Credit hours:

Course Summary

For youth in care, placement in care often brings complicated feelings of shame, relief, or guilt. In order to effectively serve and provide for young people, we need to help them recognize their grief and meet them where they are in their grieving process. Gain knowledge and tools to help your child cope with feelings of grief and ambiguous loss through this course.

In this course, you can expect to learn:

  • About ambiguous loss and complicated grief
  • Unique challenges foster youth face through the grieving process
  • Understand how grief and trauma can manifest in a young person's behavior
  • Strategies a young person can use to cope with ambiguous loss and/or grief

Step 1

Watch the following video "Best Practices for Grief: Foster Care Placement," this video is a part of a series examining grief and loss experiences of children and teens, and was selected because of the valuable introduction it provides about young peoples' grief in foster care:

Step 2

The effects of grief that children in foster care experience vary by the developmental age of the child. Review the following article published by Fostering Perspectives, "The Effects of Grief and Loss on Children in Foster Care", to learn what grief signs to be aware of for all children.

Step 3

Review the following article "Ambiguous Loss Haunts Foster and Adopted Children", to learn about the inevitable loss a young person experiences during their foster care experience (sometimes over and over again) and how incredibly difficult this type of grief is to process.

Step 4

Gregory Manning discusses the difference between a traditional and non-traditional loss and how the profound loss and trauma a young person in foster care experiences manifests and impacts their behaviors in the following video "Grief and Loss for Youth in Foster Care & Adoption":

Step 5

Watch Matthew's video which reflects the trauma, grief, and loss he dealt with throughout his foster care experience. 

Step 6

Review "What Young People Can Do: Healing From Loss", a simple form to help guide and validate a young person healing from loss.

Step 7

Share the "Bill of Rights for Grieving Youth in Foster Care" tool with your child. These Rights reflect the values, dreams, and aspirations of current and former foster youth suffering from tremendous loss and can be helpful to a grieving young person and/or a young person who has not yet begun the grieving process.

Step 8

Join the discussion in the comments below to answer the following question:

How can you help young people in your care suffering from grief and loss?

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Course Discussion

kierstynstone's picture

kierstynstone said:

Listen and allow the child feel how they feel and help them express in their own way.
mattbaxter's picture

mattbaxter said:

Be willing to listen and allow the child time to grieve in their own way.
BBradford15's picture

BBradford15 said:

I think honesty is a major key when it comes to helping kids come along in foster care. We have had 2 kids for almost 2 years now. A girl who is nine now and a boy who is 4. We kept them up to date and were honest about everything going on in the legal process. There mom then passed away suddenly and sadly. We broke the news to them and were completely honest and open with answers on any questions they have about the loss. There have been some very tough reactions and emotions to deal with from this but I think we have built long term trust with these kids in being open and honest about the situations that have happened. We believe that leads to better long term healing instead of the alternative which would be to hide what is truly going on with there Birth family.
dsalmans's picture

dsalmans said:

We need to recognize that children coming into foster care are overwhelmed! It is our job to show these children compassion. Coming into foster care can trigger the same response as death of a family member. We need to focus on helping them feel safe to express those emotions first and then help them appropriately deal with them. It is counterproductive to try to fix the behavior first. We must allow the children to grieve in their own way.
SerenaSalmans's picture

SerenaSalmans said:

I really liked how Mr. Manning stated it. We don't expect adults to have to do every day activities like going to the super market, etc. right after they lose a loved one. If they react in anger or outburst, we let them express their emotions. But when we get a foster child who is also having to grieve and doesn't always have the coping mechanisms we have to allow them to feel those feelings and grieve in their own way. We have to remember their entire lives have been flipped upside down and it's our job to facilitate a healthy environment for them to grieve and cope.
rubenia's picture

rubenia said:

Listen to child have compassion, help by finding things to do that occupy the mind one thing i did with a child was gardening we grow vegetables and flowers i planted a flowering in honor of my mother that pass and named it after her it come up every year a child was visiting my home with my daughter and heard me say go afternoon "Mama Mae you're beautiful" she ask me why i call my flower Mama Mae i explain to her my mom pass away and i love flowers as well as my mom did and the best part was watching it come back every year she ask me if i could help her plant one for her grandmother for her and her mother her mother said it's the first time in a while she seen a smile on her daughter 's face she really enjoys taking care of grandma Rose.Which explain why she wanted a rose bush i had no idea her grandmother name was Rose!'s picture said:

Grief and loss are hard - and everyone reacts differently - in his / her own unique way. As foster parents, we need to understand this, be compassionate and willing to just listen, not reactive to their outbursts or behaviors, not try to control or subdue them (unless someone is in danger of course). We need to learn about the possible resources at our disposal to help the children placed with us learn to manage their grief and loss a little more effectively.'s picture

sarahhmiller197... said:

I think we need to be open and compassionate and understanding that removal from a birth home (even one that is abusive or neglectful) is a massive trauma inflicted upon these children - and can also lead to increased depression, anxiety, and feelings of loss and grief and helplessness.
djhoffman3005's picture

djhoffman3005 said:

stay calm and understanding when they are acting out grief them find constructive ways to express that grief
BEnove's picture

BEnove said:

Help them to process the emotions that they are feeling and be there to listen and support them over time.