Credit hours:

Course Summary

Placement in care often brings complicated feelings of shame, relief, or guilt for children and youth. In order to effectively serve and provide for their needs, we need to help children and youth recognize their grief and meet them where they are in their grieving process. Through this module, you will gain knowledge and tools to help children and youth cope with feelings of grief and ambiguous loss.

In this course, you can expect to learn:

  • Information about ambiguous loss and complicated grief
  • Unique challenges children and youth in care may face through the grieving process
  • The ways grief and trauma can manifest in a child or youth's behaviors
  • Strategies children and youth can use to cope with ambiguous loss and/or grief

Step 1

Watch the following video "Best Practices for Grief: Foster Care Placement." This video is a part of a series examining grief and loss experiences of children and teens, and was selected because of its valuable introduction to the grief children and youth may experience due to being part of the foster care system. 

Step 2

The effects of grief that children and youth in foster care experience vary based on their developmental age. Review the following article published by Fostering Perspectives, "The Effects of Grief and Loss on Children in Foster Care" to learn what grief signs to be aware of for all children and youth.

Step 3

Review the following article "Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children" to learn about the inevitable loss a child or youth experiences during their foster care (sometimes repeatedly) and how incredibly difficult this type of grief is to process.

Step 4

Gregory Manning discusses the difference between a traditional and non-traditional loss and how the profound loss and trauma a child or young person in foster care may experience manifests and impacts their behaviors in the following video "Grief and Loss for Youth in Foster Care & Adoption."

Step 5

Watch Matthew's video which reflects the trauma, grief, and loss he dealt with throughout his foster care experience. 

Step 6

Review "What Young People Can Do: Healing From Loss," a simple form to help guide and validate a young person healing from loss.

Step 7

Share the "Bill of Rights for Grieving Youth in Foster Care" tool with your child. These rights reflect the values, dreams, and aspirations of current and former foster youth suffering from tremendous loss and can be helpful to a grieving young person and/or a young person who has not yet begun the grieving process.

Step 8

Join the discussion in the comments below to answer the following question:

How can you help young people in your care suffering from grief and loss?

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

rchambers's picture

rchambers said:

I love the lost box and family tree idea, i have seen several children talk about their family then close up like they shouldnt talk about them, this is a healthy way for them to grieve the changes in their young life
Slopez2010's picture

Slopez2010 said:

Listen and validate that it's ok to feel this way, and it's ok to to grief as long as they need to. The loss box is another great tool.
wixomcrew's picture

wixomcrew said:

The "loss box" and the family trees are awesome ideas that I will incorporate into our home. It may not be an easy task, but I plan on finding photos of our kids bio families and making them a "blended" family tree. Talking about birth parents is common in our home and we let the kids know that just because a parents rights are taken does not mean they never loved thier child. All it means is that they have issues that prevent them from being the parents they needed to be.
yvonne3w's picture

yvonne3w said:

We can read them the Bill of Rights and help them understand that grief does not look the same from one person to another.
ahnordstiv's picture

ahnordstiv said:

We can help young people in our care suffering from grief and loss by understanding, first, that they are dealing with these heavy burdens and that no one way is the correct way for them to navigate their feelings.
blakehart's picture

blakehart said:

I think it is so important to remember how a child who may have never known their birthparents will still experience ambiguous loss/grief. It's easy to think that if they never knew them then the pain won't exist. But that is simply not true, even if they have trouble naming the loss, they are deeply affected and we will need to help process that loss/grief.
Elizabeth Ziskind's picture

Elizabeth Ziskind said:

I really liked the idea of the loss box. I have something similar in an old hat box and sometimes like to spend time remembering... Giving a child a variety of different outlets (that are developmentally appropriate) to choose from and to provide active listening skills in whatever means they choose to express themselves.
v2lynnma's picture

v2lynnma said:

I believe that the best way to help a youth is by being empathetic and finding ways they can relate and learn from your own grieving mechanisms. I had a child who had lost his mother the same year I lost mine and I opened up to him, we both cried and I shared how I had coped with the loss. We bonded over the loss and got something positive out of it.
MelissaTurvey's picture

MelissaTurvey said:

I think by making myself available and other supports available. Looking past behaviors and being compassionate about outbursts of emotions. I also feel that by including the loss in our conversations would help with honoring their feelings, thoughts and emotions regarding the loss. I also want to be respectful, so if the youth does not want to talk about it with me, maybe there is another outlet I can find where the youth would feel more comfortable sharing.
huntx6's picture

huntx6 said:

Really listen to them. Rather than try to "fix" them, support and encourage them. You don't have to condone negative behavior, but neither should you condemn the child for the feelings they are expressing.