I believe the stealing for Michael started as a result of losing so much. As the children moved from home to home, they lost not only people they loved but often times possessions. For the first year Mikey was with us he would ask over and over when he would get his things that were left at previous foster homes. We were able to get some of his things and that seemed to help. However, when we finally just had to tell him that some things were gone and he would just need to be thankful for what he had here, he was very upset.
Michael has found security in things. In fact, he struggles to throw even a candy wrapper away. Many times I have had to clean out his room when he is not around because it was so emotionally traumatic for him to have me go through his things and get rid of the broken toys and trash. One of his chores for awhile was to empty the trash cans, but we quickly changed that job because he dug so many "treasures" out of the trashcan. We now have established some guidelines for him on what to keep and what must go in the trash.
To solve the stealing problem, we tried numerous solutions. He had to repay double what he took. He could not go in other children's rooms. We regularly checked his drawers and belongings for stolen items. He was not allowed to go places because we could not trust him. We took something from him each time he took from someone else. Everything we tried just seemed to backfire. He just became more sneaky and better at getting things.
Finally, in desperation I sought godly counsel from a few I respected in our church. Honestly, I was surprised at the advice I received. David suggested that taking things from him perhaps was not the solution since it was accentuating the loss of things which obviously was a major trauma in his life. He suggested teaching him to work hard and earn things.
Michael had a young man named Josh in our church whom he looked up to. We had confided our struggle to Josh, and he offered to talk to Mikey. We were game to try anything at this point. Josh took Mikey to his work place and had him sweep floors to earn the empty pop cans that Mikey liked to collect. He told him he would need to work to get something. I don't know what else Josh told Mikey, but it made an impression. I know that Mikey came home feeling pretty important because he had Josh's cell phone number. He said that sometimes he might need to call Josh. A couple times he did call, too. I discovered that Josh was holding him accountable for his actions, and that Mikey was to call him whenever he was tempted to steal.
There were many occasions that Michael struggled after this, but we began seeing improvement. Michael has had victory in his life over stealing for over a year now. We give glory and thanks to God who answered a lot of prayers and who provided just the right people to intervene in his life and encourage him. And we are incredibly proud of Mikey who has found the strength and courage to overcome!