Stacey Patton: The Grief Journey of the Child Placed in Foster Care

Abuse, neglect, and separation from important people in their lives can have profound effects on children placed in foster care. Like adults, children undergo stages of transition when their lives have been changed, particularly against their will.  It is often difficult for foster children to adjust to a new home with new people and new rules and to be subjected to supervised visits with their parents.

Children react to these new changes in a variety of ways and most typically express their feelings through behavior, not with words.  Some create problems or act out while others withdraw from the people around them.  Still other children react by being model children.  Although these outward behaviors are very different, children feel many of the same things when they are placed outside of their homes.  They may feel confused about why they have been separated from their families, and upset about what happened to them.  Some children feel angry, fearful, and powerless.  Each child works through the process of grieving and separation at their own pace.  This process may seem to move forward but then stall; it may take days, weeks, or even years.

This workshop is designed to help social workers, supervised visitation professionals, court appointed special advocates, counselors and other direct care providers understand the stages or phases of grief and ways that children may act during these stages.  Through interactive exercises and discussions participants will learn how to identify and appropriately document the behaviors that children demonstrate as they move through stages of grief and loss and develop strategies on how to respond not only to the behaviors but also the emotions behind the behaviors.


Dr. Stacey Patton is an adoptee, child abuse survivor and former foster youth turned award-winning journalist, author, child advocate and an assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Morgan State University. She is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book, Spare The Kids: Why Whooping Children Won't Save Black America.

She is also the author of That Mean Old Yesterday - A Memoir and the forthcoming book, Strung Up: The Lynching of Black Children and Teenagers in America, 1880-1968.

Patton's writings on race, politics, pop culture, diversity in media and higher education, and child welfare issues have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, Chronicle of Higher Education, Al Jazeera, BBC News, DAME Magazine and  She has appeared on MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, CBS, Al Jazeera, The Tavis Smiley Show, Here and Now, and Democracy Now.  

She has received reporting awards from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, Scripps Howard Foundation, New York Women in Communications, National (and New York) Association of Black Journalists, The Education Writer's Association, and she is the 2015 recipient of the Vernon Jarrett Medal for Excellence in reporting on American race relations.  

Dr. Patton has also received an award from the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children for using journalism to bring awareness to child welfare issues during the Adrian Peterson and "Baltimore Mom" controversies. 

In addition to her journalistic work, Dr. Patton is also the creator of Spare the Kids, an online portal designed to encourage parents and caretakers to use alternatives to hitting children. She travels the country delivering keynotes and professional trainings at universities, child welfare and juvenile justice organizations and agenicies.