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

KimmersA8's picture

KimmersA8 said:

Depending on the age of the child, journaling or letter writing (even if not delivered) could be a way to express thoughts and feelings.
Ryguythesciguy's picture

Ryguythesciguy said:

Speak to their fears and try to alleviate them. Be honest and age appropriate.
Annabelle Russell's picture

Annabelle Russell said:

I would let them know that they are in a safe place to talk about how they feel and they can ask questions. I would also try to get some memorabilia or a scrapbook to preserve positive memories.
RDHogue's picture

RDHogue said:

Talk about any family traditions, special items, and special memories.
smjenerette's picture

smjenerette said:

Try and obtain special items from home, allow them to speak freely about their family, find out and prepare favorite meals they had at home, and if possible with their particular situation, allow phone contact with grandparents aunts uncles cousins and friends and even parent if situation stable
AmandaFernandes's picture

AmandaFernandes 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 would let them know that they can always talk to me if they want and that it is okay to feel our feelings. It is important for them to remember that they are not alone and they have resources.
LindsayMeyer's picture

LindsayMeyer said:

Try to make whatever connections are possible whether it is with an old mentor or coach. Also see if you can obtain a picture or favorite stuffed animal.
briancampbell7066's picture

briancampbell7066 said:

I would try to answer any questions about the child's birth family as truthfully as possible while also attempting to make sure the child knows he/she is safe in my home.
ktrickel's picture

ktrickel said:

You can help to set them up with other young people who have gone through a similar situation, a counselor, their caseworker/CASA/GAL to help plan, and make sure they get the opportunity to stay in contact with other people who may be important to them.
Micaht333's picture

Micaht333 said:

I would make every attempt to get items i.e. stuffed animal, special blanket, pictures for the child that remind them of good times in the home. I would also allow them to share stories of their (hopefully good) memories.