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

blakehart's picture

blakehart said:

I think it is so important to remember how a child who may have never known their birthparents will still experience ambiguous loss/grief. It's easy to think that if they never knew them then the pain won't exist. But that is simply not true, even if they have trouble naming the loss, they are deeply affected and we will need to help process that loss/grief.
Elizabeth Ziskind's picture

Elizabeth Ziskind said:

I really liked the idea of the loss box. I have something similar in an old hat box and sometimes like to spend time remembering... Giving a child a variety of different outlets (that are developmentally appropriate) to choose from and to provide active listening skills in whatever means they choose to express themselves.
v2lynnma's picture

v2lynnma said:

I believe that the best way to help a youth is by being empathetic and finding ways they can relate and learn from your own grieving mechanisms. I had a child who had lost his mother the same year I lost mine and I opened up to him, we both cried and I shared how I had coped with the loss. We bonded over the loss and got something positive out of it.
MelissaTurvey's picture

MelissaTurvey said:

I think by making myself available and other supports available. Looking past behaviors and being compassionate about outbursts of emotions. I also feel that by including the loss in our conversations would help with honoring their feelings, thoughts and emotions regarding the loss. I also want to be respectful, so if the youth does not want to talk about it with me, maybe there is another outlet I can find where the youth would feel more comfortable sharing.
huntx6's picture

huntx6 said:

Really listen to them. Rather than try to "fix" them, support and encourage them. You don't have to condone negative behavior, but neither should you condemn the child for the feelings they are expressing.
rdaniel's picture

rdaniel said:

I think being a soundboard figuratively speaking, this may go a long way in the healing process for a child suffering grief and loss.
DominiqueDeRose's picture

DominiqueDeRose said:

I can help by being compassionate to their process of grieving
tigpooh22's picture

tigpooh22 said:

I can be patient and meet the child where they are in their grieving process by listening and being there to provide emotional support and unconditional love.
fbyalb's picture

fbyalb said:

I think the key is to listen , have patience and understanding and allow CHn to grieve as they fel they need to. Encourage them to realize the situation was not their fault and to encourage them to use what hey have kearned to help themselves and that they can be role models for others.
PaulaKing's picture

PaulaKing said:

I can help by showing compassion and love. To be the example of what love should look like! Patience and understanding is important too.