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

Steph_Anne's picture

Steph_Anne (not verified) said:

I think allowing the child to express their feeling in a safe way and also validating them is important
csnewsom2020's picture

csnewsom2020 said:

Writing letter even if not delivered can help, keeping a journal of actives that you and them can write in to express felling's.
VictoriaAllison's picture

VictoriaAllison said:

To help minimize the impact of separation I would try to make the child feel as welcome as possible while also letting them know they are cared for and can share their experiences if that would help. I would also try to find things like personal belongings and traditions that will help them feel more at home and comfortable so they can get the most out of their situation.
alex.wallace's picture

alex.wallace said:

Depending on the age, explain to them the situation and tell them they are free to share anything with us. Also let them write letters or keep a journal to share with bio family when visits resume.
ShelbyBass's picture

ShelbyBass said:

I would try to get ahold of items that have special meaning to the child. I would also answer any question about the biological family the best that I can while also letting the child know that they are completely safe within my house.
KimmersA8's picture

KimmersA8 said:

Depending on the age of the child, journaling or letter writing (even if not delivered) could be a way to express thoughts and feelings.
Ryguythesciguy's picture

Ryguythesciguy said:

Speak to their fears and try to alleviate them. Be honest and age appropriate.
Annabelle Russell's picture

Annabelle Russell said:

I would let them know that they are in a safe place to talk about how they feel and they can ask questions. I would also try to get some memorabilia or a scrapbook to preserve positive memories.
RDHogue's picture

RDHogue said:

Talk about any family traditions, special items, and special memories.
smjenerette's picture

smjenerette said:

Try and obtain special items from home, allow them to speak freely about their family, find out and prepare favorite meals they had at home, and if possible with their particular situation, allow phone contact with grandparents aunts uncles cousins and friends and even parent if situation stable