A life book is a very important tool to a foster or adopted child. It holds their life story, a story that sometimes gets lost when a child moves from placement to placement. Some foster care agencies require that foster homes create a life book for each of their foster children. While it seems like a huge job to pull together a child’s whole story, here are steps to take to get started creating a life book.
Start with the beginning of the child’s story. Whether that’s the child’s birthday or the season of their birth it’s a great place to begin any story - at the beginning. Want a different opener for your child’s life book? Here are seven different ideas:
Know that there is never a wrong age to start a life book for your child. This holds true whether a child is a newborn or a teenager. The most important thing is to start a life book. The next most important thing is to be sure that the life book goes with the child when he moves to a new placement.
Make a list of all the important people in a child’s life. This list may include birth family members, siblings, foster parents, past and present; social workers, therapists, teachers, neighbors, and friends. Use this list as a way to direct how to best find information. Birth mom or a grandma may know a special fact about the child’s baby years or have pictures that they could copy for the child’s book. Ask one of the important people to write a letter to the child to include in the book. These people may also have access to old pictures of your child, certificates, or special memories they could share.
Don’t forget to ask the birth family to draw out a family tree. Don’t be surprised if they don’t have the most basic of names and dates. Any information can help if you or your child is truly interested in diving into their family history.
Take pictures of the child’s important people, places, and pets. Don’t forget about past schools, churches, or favorite restaurants.
Write down funny things your child says or does. I know I enjoyed writing down all of the funny conversations I had with my daughter. Don’t forget to do the same thing for your foster children. As a foster parent, you are the holder of your foster child’s childhood and the one documenting special moments and memories. So, remember to document!
Allow older children room to write in their own books or to scrapbook special pages. Utilize these journal questions as a way to spark different ideas for pages. Ask the child if she has any special event or moment that she wants to scrapbook herself. Make a folder to hold the pictures and scrapbook paper for her to scrapbook when the mood strikes. She may wish to do some of these pages on her own and away from distractions.
Don’t forget to add the moments that are sometimes hard, like the date the child entered foster care or moved into your foster home. This is also a part of their story and important information to include. There are some things that are best left out of the child’s life book, like pictures of the child’s abuser. .
Add in pictures of past placements including foster homes or group homes. Try to find pictures of past foster parents, their homes, and give the child room to write about what it was like to live in their home and family.
Look through the life books that other foster and adoptive families have created for their children to gain more ideas. Some foster care agencies have templates that are easy to follow. There are also resources such as these books by Beth O’Malley: