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's picture

Minniemousemama... said:

By asking the child what would help them best. If they know they want a connection with that family member, trying to get a photograph, or a recording of their voice put into a Build-A-Bear for them will help them keep that family member close when they miss them. If they don't want a connection in that moment, providing a safe, consistent, loving and secure home, making sure they are in therapy to help guide them through their emotions and being there to listen when they need it.
apriljackson11's picture

apriljackson11 said:

I will be encourage and very honesty with the separation because I no all about other people feelings and I no that there are very important to their parents and that it will also be taken seriously because I have to help them put there feelings into words and I will also remind them that they will be loved by both parents because I no how to deal with both side and to communication is the key for me to work with the birth parents it can also help the resource parents gain clearer understanding of the challenges that they are facing.
dspencer's picture

dspencer said:

This would be a great time to consider starting the child's Lifebook. Take pictures, use these worksheets from this segment and help them to complete then add them to the, talk, talk, but lots of listening and supporting the child.
beanhead41's picture

beanhead41 said:

Talking with them about family members. Having pictures up of family members and seeing what is appropriate for visits.
MrRp's picture

MrRp said:

By providing a focus on the child's needs, specifically when they need it, helps to minimize the impact of separation. Giving them time to focus on grieving the loss can also help to assist in minimizing the impact that separation can have on them.
MrsP's picture

MrsP said:

The first thing that comes to mind for me, is to meet them wherever they are. What I mean by that is, don't try to force your entire world onto them. Let them continue to be comfortable with the things that bring them comfortable. Let them enjoy photos. Don't say or do anything that tries to minimize their connection or downplays the importance of their bio family. Do not put your feelings above the child's.
AlexaGutierrez's picture

AlexaGutierrez said:

I could open a comfortable space for the child to open about their feelings of loss or even abandonment. I can enforce my ability to show up for them, create a safe space, brave space, home space for them while they're with my open to staying. When they have waves of fatigue or anger validate them and allow them to move through them freeing. Do not ignore the situation, but do give them the openness to speak on these feelings when they're ready.
Mdigennaro's picture

Mdigennaro said:

Listen to the child's concern and offer honest answers to their questions as well as correct any misinformation or confusion.
Joe Nichols's picture

Joe Nichols said:

Letting the children know that you are available to talk about their family anytime and look at pictures.
tiamnichols's picture

tiamnichols said:

Looking at photos and talking about their bio family whenever the foster youth wants.