A life book can be a great healing tool for a foster or adopted child. Some children move so often due to the foster care system or failed adoptions, that much of their life story is lost. A life book tells the story of a child's life, from birth through each foster or adoptive placement. It tells the truth. It is their reality. When completing a life book for a child, consider the following points.
Life Book Ideas for a Foster or Adopted Child
- Allow the child to help with the life book. This is their life book. Allow the child's input in special memories, selection of pictures, clip art and colors.
- Add a page that explains that it's not the child's fault that they were placed in foster care or put up for adoption. Explain why the child was in foster care or placed for adoption, if known. If not known, a simple statement like, "There are a lot of reasons why some children go into foster care. All the reasons have to do with the parents, not the kids." Example provided from Beth O'Malley's work.
- Be sure not to include so much detail that it becomes cluttered and overwhelming to the child, both in physical size of the book and detail of the information. Many children like to carry around their lifebooks. Make sure the language is age appropriate as well.
- Add pictures of the child's birth family, if possible, as well as past foster parents and other important people. Be sure to identify who everyone is in the photos. You may think that the child will never forget, but as they grow, they just might. So, label those pictures.
- Include good things about the child's past. Look for the positives, even if you think there are few. I included a picture of my son's birth mother's graduation. This was something I could point to as a positive about her -- she graduated from high school.
- With the good, it's also important to include the "bad" as well. There are ways to discuss important information about a child's life, in a way that’s not scary or judgmental. Look for hints in Beth O'Malley's books on how to address drug abuse, neglect and other issues that some families face.
- Include a one-page letter to the child from one of the child's most important people. This may be a birth family member, a foster parent, or an adoptive parent.
- A page of medical history is very important to the child's future. You might need help from the social worker who worked with the case to gain this information. Or for those in a fostering situation, if you have a relationship with the birth family, ask them if they could provide some family medical history.
- Family history is another important item to try to include in a life book. Again, get information from social workers or from birth family during foster care visitation, when possible and appropriate. I've visited with grandparents while children were in visitation with parents. I learned about their military service and different family members. I later jotted this information down and added it to their life books.
- Add several pages where a child can fill in the blank with their own thoughts and ideas or lists with check boxes where a child can simply check off what they think. For example, "Some of my best times at home" or "Some things I miss" are great ways to get a child to start exploring feelings.