Separation anxiety disorder impacts many foster children in care. It encompasses anxieties created by a separation from the home or a separation from a parent. In this article, we take a look at separation anxiety in foster children, run through some tips for helping foster children cope with separation and loss, and discuss foster care support and training services offered by Orchard Fostering that can help you and your foster child cope with separation anxiety.

What is separation anxiety?

 Separation anxiety is a form of anxiety that stems from feelings of worry related to separation of a parent and child. Separation anxiety affects all children – just think of how you may have felt when your parents dropped you off at school for the first time. Foster children can bear a greater burden, as they are often separated from their birth parents – this causes potential feelings of abandonment and distress for your foster child.

What causes separation anxiety?

As mentioned above, separation anxiety can occur when a child is left alone for a period of time, dependent of their parents or caregivers. Usually, a child will grow out of separation anxiety disorder as they grow older. However, foster children can sometimes exhibit traits of separation anxiety disorder into early adulthood and beyond.

Separation anxiety is of particular distress for foster children because there is a clear barrier in place. Children are placed in foster care for a myriad of reasons, and one of those reasons may be that they need to be separated from their birth parents. Separation from birth parents is a stressful life event – children form strong emotional attachments to their parents, no matter what their relationship may be like.

The very act of foster care, designed to build a brighter future for the foster child, can cause separation anxiety disorder. However, your role as a carer is to help your foster child by addressing separation anxiety with them and overcoming it together.

How do I overcome separation anxiety in foster care?

 Separating a child from their birth parents and placing them in foster care, though always carried out in the child’s best interests, can be difficult for a child to understand. As your foster child grows older, they may have questions about their situation. These questions can lead to worries and anxieties that they will need your assistance to overcome.

You can help your foster child by utilising your greatest asset as a foster carer – empathy. By taking the time to sit down and listen to your foster child’s worries, you validate their feelings. This, in turn, makes them feel safer and more trusting of you. A major symptom of separation anxiety disorder is a feeling of mistrust in parental figures – by taking the time to bond and offering your foster child an empathetic ear, you can begin to break down this wall of mistrust.

What services do Orchard Fostering offer to help foster children cope with separation?

No matter what type of foster care you are involved in – short term foster care, emergency foster carerespite foster care, long term foster care – Orchard Fostering offer a full range of services to help you and your foster child build a brighter future together. We offer tailored services to meet your foster child’s needs – including a range of therapy services, which would be helpful in your journey towards coping with separation anxiety.

These supports may include the use of ‘theraplay’ with a child and their foster carers (therapeutic play model), direct work with both the foster child and foster carer and or life story work to support the child through feelings of separation anxiety and other types of emotional distress.

If you’re interested in learning more about our services, contact us today.