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's picture

[email protected] 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.
aholroyde's picture

aholroyde said:

Being open and honest, willing to answer questions and keep the discussion open as kids have questions.
aliholroyde's picture

aliholroyde said:

Remind them they have a team who is supporting them and they are never alone.
gdmj0311's picture

gdmj0311 said:

a lot to take in on how certain aged children react or can react. the spectrum is wide breaks my heart to think of all the hurt these children go through.
Dycie_r's picture

Dycie_r said:

By being there for the child and making sure they feel safe and wanted. Also talking to the child and allowing them to express how they feel about things might help. Just let them know that you're there for them no matter what the situation or behavior is.
rhiannon's picture

rhiannon said:

be open and honest of situation and afterwards have them pick out favorite book or play favorite game.
aweaver's picture

aweaver said:

Talk about what might happen to their bio parents, the role of the caseworker, and acknowledge a team of adults who can be supportive.
gabef's picture

gabef said:

You could allow them to pick out activities for the foster parent to participate in that they enjoy doing. Try to incorporate some of the foster child’s favorite foods into your meals.