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

sedadianette's picture

sedadianette said:

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? By adding memorabilia to their environment and having open and honest conversations in a language that is age appropriate with the young person.
Courtneymiller304's picture

Courtneymiller304 said:

I think it’d be beneficial to the child to display pictures of the bio family in the home. It’s also important to allow the child to talk about their bio family as freely as they’d like. You don’t want them to feel like they have to hide that part of their life.
Alyssabutter's picture

Alyssabutter said:

Be honest about their situation and explain it to them at a level that they will understand. Ask them how they are feeling about the situation. Be there in any way that you can that does not overstep the child’s boundaries and make them aware of their options. Provide them with pictures and belongings from the bio home.
hudsonslater's picture

hudsonslater said:

Open, age appropriate communication will be important so that the child understands what is going on, and does not fill in the blanks with his/her imagination. There are also ways to stay connected without in-person visits. Depending on the situation, other methods of communication could be employed, or the child can maintain a sense of connection through photos, videos, and talking about memories.
dsalmans's picture

dsalmans said:

Just because they can't be physically together doesn't mean we can't help the child feel connected. Photographs, letters ( when age appropriate ), voice recordings, etc. are all great tools to help them feel connected even when communication/visits aren't an option.
SerenaSalmans's picture

SerenaSalmans said:

One tool I have used in the past is I had the biological parent record themselves reading a book. At night, I would play the recording and let their biological parent "read to them" every night. That way, the child can remember their voice and feel safe right before bed time.
Quortney88's picture

Quortney88 said:

I love children! Poor babies, but this info is very helpful
djhoffman3005's picture

djhoffman3005 said:

make a special box to put memories in cut out of magazines pictures that make your child think of people, places and things from their life prior to foster care. make it a safe place for them to talk about and discuss those feelings and memories
equinox21's picture

equinox21 said:

I believe a simple journal that the foster child can write a note daily or weekly to the parents telling them what they have been doing. I would also think taking pictures of the child doing different activities that they can take home with them would help.
manningfamily.alexis's picture

manningfamily.alexis said:

From experence i found that if you be truthful to the child and do things with them then they dont have alot of seperation issues they seam to keep busy and tend to not think about it much if that makes sence