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

CarolineShafer's picture

CarolineShafer said:

It depends on the child's age, however, helping make a child feel welcome in the home as much as possible and they are a member of that household is very important. Also, providing multiple opportunities for play is a way for the child to just be a child without worrying as much about the pain they are feeling from the separation from family.
MMM0582's picture

MMM0582 said:

I think that a good way to help children who are going through this is simply to see what they might want to do that will help them adjust or feel comfortable in the new environment, don't push them to do anything. If they want to talk or ask questions, do that and see how they are feeling about the situation. Ask them if they'd like to play games or watch TV or play with toys. Do things like color or play board games and just get them used to be new living situation without making it too pressured on them.
ourbaileylife's picture

ourbaileylife said:

I think having an open-communication relationship with all members involved (child, bio family, case worker, etc) is critical to minimizing separation trauma, as long as it's safe and age-appropriate. Things start to get unhealthy when feelings and thoughts are kept within. If healthy, I will always strive to maintain biological ties.
Desiree9157's picture

Desiree9157 said:

I feel that talking about it helps (when they want to talk about it or ask questions). I also do a lot of family activities together with my children like cooking, baking, arts and crafts and family time and outings together.
Ahnalona's picture

Ahnalona said:

I have had my grandson since he was born (21 months) and my granddaughter sporadically (4 months). I invite the parents to come with us on special trips such as out for ice cream or a park visit. If they do attend, I make a big deal out of it, referring to them as mom and dad. I refer to myself as grandma, so the boy won't be confused when he sees them. We have pictures of their parents in their room.
Macrew's picture

Macrew said:

It is very hard to know what to say when your grandchildren come into your home and communication with bio parents is inconsistent or not at all. We had no resources provided to us or the children on how to transition. Parents would call or visit sporadically, then not at all. Children did not understand and we were not prepared to help them.
vmburk's picture

vmburk said:

I have found the lifebooks to be very helpful!
horses10's picture

horses10 said:

I have really found that cooking/baking together is a great way to help minimize the impact of separation on a young person.
rlittleton's picture

rlittleton said:

Of course everything needs to be age appropriate. I have found that allowing the kids to talk openly about their parents and sharing memories helps a lot. The kids want to remember their birth parents even when TPR has occured. It is a difficult time for everyone. Another thing we do is encourage the child to color pictures, create crafts, or share school work with their parents. If a visit doesn't happen, then we have a gift bag where everything goes until the next visit. This way there is something for the child/parent to talk about at a visit.
melinda1510's picture

melinda1510 said:

We have 4 teenage boys. I have found that it helps them to be able to talk about what is going on should it be while I am cooking or we do chores together and alot of times the neighborhood kids that they are friends with will all come sit on the porch and we have a group meeting if the boys want to.