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! 

Subscribe now!

Just $24.95 for 1 year subscription per parent (unlimited access to courses for one year).

Subscribe Now

Log in to your account

Already subscribed? Log in to your FosterClub account now to take a course!

Log in

Course Discussion

tsroberts1's picture

tsroberts1 replied:

I think creating a life book helps the child to remember who they are, and this involves their past. In order for them to adjust to the changes being made and the future they are experiencing, they need to know it is good to remember the good things of their past and what made them the person they are today.
PandH Berry's picture

PandH Berry said:

We have always openly discussed birth family, calling them family and by name and by their appropriate label, like "mom".
PandH Berry's picture

PandH Berry said:

we always talk about birth family, have gathered information about extended family and will encourage communication if safe and healthy
Mbloodworth's picture

Mbloodworth said:

We do a lot of family time, We foster younger children so preschool is a great way to help a child stay busy and not think to much about things.
Katie Gossett's picture

Katie Gossett said:

With our foster placement, it was a likely that he would get to return home because of how circumstances were going and what his mother was doing with her plan. In this case we often talked about his return home, or experience at home. He was at an age where we could be very open and honest about what we knew was going on with his case and we tried to answer any questions he asked. He liked to share memories often, and we always tried to help him see that he could cherish his memories and future with his mother and still put everything into his relationships and school work here. Focusing too much on the past and possible future seemed to make the present irrelevant so we had to help him find that balance.
jkfh2s's picture

jkfh2s said:

We had a young child in our care that we had known since birth. We talked about his parents and tried to talk about positive memories. I hung a picture of him and his mom in his room by his bed. We also took lots of family photos and made collages out of them and let him help put stickers and write fun stuff next to pictures, then hung them up, to help him feel like he was truly a member of our family. We would also just sit and listen to him talk about whatever he wanted and then ask open ended feeling questions. This really worked well for us and him. He has since been returned to his bio mom but still comes to stay with us, and refers to us as mom, dad, sister, brother.
ktb.irwin's picture

ktb.irwin said:

We have yet to have any children placed with us yet, so all of this information is very helpful. Thank you! While I am around little ones often with lots of friends' children, nieces, and nephews, I'm really trying to keep my mind open to all the possibilities we may encounter with foster care. I definitely plan to use lots of coloring and drawing to help young children express their feelings. I know it can also help them open up and talk while they color. I also liked the To-Do lists and "Letter to My Family" organizer found in the training.
tom18skiDecember303's picture

tom18skiDecember303 said:

I would encourage visits ordered. I would encourage pictures and letters or emails as well. I would definitely encourage sibling visits and routine contact set on a schedule.
Ankromfamily1's picture

Ankromfamily1 said:

This question is so age-dependent. We have a one year old and a two year old and right now they have weekly visits with their birth mom. If those stopped permanently, we would try to have pictures of their birth mom for the kids to have and we would talk about the different ways children come into families (by birth, by adoption, temporarily through foster care). I think if the kids are older, there are a lot more options that people have already mentioned.
tesk87's picture

tesk87 said:

To help children that have no contact with bio's, they need to feel part of your family. Each case is different, when bio's don't want nothing to do with the children make sure they see themselves in pictures and involved in the family. Make sure they feel part of the extended family too.