Guilt and Grief in Foster Children

Foster children and youth often experience a range of difficult emotions throughout placement—including  guilt and grief. The feelings might originate during the family separation: feelings of abandonment, the loss of a loved one or stable home environment, or guilt for leaving their family or for not being able to provide for their family. Or the feelings might arise out of trauma or with the experience of being placed with strangers, from the difficulty of adjusting to a new environment to being overwhelmed by the expectations of their foster family. 

Caregivers can best support their children and youth when they are aware of the signs that they may be experiencing guilt and grief. Common signs can include withdrawal from activities, changes in sleeping patterns, and an increase in negative behaviors. Other signs of guilt and grief can include changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, low self-esteem, and a lack of motivation.

For more insight into the complicated feelings that those in foster care can experience, watch ReMoved 3: Love Is Never Wasted, a poignant dramatization of a young boy’s experience of removal and his feelings around his foster family.