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

MarieSmith's picture

MarieSmith said:

For me, I am aware of the guilt and overwhelming saddness our kiddos go through. I realized providing a safe place for them to vent, and feel those emotions is essential. I also didn't realize the developmental phases and what to expect. What an eye opener as I look back and now look forward. Seeing kiddos with the lens of grief and development so helpful.
bunnyrn1's picture

bunnyrn1 said:

I plan to continue a relationship with bio mom via emailed messages/pictures and phone calls. Although she no longer has rights, she will always be my son's mother. I also plan to make our home as stress free as possible and to think of the reason behind unwanted behaviors.'s picture said:

I can help by allowing them to process loss in their on time at their own rate without and expectations will help. Also allowing them to realize that they aren't alone in the process that I am there to help listen, encourage and support.
joysieweaver's picture

joysieweaver said:

I believe that open communication is key to healing and dealing with loss. The child never needs to feel like they can't talk about what they are missing.
rchambers's picture

rchambers said:

I love the lost box and family tree idea, i have seen several children talk about their family then close up like they shouldnt talk about them, this is a healthy way for them to grieve the changes in their young life
Slopez2010's picture

Slopez2010 said:

Listen and validate that it's ok to feel this way, and it's ok to to grief as long as they need to. The loss box is another great tool.
wixomcrew's picture

wixomcrew said:

The "loss box" and the family trees are awesome ideas that I will incorporate into our home. It may not be an easy task, but I plan on finding photos of our kids bio families and making them a "blended" family tree. Talking about birth parents is common in our home and we let the kids know that just because a parents rights are taken does not mean they never loved thier child. All it means is that they have issues that prevent them from being the parents they needed to be.
yvonne3w's picture

yvonne3w said:

We can read them the Bill of Rights and help them understand that grief does not look the same from one person to another.
ahnordstiv's picture

ahnordstiv said:

We can help young people in our care suffering from grief and loss by understanding, first, that they are dealing with these heavy burdens and that no one way is the correct way for them to navigate their feelings.
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.