Responding to Children's Ambiguous Loss in Out-of-Home Care: The HEAR Practice Model

Kenny Kor, Jodie Park, Belinda Fabrianesi



Children in out-of-home care may experience multiple losses, from separation from birth parents and siblings to loss of friendships, culture, and sense of belonging and normality. The impacts of these significant losses on a child's development and wellbeing have typically been the subject of childhood trauma research. While understanding the impact is important, children's experiences of the losses and the ways adults can support them to grieve are less explored in research. Recently, out-of-home care researchers have begun to address this knowledge gap by applying the concept of ambiguous loss to capture and understand children's grief and loss.

This article builds on this work and reports findings of a qualitative study that involved 30 out-of-home care practitioners. Constructivist Grounded Theory was applied to analyse the research data which resulted in the HEAR model that outlines the practice components that out-of-home care practitioners considered important in effectively responding to children's experience of ambiguous loss. These components are (1) Honouring ambiguous loss; (2) Establishing a care community; (3) Attuning to the lack of finality of ambiguous loss and (4) Reducing ambiguity. This article presents research findings that supported the development of the HEAR model, and discusses its implications for out-of-home care practice.