Credit hours:

Course Summary

The removal of children and youth from their caregiver(s) to whom they are attached can have both positive and negative aspects. From a child protection perspective, separation can have benefits, the most obvious being immediate safety. Separating a parent and child can also have profoundly negative effects. Even when it is necessary, research indicates that removing children and youth from their homes interferes with their development. The more traumatic the separation, the more likely there will be significant negative developmental consequences. It is imperative that foster parents and other child welfare stakeholders be informed about how separation and loss impacts the children and youth they care for and how to help minimize the impact.

In this course, you can expect to learn:

  • What separation and loss may look like for a child or youth when losing their caregiver, siblings or other close relatives
  • Challenges children and youth may face when suffering from a traumatic separation, both generally and developmentally

  • How an adult supporter may be able to help a child or youth experiencing separation and loss

  • Strategies and tools available to assist and help children and youth develop coping skills

Step 1

Review the following article,  "Children with Traumatic Separation: Information for Professionals," an issue developed by the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which provides information and guidance to young people who experience traumatic separation from a caregiver, siblings or other close relatives.

Step 2

Review the following article, "Effects of Separation and Loss on Children's Development," by Susan Hois, to gain insight on the psychological impact of losing parents due to divorce, incarceration, death and/or removal to foster care at various stages of development.

Step 3

Review the excerpt "My Stuff" on page 7 of FosterClub's Quick Start Guide, for teens entering foster care. Often, what is unknown is the scariest part of foster care. Providing young people with a method of control helps eliminate unknown factors and make them feel more comfortable in their current situation.

Step 4

Review the information provided in "Keeping Connected to Siblings," excerpted from FosterClub's Quick Start Guide, which outlines important things for a young person to consider when thinking about bio-family connections. Relationships with family can be tough for any teen, but when foster care is involved, things can get even more complicated. Helping a young person understand the details and their rights concerning visits or connections to loved ones may help ease the fear and anxiety that separation often creates. 

Step 5

Review the following worksheet developed by FosterClub to help children gain a better understanding of what separation from their family members looks like and ideas about how to keep in touch with important people, excerpted from FosterClub's Foster Cub Coloring Book. Having a conversation with the younger youth in your care may prove to be a little more complicated than a conversation with a teen.

Step 6

Review the following worksheet, "What will we do on a visit?" An excerpt from FosterClub's Foster Cub Coloring Book. Easing the uncertainty for children in your care when it comes to visits with biological family is important. Beyond initial greetings, family visits can become awkward for the child and visitor alike. Plan ahead with the child about things they can do at their visit, and help pack a bag with items that promote interactivity and connection.

Step 7

Review the worksheet below, "What will my family be doing in foster care?" Often the anxiety that evolves from separation is the lack of knowledge regarding what the rest of the young person's family will be doing in foster care. Help begin a conversation about what family members may be up to during the young person's absence from the home. This could also be used during visitation with family members. Excerpted from FosterClub's Foster Cub Coloring Book.

Step 8

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

How can you help minimize the impact of separation on a child or youth in your home when visits and/or communications with their birth family is not an option?

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

jwelch's picture

jwelch said:

Allow them photos of family and talk about them if they want
ghaynes's picture

ghaynes said:

Let them talk about the parts they want to talk about. Answer questions honestly.
Quinton Jefferson's picture

Quinton Jefferson said:

All living things desire to feel loved, cared for and safe. First, allow the child to be able to express themselves and ask questions, then Allow them to feel like they are part of your family and not just a guest in your house.
James Tucker's picture

James Tucker said:

Allow family pictures to be displayed and pray for each family member. Allow discussion and questions to be asked.
H.Collins's picture

H.Collins said:

allow them to put pictures of their family in their room or discuss their family openly. Give them space to feel their emotions and don't be overbearing
tia_coles's picture

tia_coles said:

Allow the child to ask questions and be curious. Let them be apart of your family and not make them feel like an outsider.
Yorgey05's picture

Yorgey05 said:

To allow the child to be able to express themselves and ask questions. To feel like they are part of your family and not just a guest in your house. Children need to feel loved and cared for and safe.
Choices House's picture

Choices House said:

When contact with family is not an option or limited you should give the child hope. As well as highlighting the positive even when things seem like they won't get better.
Epowell69's picture

Epowell69 said:

One of the most important thing to me is family. I’ll make sure at the introduction something is in place that represent what family means to then personally rather it’s a picture, song, or routines. I’ll make sure they know the communication is always open and wanted.
guardian741's picture

guardian741 said:

Spend time with the child and be clear about their inclusion to the family (they're not a "guest" to the host family, they're part of the family). If the child is old enough, you could spend time having them talk about fun stories from their 'first home' - taking the opportunity to also correct wrong information they have about fault/ demonizing, etc.