The ICBN has developed Standards for Supporting Bereaved Children and Young People. This document to be used by all adults, professionals, volunteer organisations and policy makers who are concerned about bereaved children.

Standards for supporting Bereaved Children & Young People


In 2015 the ICBN developed the Irish Childhood Bereavement Care Pyramid. The Pyramid identifies the needs of ‘most’, ‘some’ and ‘few’ bereaved children. It encourages adults who care for bereaved children to understand that, in most situations, children can be supported by providing accurate information and emotional support through their family and community. The Pyramid further identifies the types of services appropriate for ‘some’ and ‘few’ children who have extended needs and will require support outside of the home.

In this next stage of our work, the ICBN has developed Standards for Supporting Bereaved Children and Young People contained in this document.

This work is undertaken with the expectation that the standards will have a number of functions:

  1. To promote public and professional understanding of the impact of bereavement on
    children and the role of adults in bereaved children’s lives;
  2. To ensure that family and community are seen as having a key role in the support of
    bereaved children;
  3. To act as an improvement framework for those working with bereaved children and
    their families;
  4. To promote the concept that any services provided to bereaved children adhere to the
    highest standards when evaluated against the standards that have been set out;
  5. To set out the role for policy makers locally and nationally to ensure that appropriate
    support is provided to children who are bereaved;
  6. To act as a preventative m health approach for bereaved children to reduce the
    likelihood of future mental health problems;
  7. To underpin education and training at public, volunteer and professional levels.

We use the language of standards to illustrate a multi-layered vision for bereavement support to emphasise the highest level of care that our bereaved children deserve. In this way the standards provide a framework to help us all improve and develop our care.

The Standards

Standard 1 – Child & Young Person: Children’s experience of bereavement will be recognised,
acknowledged and supported in accordance with their needs over time.

Standard 2 – Family: The family is generally the main source of care for the bereaved child and
will require access to reassurance, information, guidance and support to provide
this care.

Standard 3 – Local Community: All bereaved children should have access to bereavement
information, guidance and support services in their local community as required.

Standard 4 – Service Providers: All service providers will ensure that governance, procedures
and protocols are in place to ensure ethical, safe and appropriate bereavement service delivery to the children in their care.

Standard 5 – National: National policy and local infrastructure includes appropriate responses
to, and integrates the needs of, bereaved children.

In each section, a rationale for this standard is provided, with criteria for the demonstration
of this standard presented. In addition, an explanation as to what this means for bereaved
children is provided, as well as some examples of evidence of achievement. It is intended that
these standards will be used in conjunction with other national and international standards
that are relevant to this work. These standards and associated criteria will be reviewed by
ICBN every three years in the expectation that additional emphases, criteria and examples of
achievement can be added.

We accept that the coming years will be focused on the challenge of implementing these
standards and consider that as individuals, families, communities and as a country we are at
the beginning of a process.

Who are these Standards for

The ICBN intends this document to be used by all adults, professionals, volunteer organisations and policy makers who are concerned about bereaved children.

They are directed at adults who are caring for bereaved children and those who are in contact
with bereaved children in their everyday lives such as teachers, childcare personnel, GPs, public
health nurses, religious leaders. In addition they are relevant to groups of professionals who are
in a position to provide targeted support to bereaved children, e.g. hospital staff, mental health
professionals, social workers. Those whose core professional role is to provide support and
counselling to bereaved children and families should also be expected to refer to the standards.
The standards are also designed to be used by community and national leaders who are
concerned to include the needs of bereaved children in the development of local initiatives
through political lobbying, funding initiatives and service developments. They are further
intended to set out a national approach to the development of appropriate bereavement
services for children and young people nationally.

The appropriate standard of care and support should be provided to children so that their
bereavement needs can be met regardless of their religion, culture, gender or economic status
or their location within Ireland.

How these standards can be used

These standards are designed to be clear, concise and comprehensive. The ICBN sees these standards being used for planning, provision, and quality review of childhood bereavement care.

1. Planning – Standards may be used:

  • To promote a national “vision” for and shared understanding of children’s bereavement
    care in Ireland;
  • To direct the ways in which communities, families, service providers and policy planners
    can promote resilience and provide support for bereaved children;
  • To shape investment in bereavement care, to develop funding applications;
  • To inform statutory commissioning of bereavement standards.

2. Provision – Standards may be used:

  • To develop confidence in the information, supports and services available to bereaved
  • children and their family and to promote informed choice and appropriate referrals;
  • To ensure that bereavement support for children is based on the latest international
    findings in the field of children’s bereavement care;
  • To help all of those involved in care for a bereaved child to define the scope of their care,
    responsibility and competence and to assist them identify complementary supports;
  • To demonstrate strong & transparent governance through self-assessment;
    – To ensure that the family are seen as central to the support provided to children and are
    supported appropriately;
  • To ensure that service providers adhere to the best international standards in their work;
  • To highlight the requirement for the voice of bereaved children to be integrated into
    national policies related to children.

3. Quality review/ outcomes – Standards may be used:

  • To help service providers to review their current practices;
  • To allow service providers incrementally develop their services in light of identified
    evolving needs of bereaved children.

Download Standards for supporting Bereaved Children & Young People




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