Section 1, Policy and Information was updated in August 2012 to include the requirement that, for children who move to adoptive placements, the life story book should be passed to the adoptive parents at the latest within 10 working days of the adoption ceremony.
This chapter is currently under review. If you require information in the meantime, please contact your Team Manager in the first instance.
- Policy and Information
- Purpose of Life Story Book
- What goes in a Life Story Book
1. Policy and Information
It is the department’s policy that every child who is Looked After should have a life story book. The life story book is an account of the child’s life conveyed in words and pictures. It should be developed throughout the child’s time in Local Authority accommodation and should accompany him/her into permanent placement. The book can be used as a tool to help the child understand his/her past, what is happening to his/her family and what it means to be in care.
Life story books can give a child both a structured and understandable way of talking about himself/herself and a record to which he/she and the adults caring for him/her can refer at any time, especially when there is a crisis. Life story books can also be used to increase a child’s sense of self worth. Many children who are ‘looked after’ blame themselves for the actions of adults.
A life story book will give the social worker the opportunity to tell the child about things he/she can be proud of and the book should be written in this vein. It is the responsibility of the child’s social worker to ensure that life story work is undertaken.
The work in the life story book can be undertaken by the child’s social worker, foster carers, residential link worker, or by the child himself/herself; but the worker should expect the child to regress on occasions and he/she should help the child to work through this. There may be occasions when the child refuses to work on the book and this should be respected. It is not the child’s social worker compiling the book; he/she should help the person undertaking this work.
The life story book should always be handed to the child on moving on from authority accommodation.
For children who move to adoptive placements, the life story book should be passed to the adoptive parents at the latest within 10 working days of the adoption ceremony.
2. Purpose of Life Story Book
The life story book can help to:
- Organise past events in a chronological order;
- Aid in the child’s development;
- Increase the child’s self esteem;
- Recall past events at his/her own pace;
- Share with others his/her past in an orderly fashion;
- Build a sense of trust for the worker who aids in compiling the book;
- Gain acceptance of all facets of the child’s life and help the child accept his/her own past;
- Facilitate bonding;
- De-mystify issues that the child may have misconstrued e.g. blaming self, filling in gaps with fantasy, fearing ‘genetic’ similarity;
- It can also provide a tool for birth parents to give their emotional permission to a child to move to his/her new family by means of a short letter which, accompanied by an explanation form the social worker as to why the birth parents were unable to parent could ‘free’ the child to move on.
3. What goes into a Life Story Book
Children like to have information about their own birth, including how much they weighed, how long they were etc. A baby picture should be included if one is available, and the child’s birth certificate.
Photographs of the child’s birth parents should be included, and any information the worker has about them. Birth parents should be encouraged to contribute to the book. Foster families should document the child’s life in their home so that the material can be included. The same should apply to children in residential units.
Additional information that should be included is as follows:
- Developmental milestones;
- Information about injuries, illnesses or hospitalisation;
- Favourite activities;
- Favourite birthday and Christmas gifts;
- A life graph;
- Information regarding birth family;
- A family tree;
- Pictures of foster family and home;
- Special trips the child has been on;
- Name of teachers and schools;
- School reports;
- Special Activities.
If the child does move from one placement to another the worker can review the life story book with him/her.
This item is not intended to act as a guide to making a life story book and social workers are recommended to make reference to the BAAF booklet ‘Making Life Story Books’ which gives details on how to start a life story book and the procedure to follow.
For those children who are aged between four and eleven years and in short term care of at the beginning of a placement, Fostering Network have published a book entitled ‘My book about me’ and its use is recommended.
Where for whatever reason a full life story book is not prepared with or for young people a folder should be retained by the carers to include important mementoes for the child/young person i.e. letters, photographs, school certificates, exam results etc. All of the se papers, reports etc belong to the child and should be returned to them when the child moves. The do not form part of the case records.