Families and children facing loss
Childhood bereavement services – a diversity of models and practices
This chapter is concerned with the services designed to help children and their families facing loss and bereavement. Although it is not known how many children and young people are bereaved each year, a number of estimates have been made. For example, Easton (2001) suggests that when the deaths of parents, siblings, grandparents and other significant people are taken into account, approximately 1.4 million children are bereaved annually. Winston's Wish (2002) provides a more conservative estimate, suggesting that 3 per cent of 5- to 15-year-olds have experienced the death of a parent or sibling, equating to 510,000 children in the UK. Despite the uncertainty about the number of children and young people affected by the death of a significant person, there was a marked increase, during the closing years of the twentieth century, in the number of services within the UK for children and their families who had been bereaved (Rolls and Payne 2003).
However, 'children' are not a homogeneous group, and understanding what is needed to support them is a complex enterprise. At the heart of the development of services are implicit assumptions about the development of children, that bereavement has an impact on them, and that supporting children and young people following bereavement will have a favourable influence on their present and/or future life. These assumptions provide the basis for the development of childhood bereavement services, the models and practices on which service provision is based, and for what is considered 'best' for helping bereaved children and young people.
Here, I use Bronfenbrenner's (1992) bioecological model of development to explore childhood bereavement services and their diversity of models and practices. I begin by describing this model within the broader context of theories of human development and their relationship to bereavement theories. I then use the model to consider briefly some of the ways in which loss and bereavement impact on children. Finally, I explore the ways in which childhood bereavement services contribute, through