Standards for Supporting Bereaved Children & Young People

In 2015, we 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 also identifies the types of services appropriate for ‘some’ and ‘few’ children who have extended needs, and will require support outside of the home.

The ICBN then developed Standards for Supporting Bereaved Children and Young Peoplewith 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 the Standard is provided, with criteria for its demonstration. An explanation as to what this means for bereaved children is provided, as well as examples of evidence of achievement. It is intended that
these Standards will be used in conjunction with other relevant national and international standards. The ICBN will review Standards and associated criteria every three years in the expectation that additional emphases, criteria and examples of achievement can be added.

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

Who can use the Standards

Our intention is for this document to be used by adults, professionals, volunteer organisations and policy makers who are concerned about bereaved children.

They are directed at adults 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, etc). They are relevant to groups of professionals who are in a position to provide targeted support to bereaved children (such as 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 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 to use the Standards

Designed to be clear, concise and comprehensive, the Standards can be used for planning, provision, and quality review of childhood bereavement care.

1. Planning. Standards can:

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

2. Provision. Standards can:

  • Develop confidence in the information, supports and services available to bereaved children and their families, and promote informed choice and appropriate referrals.
  • Ensure that bereavement support for children is based on the latest international findings in the field of children’s bereavement care.
  • 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.
  • Demonstrate strong & transparent governance through self-assessment.
  • Ensure that the family are seen as central to the support provided to children and are supported appropriately.
  • Ensure that service providers adhere to the best international standards in their work.
  • Highlight the requirement for the voice of bereaved children to be integrated into national policies related to children.

3. Quality review/outcomes. Standards can:

  • Help service providers to review their current practices.
  • 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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