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

riverreines's picture

riverreines said:

have pictures of family for them, talk about their parents and siblings and extended family as much as possinle
jill_griffith2561394's picture

jill_griffith2561394 said:

You could help the child put up pictures of their family that they can't communicate with at this time, so they can still feel close to them. You could help them write down stories that they remember and experiences that they shared with their loved ones, so that they don't have to replay them in their minds to try to remember them. You could talk to the child about why they think they were separated from their family members and explain clearly to them what they may have misconceptions about. You could talk to them about how they feel about being separated from their family and learn what will help to cheer them up when they are sad. You can allow them to keep things that remind them of home with them or things that comfort them in the grieving process. The best help to any child is for their parent (foster or biological) to love them and help them progress in understanding self and others and to teach them kindness and goodness.
rdaniel's picture

rdaniel said:

To allow the child to keep things that are important to him/her. To ensure that my home is as welcoming as possible for the child. Also, I think to allow the child a bit of time to readjust emotionally upon entering a new environment. So, this may entail allowing the child a day or two before going into certain specifics about the house rules or what not. Instead of just laying down the law so to speak, maybe using a bit of discretion and wisdom should be warranted. There are a lot of emotions at play between the child and the foster parents at this time. Therefore, everyone involved has to take a breather for a moment. Of course, this approach is relative to each situation, however.
Tubbsfuss's picture

Tubbsfuss said:

Allowing the child to bring important items from home and talk about some of their favorite things may be helpful. You can also draw pictures or write letters to important people in the child's family and either send them or keep them for later if not possible to send immediately. The resources available on this website, specifically the coloring book, appear to be a really helpful tool to begin some tough converstions.
Shyshys72's picture

Shyshys72 said:

Making sure the child has personal items with them will help minimize the affects of the separation.
davidjosephthomas's picture

davidjosephthomas said:

We made a family tree type chart that shows her family connections to ours and how everyone is related. It's on the wall in her room now and she really likes to talk about it and ask questions.
Ashley.qualls's picture

Ashley.qualls said:

We typically have young ones in our care. I so worry when they are removed from our home that they will have attachment and separation issues. Sending them with items they are attached to, photo books, contacts, and providing information to their new caregiver (parent, relative,foster parent) can be helpful. I also try to allow them as much contact with siblings as possible!
JQualls's picture

JQualls said:

Encourage the child/Children to keep a journal, color pictures, take photos etc so that when we do have the opportunity to give it to family we can. This should also help the child get emotions off their chest and not bottle things up.
missamericab's picture

missamericab said:

As foster parents, we speak with our foster daughter about her parents, especially prior to a visitation. I enjoyed reading the articles as well as the comments offered by other foster parents. We have visitation tomorrow and I will encourage our foster daughter to pack her backpack with toys she can be comfortable with while playing with her parents.
shelly_5501's picture

shelly_5501 said:

I encourage the kids to color and take as many pictures of themselves to keep and give to their family. I believe when foster parents participate in activities or have family gathering for holidays, they should involve the children and let their family see how they are interacting and adjusting to their new surrounding.