Credit hours:

Course Summary

The necessary removal of children from their caregiver(s) to whom they are attached, can have both positive and negative aspects. From a child protection perspective, separation has several benefits, the most obvious being the immediate safety of the child. Separating a parent and child can also have profoundly negative effects. Even when it is necessary, research indicates that removing children 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 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 when losing their caregiver, siblings or other close relatives

  • challenges children may face when suffering from a traumatic separation, both in general and developmentally

  • how an adult supporter may be able to help a child experiencing separation and loss

  • strategies and tools available to assist and help a young person 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," from 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; this effects the impact of the separation from loved ones. 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 could you help minimize the impact of separation on a young person in your home when visits and/or communication with bio family is not an option?

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Course Discussion

Ejeff1972's picture

Ejeff1972 said:

By working hard to normalize the situation to any extent you can. Be open and honest (age appropriately) with the child about current circumstances while at the same time continuing to build trust by providing an atmosphere of love and encouragement.
deniselong's picture

deniselong said:

How could you help minimize the impact of separation on a young person in your home when visits and/or communication with bio family is not an option?....encouraging the youth to express their feelings in a letter (even if its not sent) or in writing
PetraMiller's picture

PetraMiller said:

Encourage child to talk about his or her family and to display photos, momentos, etc. Speak plainly about the child's family -- make sure the child knows that their emotions toward their family, whatever they are, are acceptable, but work toward understanding, forgiveness, and love as appropriate.
criada48's picture

criada48 said:

Request pictures of family members and be sure to talk about them on a regular basis.
MBRLMR's picture

MBRLMR said:

Reasure them that you will help them and love them in any way that you and their team can
mhowardjr35's picture

mhowardjr35 said:

Trying to find something that brings them comfort- blanket, stuff animal,etc. Have child keep journal to share with parent/other family members once or if communications return.
Kirsten Lewis's picture

Kirsten Lewis said:

We can do our best to welcome the child into our foster home to make him/her feel comfortable. We can be open to listening to him/her talk about their bio family and encourage the child to draw pictures or write letters that can be sent at a later time.'s picture said:

When our first opportunity came to become foster parents, we happened to already know personally the siblings and their family. I'm sure it made transition for all much easier. The sisters knew our home was safe, and they would get their needs met. What was most difficult for everyone was our taking on a parental role in their teenage lives. It has taken patience and understanding, on our part for them to adapt to this . By trial and error, support from all involved in their care, and encouraging the girls have learned to accept fair consequences, and become responsible young adults.
IsmaelleHilaire's picture

IsmaelleHilaire said:

engage this child in favorite activities, staying open to talk when they are ready or guiding them in this hard time, be supportive and be compassionate.
MyronJude's picture

MyronJude said:

Our foster children have (in their own degree) come to us with social and mental regression from their trauma. I think it is important to remember that you may have a 5 year old in your home, but cognitively, they are on a 2 or 3 year old level. Not because they are unintelligent, but because their trauma has set them back in their growth.