Credit hours:

Course Summary

Placement in care often brings complicated feelings of shame, relief, or guilt for children and youth. In order to effectively serve and provide for their needs, we need to help children and youth recognize their grief and meet them where they are in their grieving process. Through this module, you will gain knowledge and tools to help children and youth cope with feelings of grief and ambiguous loss.

In this course, you can expect to learn:

  • Information about ambiguous loss and complicated grief
  • Unique challenges children and youth in care may face through the grieving process
  • The ways grief and trauma can manifest in a child or youth's behaviors
  • Strategies children and youth can use to cope with ambiguous loss and/or grief

Step 1

Watch the following video "Best Practices for Grief: Foster Care Placement." This video is a part of a series examining grief and loss experiences of children and teens, and was selected because of its valuable introduction to the grief children and youth may experience due to being part of the foster care system. 

Step 2

The effects of grief that children and youth in foster care experience vary based on their developmental age. Review the following article published by Fostering Perspectives, "The Effects of Grief and Loss on Children in Foster Care" to learn what grief signs to be aware of for all children and youth.

Step 3

Review the following article "Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children" to learn about the inevitable loss a child or youth experiences during their foster care (sometimes repeatedly) and how incredibly difficult this type of grief is to process.

Step 4

Gregory Manning discusses the difference between a traditional and non-traditional loss and how the profound loss and trauma a child or young person in foster care may experience manifests and impacts their behaviors in the following video "Grief and Loss for Youth in Foster Care & Adoption."

Step 5

Watch Matthew's video which reflects the trauma, grief, and loss he dealt with throughout his foster care experience. 

Step 6

Review "What Young People Can Do: Healing From Loss," a simple form to help guide and validate a young person healing from loss.

Step 7

Share the "Bill of Rights for Grieving Youth in Foster Care" tool with your child. These rights reflect the values, dreams, and aspirations of current and former foster youth suffering from tremendous loss and can be helpful to a grieving young person and/or a young person who has not yet begun the grieving process.

Step 8

Join the discussion in the comments below to answer the following question:

How can you help young people in your care suffering from grief and loss?

Step 9

Finished the module? If you are logged in as a subscribed user, take the quiz to earn your Continuing Education Credit hours and certificate! 

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Course Discussion

Nunezb22's picture

Nunezb22 said:

Patience and support. The funeral comparison really stood out to me. Also, though the Adoptive Family may see cause for a celebration, the child may be grieving the loss of that final connection to the bio family. I think it’s very important to acknowledge this pain and help the foster child through it with discussions, journaling or whatever works best for them.
tymaoaretae's picture

tymaoaretae said:

I think your ego, as a parent, as an adult, as someone with life experience, needs to take a back seat so you can recognize the validity of the child's own experience. It is too easy to minimize what they are feeling, or the significant impact that has on their behavior. Even when you are actively trying to empathize, it's important not to compare their experiences to those of yourself or others in a way that trivializes them.
mholt24's picture

mholt24 said:

listen to them!
bjmchugh's picture

bjmchugh said:

I think that the most important thing that I could give my foster son is the space to grieve. Something that jumped out to me during the presentation is the analogy of the funeral and how adults would not be hasty to judge a peer for a breakdown moment, but when it's a child struggling with their emotions during a foster care loss, the expectations are different. That was a big aha moment for me.
markmcnair's picture

markmcnair said:

A lot of active listening.
Alyssabutter's picture

Alyssabutter said:

Everyone deals with grief differently and sometimes it is hard to express how you really feel so it is best to let the child grieve in their own way and help in any way that you can. This is a difficult and confusing time for them and the best thing we can do is be supportive.
kierstynstone's picture

kierstynstone said:

Listen and allow the child feel how they feel and help them express in their own way.
mattbaxter's picture

mattbaxter said:

Be willing to listen and allow the child time to grieve in their own way.
BBradford15's picture

BBradford15 said:

I think honesty is a major key when it comes to helping kids come along in foster care. We have had 2 kids for almost 2 years now. A girl who is nine now and a boy who is 4. We kept them up to date and were honest about everything going on in the legal process. There mom then passed away suddenly and sadly. We broke the news to them and were completely honest and open with answers on any questions they have about the loss. There have been some very tough reactions and emotions to deal with from this but I think we have built long term trust with these kids in being open and honest about the situations that have happened. We believe that leads to better long term healing instead of the alternative which would be to hide what is truly going on with there Birth family.
dsalmans's picture

dsalmans said:

We need to recognize that children coming into foster care are overwhelmed! It is our job to show these children compassion. Coming into foster care can trigger the same response as death of a family member. We need to focus on helping them feel safe to express those emotions first and then help them appropriately deal with them. It is counterproductive to try to fix the behavior first. We must allow the children to grieve in their own way.