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

armymanbernsgirl's picture

armymanbernsgirl said:

I would talk to them about their family and the fun memories they may have had.'s picture

mikenjulieclark... said:

let them talk about their family, keep pictures to look at when they need to
km16471's picture

km16471 said:

Look at photos. Have them tell me about great times and adventures they have had with their biological parent.
ElizabethZeiger's picture

ElizabethZeiger said:

How could you help minimize the impact of separation on a young person in your home when visits and/or communication with bio family is not an option? I think that having the child have a sense of control of their own space can help with the impact of separation. Possibly letting them have photos of their bio family that they can have their room. They can put it wherever in their room and they can decorate and organize their room however they like so they can feel like they have a space that is their own.
heatherwood's picture

heatherwood said:

Something I have used as a tool when visits and calls are not an option is to hang a photo of the bio family in the Childs room. Another option is to have the kids draw a picture of their bio family.
kcarden2's picture

kcarden2 said:

Have them tell a story about their family and write it down for them. Have them draw pictures of their family. Put it all in a book and read it together.
AshleyCaraluzzi's picture

AshleyCaraluzzi said:

Talk with the child(ren) about their parents and have pictures available for them.
Joe Nichols's picture

Joe Nichols said:

By having open conversation and photos regularly available to look at and discuss those that are no longer in their life or able to be at the moment
eolsen121's picture

eolsen121 said:

If possible keep photos of the child's family around. The child could make a loss box in which they would keep things that remind them of their family. Encourage the child to share their feelings and talk about their family as much as they would like.
tiamnichols's picture

tiamnichols said:

Having photos regularly available. Talking about their families, and reassuring everyone involved you are there to support the children and their parents.