint.