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

khsmith11's picture

khsmith11 said:

Try to be as open and honest as possible for their age. BE mindful not to bash family while trying to help them understand that sometimes their safety must come first.
sgtsmith8503's picture

sgtsmith8503 said:

Understanding that you will not initially resolve any of the children's problems is the first step. Your job is not to be a miracle therapist but a loving safe place for the child to work through their trauma. Its theirs not yours.
George Jackson's picture

George Jackson said:

Honesty helps but sometimes the foster parents doesn't have all the details as why they may have been removed from the home
khone1's picture

khone1 said:

Try to ask them about memories, connect them with people in their life who you can. Honor family at holidays.
lanne's picture

lanne said:

listening, providing support, encouraging meetings with siblings. My mother was separated from her siblings in foster care when she was a child, and she has told me her stories of how she and her siblings persisted in keeping in touch, and they are all close now as adults.
G.Brown's picture

G.Brown said:

By listening to them and providing support
jonathan_harrell's picture

jonathan_harrell said:

Being available emotionally is key! Let the child know that you are always there to talk to them about how they feel and help them navigate their feelings in a safe and productive manner.
woodc22306's picture

woodc22306 said:

Talk to them about the people they miss, what do they miss about them. What were the favorite things they did together. Write a letter to give to the caseworker for the sibling or other family members so they feel like they can still communicate even if its not directly.
Erichays's picture

Erichays said:

The children feel like they lose everything including their belongings so try and help them keep whatever they can and keep track of what is going on around them in visits etc.
Lisahays's picture

Lisahays said:

Help the child be a part of their plan and to understand where they are in control and can make decisions.