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

Johnrex2018's picture

Johnrex2018 said:

In order to help minimize the impact of a child in my home (typically ages 11-13) when they don't have contact with their bio-family, I would take a couple of different approaches. First, I would keep them up to date with any information I received as well as make sure they are aware of what the next steps look like for their case. I feel having open communication regarding their bio-family would be beneficial. Another thing that I would do is to ask them if they wanted to hang any pictures of their bio-family around the house. Furthermore, I would regularly check in with them on how they are feeling about their life and situation.
ssrieske's picture

ssrieske said:

special blankets, toys that are given by bio family. write out their names, pictures- write letters to them to be given at another time
Smatkinson77's picture

Smatkinson77 said:

With the age groups I have, 7-12, offer a safe place to stay is top priority. Keeping open information on the situation between new home and bio home during the process will help them with trusting new home family members. Allowing them to have ownership of belongings and activities, like chores, within the new home gives them a feeling of belonging.
kimmcquay's picture

kimmcquay said:

children need to feel loved and secure in their enviroment when their removed from their parents sometimes they feel like whatever happened was their fault you have to try to be there and listen and hug them if appropriate and tell them it will be ok and encourage them to talk about their feelings. allowing them to bring some of their personal stuff will help them try to adjust.
slimmac1's picture

slimmac1 said:

Children need a sense of self, of normalcy, especially when they've been separated from family. Allowing them to have personal belongings, such as photos, books, and/or toys keeps the connection alive.


I think keeping communication going and having pictures of bio family is very helpful.
bmiller's picture

bmiller said:

Allowing and encouraging them to express their feelings, being nonjudgmental, trying to answer their questions, and showing them love and acceptance are ways to minimize the impact of separation.
TrentDHall's picture

TrentDHall said:

Encourage the child to keep, show, and talk about any personal belongings that help them remember and feel connected to their most recent caregiver.
EmDHall's picture

EmDHall said:

As much as possible, be open and honest with the child regarding the separation. Reaffirm their safety and security in your home.
brookiedee's picture

brookiedee said:

Keep an open line of communication. Use age appropriate communication to make sure the youth understands what is going on. Make them feel part of their new home.