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

amendoza's picture

amendoza said:

Allow children to keep journals. The children might like to write letters to family members as well. You could also create a scrapbook for memories they share with you.
dvroth's picture

dvroth said:

All the above comments are so helpful. I think it's also important to be constructive and positive, as much as possible, when talking about the child's birth family.'s picture

[email protected] said:

We keep pictures of our foster child's birth family up in her room.
Maddie's picture

Maddie said:

Help child write letters or make telephone calls if possible. With kinship care talk about activities and events the family has shared and look at pictures of these events. Let the child or children talk about their emotions involving bio family members.
smcdaniel's picture

smcdaniel said:

The idea of packing a bag to take along with the child at a visitation is a great way for them to initiate the barrier of communication and ridged awkward moments. This will also enhance their ability to express themselves mentally and emotionally.
Elizabeth Ziskind's picture

Elizabeth Ziskind said:

All of the ideas listed are great. It might also be nice to create a video journal. They could talk about their day, express thoughts and emotions and/or talk to their loved one through the videos. This might be helpful if the child prefers not to write or if the child is unable or has difficulty writing due to age or learning issues. Even though the videos may never be viewed by the person they're intended for, it would likely be cathartic.
MelissaTurvey's picture

MelissaTurvey said:

I think that the suggestions from the books have great material for this question. Children are concrete thinkers, so having an age appropriate discussion about the reason they cannot communicate with their family and coloring what their family is doing right now. Allowing the child to share when they are ready and until then giving them journals to write their feelings, etc. would be helpful.'s picture

mikenjulieclark... said:

Journals's picture

mikenjulieclark... said:

keep jo
carla miller's picture

carla miller said:

I tend to have younger kids in my care, so the coloring book will come in real handy.