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Frequently Asked Questions

Highmark Caring Place Background

The Highmark Caring Place, A Center for Grieving Children, Adolescents, and Their Families, is committed to helping grieving children get the support they deserve. A community resource, the Caring Place offers services at no charge to grieving families throughout the community. It is also a resource for schools and other professionals throughout the community. Find more information about the programs of the Caring Place.

For children and teens who have experienced the death of a loved one, the Highmark Caring Place provides support and nurturance. Through our peer support program, children and teens, along with their families, have the support of others their own age, others who know what it's like to live with such a big loss. They have the support of their peers and also of caring adult volunteers and staff. Peer support groups for grieving children in schools are also available.

The Highmark Caring Place is a program of the Caring Foundation. It began as the Pittsburgh Center for Grieving Children in 1996; our first Caring Place facility was opened in downtown Pittsburgh in 1997. Learn more about the history of the Caring Place.

Fred Rogers was the Honorary Chairman of the Board of the Caring Foundation from its inception until his death in 2003. The creator and host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood gave his support and his presence to Caring Place events and also guided much of the philosophy of the Caring Place program. Learn more Fred Rogers and the Caring Place.

The Caring Place has four locations in Pennsylvania — two in the Pittsburgh region and one each in the Harrisburg and Erie regions. Exact locations and contact information are here.

Peer Support Groups for Families at the Caring Place — Who Attends?

Grief affects the whole family. So although the focus of the Caring place is the grief of children, the adult members of the family attend as well. Learn more about how the Caring Place peer support group program works.

If a child has had someone close to them die, they are grieving. That doesn't mean they are not OK; they may be doing just fine. But oftentimes, even if they are doing all right, the grief is enough for them to need some extra support. What many kids find the most comfort from in coming to the Caring Place is discovering others like them who are going through an experience similar to theirs. It is meaningful to them to know they are not alone. See "Does My Child Need Support" for more information. If you are considering attending, call and talk with one of our child grief specialists to explore whether or not our program could be a good fit for your children and family.

Yes, the Caring Place is a child-focused program; therefore, adults are unable to attend without a child/teen family member.

Yes! At the Caring Place we believe that even the youngest of us can experience grief. So we are one of the few grieving centers in the nation with a program for infants and preschoolers.

Divorce, incarceration and other types of loss can have a profound impact on a child and a family. However, the Caring Place offers support to families only after loss due to the death of a family member.

While we understand that the death of a friend or pet can be devastating, the Caring Place offers support to families after the death of a family member only.

Yes, the Caring Place can offer referrals and other resources to you. For more information, give us a call.

The Caring Place can be a rich resource for your school. We offer trainings and workshops, peer support groups, education on grief to students and more. Learn more about our partnership with schools.

The Caring Place can be a helpful resource for your organization or business. We can teach your staff about grief, help your employees who are grieving and provide volunteer opportunities for your employees. Call a Caring Place location nearest you for more information.

From the first phone call to the first night of group, the Caring Place staff will work with you to ensure that our program is the right fit for your family. Learn more about this process here.

Peer Support Groups for Families at the Caring Place — When Would I Attend?

Families who attend the Caring Place peer support program generally come every other week for 8 to 10 weeks.

With the exception of the support groups held in some schools for grieving students, the peer support group sessions for families are all held in the evening from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.

The sessions are held at various times throughout the year. If your family is interested in attending, call a Caring Place location nearest you and speak to one of our staff.

The Highmark Caring Place is able to serve families that are appropriate for our program without being put on a waiting list. The process of ensuring that a family is the right fit for our program can sometimes take longer than a family expected and there are also times when the start of the next group is some time in the future, so it may sometimes feel like you are being made to "wait." But there is no waiting list to get into the program.

Peer Support Groups for Families at the Caring Place — Program Details

Counseling can be provided in an individual or group format and is provided by a licensed or certified professional. The focus of counseling sessions is often "working through" problems or issues. The peer support offered at the Caring Place is provided in a group format only. The groups are facilitated by trained volunteers and the focus is gaining support from, and giving support to, others your age who have also had a family member die.

The Caring Place offers peer support groups only. We do not offer any form of therapy or counseling.

Every family's grief journey is different. Some families need and want help right away. For others, it takes longer for the shock to wear off or there are too many other details to attend to that keep them from being able to grieve. Families call the Caring Place for support at various times after the death — a few days later to several years later. The length of time isn't important — what is important is that you call when you are ready.

Unfortunately, the Caring Place is unable to provide transportation at this time.


All programs and services available through the Caring Place are offered at no cost.

While Highmark is a major supporter of the Caring Place, we are a community program available to any family with children who has had a family member die and for whom we are the appropriate level of service. No insurance of any kind is needed in order to take advantage of the services.

Highmark Affiliation

Highmark provides many programs and services in the communities it serves. The Highmark Caring Place is one of its signature programs. Since the inception of the Caring Place in 1996, Highmark has provided funding, volunteers and other sources of support to the Caring Place.

For Those Wishing to Help a Grieving Child or Family

Caring Place volunteers take on a number of different roles. The majority spend their time interacting with the families on group nights at the Caring Place while other volunteers work to sew together the quilts or take care of special projects. Learn more details about what volunteers do.

No, Caring Place volunteers come from all walks of life. You just need to be a compassionate listener who is passionate about helping children.

