What is a Lifebook? How to Create a Lifebook for a Child
Lifebook for Children leaving Foster care
Give children who have adopted the history of their life in one book.
Lifebooks are created to assist a child in telling their story for children in foster care who are in the final process of being adopted. It is a tool used in foster care and adoption as It helps the child develop a visual confirmation of their existence. It is an opportunity for communication that helps to facilitate trust, connection, and attachment.
These young people as they complete the adoption process and leave the foster care system to be with their new families. Whatever the reason the child came into foster care, emotional abuse, or physical abuse, a child needs to understand the early years of their life as they will have questions in time. In social work, we know that however disturbing the child abuse and neglect were, social services' role in the child's life is essential in an open adoption.
It is also an opportunity for a child to express grief and loss and to reduce magical thinking. In my work with children, I have found that they tend to make one up if they do not know their stories. When a child makes up a story, it is usually not the truth.
The creation of a Lifebook is therapeutic. It encourages a child to understand their chronological story and address their grief and loss, separation from family, unique cultural issues, and emotions. Some children's trauma is so severe that Lifebook work should be unfolded in a therapeutic setting whereby the therapist can monitor a child's feelings and tread lightly into the process.
Lifebooks should answer questions such as:
Who am I?
How and why did I get separated from my birth family?
What is my next step? Will I ever belong?
When will I know that I belong?
In answering these questions, it is essential that the child is engaged in the process and told the truth in a non-judgmental way.
Patience is needed in this process as a child may exhibit discomfort and resistance. It is also essential to recognize the pain in this process and help the child manage and understand it.
In creating a Lifebook, I feel it is essential to provide a historical view of the child's life as they identify their past, present, and future and the connections between them. Be honest about past caregivers' good and bad and help the child address and resolve strong emotions relating to recent life events.
It is a space for the child to hear and express messages about their birth, foster, and adoptive families. Also, it can help assist the child's caregivers in how they view themselves and their situation. It is also essential to help the child understand the court and the legal process that affect their lives.
Lifebooks are created to assist a child tell their story before and after adoption. It chronicles the child's journey to their adoptive home and beyond.
Lifebooks are child-focused, information-based, and private. They are not photo albums, a scrapbook, or open for show and tell. It is a dependable source of information and a way to keep them active in their story.
The first step in building a Lifebook is to gather information. There has been a parade of people in an adopted child's life. Birth parents, social workers, GAL, CASA, relatives, former foster parents, case files, and most importantly, the child, every adult has made an impact and has a unique view of their adoption journey. It's worth sharing with the child in this Lifebook.
As a parent, you may want to start creating this Lifebook before the adoption, using photos and information about your family. Remember to keep the narrative at a developmentally appropriate level for your child, knowing that it can be changed or added to as the child grows older. You may include information about past foster parents and families or caregivers. It also has information about the child's birth parents.
You can write about their love for the child. Perhaps they can write a letter or give information about the child's biological family should they want to research their ancestry later. Include birth records. This information is in the child's DSS file; if it isn't, ask for it. It is always better to obtain primary sources of information than secondary sources.
Post-placement documentation may look very similar to a baby book, whereby you may document the excitement of when the child arrived at your home, who visited in those first days, any gifts that were received, etc. Depending on the child's age, developmental milestones will be documented in this section. Information about the child's likes and dislikes, etc., which can be found on the Full Disclosure, would also go in the section. Print off the best pictures that are taken!
There are many styles of Lifebooks. You can go online and download templates. Always make a copy of the book and keep that copy safe. I have known children who have become angered or distressed and have destroyed their Lifebook, later regretting it.
When creating this book with your child, explain its purpose in your role as an adult. Patience on your part is vital as you may have to deal with discomfort, resistance, or confusion. You are in the advocate role as the one who seeks information from all stated resources.
You will guide the child in telling their story and provide structure to this process. You are the presenter of truth in a non-judgmental and age-appropriate manner and the person who can recognize the pain in this process and help your child manage it.
As a Foster parent or an Adoptive parent contributing to a child's Lifebook is essential; as a foster parent, you may only be a stepping stone in a child's life. As an adoptive parent, you are the rock they built their life from. These children need to know what makes them who they are; roots are essential to all humanity.
Please do your part, take photos, and document milestones a biological parent would have done for their child. As an Adoptive parent who struggled with the journey to adopt your child, why not create a Lifebook for reflection when they can appreciate their journey to join their new family? Good luck, and enjoy creating your little bit of history for a child.
Note: Some children who have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma may resist creating their Lifebook. Sometimes, it is better for a child's past to be processed in a therapeutic setting. If that is the case, do not include any information about abuse or other traumatizing events from their past, including their biological parents. Please focus on the day they arrived in your home and their lives moving forward.
The original inspiration for this blog can be found here.