Many parents keep a baby book for their child, lovingly placing their footprint, their first lost tooth, their first cut lock of hair, and photos inside. But for foster and adopted children, their histories aren't so simple. A life book is more than just a scrapbook
or a photo album -- it's a record of a child's history.
My son is adopted. He has little to no memorabilia from his early years. But, thankfully, from the time he entered foster care at age 5 1/2, his social workers maintained a life book for him. It's a tangible thing that gives him his roots, so he can blossom healthfully in his forever home with me.
A life book is an honest, age-appropriate record of a child's life so far. It doesn't sugarcoat aspects of a child's life that are difficult. Instead, it tackles them head-on and becomes a helpful tool for foster parents, social workers, therapists, and adoptive parents to use when talking to the child about their history. I'll share several tips for creating a life book after the break.
- Stick to the facts. While you need to keep the details age-appropriate, don't romanticize your child's history. Also, don't vilify anyone from his/her past. Keeping the life book unemotional and factual allows your child to feel whatever they are feeling at the time they're viewing the book. You should make a habit of perusing the book with your child and discussing the emotions it brings up.
- Stay chronological. For many foster and adopted children, life is a series of twists and turns. An organized, chronological life book can help them make sense of a scattered history. Adding a time line to the book can also be helpful.
- If your child was adopted internationally, or even from another part of the country, include information about the area of their birth.
- Insert memorabilia as appropriate -- baby footprints, school pictures, drawings, and so forth. If there is a complete lack of early memorabilia you can include a "probably" page. For example make an ink "footprint" from the side of your fist and write "your foot was probably about this size when you were born." Probably pages are just that -- guesses -- and you need to state it as such.
- Keep it up. After your child is home continue to insert important events and phases of life. But keep the life book for the big things -- holidays and other events can go in a regular scrapbook or photo album.
Most importantly, use the life book as a tool to help your child understand and treasure his or her past. The book is also a helpful tool to use in therapy.