To volunteer in a Caring Place peer support group session, you must be 21. However, we do have other volunteer opportunities for those younger than 21 who are interested in helping out.

Volunteers who work in our peer support group sessions have to complete a 26-hour training program prior to volunteering. Through this training, they will learn the particular information and skills necessary to fulfill their role as a volunteer. (Note that quilting and special project volunteers do not have to take the training.) Read more about what volunteers say to the families at the Caring Place.

To become a volunteer in our peer support group session, you must first commit to completing 26 hours of training. Following that, we ask that you commit to at least one group (although it can be more) each year. During group nights, a volunteer is typically needed at the facility from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. for eight to ten meetings (usually every other week). The time commitment for quilters and special project volunteers varies based on the project and the time of year.

Potential volunteers learn more details about volunteering at orientation sessions scheduled at different times during the year. To learn about these sessions and get other questions answered, contact the Volunteer Coordinator at the Caring Place site you're interested in.

The best thing you can do is make the family aware of our program — tell them about it, show them our website, give them one of our brochures…. You can't make the call for them as it will be necessary for us to talk to the children's guardian to begin the process of attending. Read more about helping families.

All programs and services offered through the Highmark Caring Place are available at no cost.

For confidentiality reasons, all group sessions are private.

The best way to help a grieving family is to be there and listen when they need you and allow them to grieve as they need to as opposed to how they "should be grieving." Check out our brochure on helping a friend who is grieving for more tips.

The Highmark Caring Place appreciates the support of many individuals, organizations and businesses that help us provide support to grieving children and families and equip professionals who serve them, all at no cost to the families and those who work with children and families. See how you can make a donation.

The Caring Place is a volunteer-based organization and we are always in need of compassionate individuals who are interested in making a difference in the lives of grieving children. Learn more about volunteering.

You can also connect your school to the Caring Place through the Caring Team for Grieving Children as a way to support grieving children in the school and in your community.

Partnership with Schools

The Caring Place does have a program that can offer support groups in schools. Learn more about the peer support group program for students.

The Caring Team for Grieving Children is set up to help schools provide support to grieving children within the school setting. Learn more about the Caring Team for Grieving Children.

Over 300 schools across Pennsylvania are Caring Team Schools. Check with your School Administration to find out if your school is part of our team. If you are not and would like to become a Caring Team School, learn how to do that.

It's easy to become involved in the Caring Team for Grieving Children. Find out how.

The Caring Place staff is available at no cost to consult on issues such as this and would be happy to talk with you. Contact the Caring Place nearest you. You can also learn more about grieving children in school.

Yes, the Caring Place staff can develop a training specific to your school's needs. Learn about education and training that the Caring Place offers, including popular training topics.

Support for Professionals and for the Community as a Whole

The focus of the Caring Place is the impact of death on children and their families. While we do not typically provide work place-related support, we could be a resource for your employees who have suffered a death or can refer you to another agency in the community that may be able to help you.


The broken heart with the butterfly coming out of it that is the Caring Place logo was drawn by a young participant of our program to describe his grieving process. In essence, it means that while the hole that's in our hearts remains, hope (symbolized by the butterfly) for a less painful time and a new normal can be discovered.

Children's Grief Awareness Day

Children's Grief Awareness Day is observed every year on the third Thursday in November (the Thursday before the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving). Now recognized throughout the nation and across the globe, it was created in 2008 by the Highmark Caring Place. Children's Grief Awareness Day seeks to bring attention to the fact that often support can make all the difference in the life of a grieving child.

The Children's Grief Awareness Day website can provide you with plenty of information about the day and the happenings around it.


Grief is the natural and normal reaction that people have after the loss of someone important. Grief is big, it's messy and there's a lot more to it than we would have guessed. Learn more about grief.

Children do grieve — even the youngest children — but their grief can look very different from the grief of adults. Younger kids can't take the intensity of these feelings all at once, so they touch on their grief and then go back to doing their normal kid activities. But the grief is still there inside. Learn more about the grief of children.

After having listened to thousands of grieving children and adults, it has become clear that the idea of grief fitting into a series of set "stages" just doesn't work. Our reactions to the death of someone important in our lives is much messier than one "stage" leading into another, which we then graduate from at the end. Read more about how our families have described grief.

Because grief is our reaction to the absence of someone very important to us and because that absence continues day after day, there is a sense in which grief doesn't reach a specific endpoint. However, over time, the grief does soften; the pain becomes less intense. Learn more about the possibilities that open up to those in grief and about how the road of grief feels like a spiral, a spiral that can lead to better days.

Expecting our grief to follow a set of "stages" can lead to disappointment and even despair when the inevitable chaos of grief messes up our expectations. We can feel like we're not doing grief "right." There is no "correct" way to do grief. Everyone's own way is the right way for them to grieve — including revisiting some aspects of grief that seemed to be behind us. Read more about the spiral nature of grief.

There is no one set answer to this question, but having the child be part of the decision is generally the best way to go. Children shouldn't be forced to participate, but we've seen that it can be helpful to a child to be able to participate in these rituals at the level they're comfortable with. You can look into this further by downloading our brochure, Saying Goodbye: Preparing a Child for a Funeral or Cremation.

It's very common for many of us to have stronger grief reactions around holidays and other special days, like birthdays, the anniversary of the death, special events, etc. The specialness of the days themselves highlight the absence of the one we love, making it all the harder. We have some ideas about what families might do during some of these special times.