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

Frances Vaujin's picture

Frances Vaujin said:

Play therapy since problems are worked out through play when very young
thereserockwell's picture

thereserockwell said:

I could have my foster child write letters to his family members. We could mail them when it is appropriate to do so. We could look at his or her family photos and talk about the people in the photos. I could print some photos from his or her phone and frame them, or make a photo scrap book for the child to keep.
epowell's picture

epowell said:

I have some middle aged kids (10 and 13) who use to visit with their family as a mean of communication and my 15 year old she visited with her biological family often and I believe as long as they(biological family)puts forth the effort than I makes things that much better.
Tistinesissy's picture

Tistinesissy said:

a school aged child could write letters to their family as a way to express themselves. if at some point communication is reopened they may want to share their letters.
sweetvoice30's picture

sweetvoice30 said:

We have used play therapy.
lukewhite76's picture

lukewhite76 said:

We have had the young ones color pictures of their family and fun places they have been with their family.
ericars's picture

ericars said:

Our kiddos are 3 and 5 years old. Sometimes these concepts seem too grownup for them. Where we have had luck though is in pretend play, coloring and open discussion about where their folks are and how they're doing.
trombonehampton's picture

trombonehampton replied:

We had a child experience a parent's death while in our care. Talking openly (lead by the child) seemed to be the best course to take. We had experienced loss in our own family and tried to share that connection with her and how we dealt with it and felt about it.
ericars's picture

ericars said:

Our kiddos are 3 and 5 years old. Sometimes these concepts seem too grownup for them. Where we have had luck though is in pretend play, coloring and open discussion about where their folks are and how they're doing.
Ryanfontana's picture

Ryanfontana said:

We had a 4 year old boy who was separated from his sisters. We would facetime with them once a week so they could see each other between visits. They really enjoyed this!