Lifebooks are not as much work as you might think. In fact, what you normally do as good social work practice, creates a foundation for the lifebook:
• Review the case record. Know the child’s history.
• Talk with the child about events in their life, both past and present.
• Systematically include basic life facts, i.e. where they were born, etc.
Social workers are either putting out fires or “checking in” for the 9th time that year.
Children in care often associate workers with birth family removal or foster home moves. Not much good news comes from the social worker (at least from the child's viewpoint). If you show up unexpected, something really bad must be going on.
Ironically, social workers have the most life history tucked away in giant binders or in their heads. State social workers usually have the least amount of time to spend with a child. Tough combination.
Here are a few practical suggestions to help a kid in care feel “grounded and normal.” Plus it’s a lifebook jumpstart.
Let's focus on the child who has “grown up” in foster care. How old is the child? How long have they lived in foster care? Maybe they entered care at age 2 and are now age 9. Often, in this situation, the foster child has no memory of their birth parents or people who helped take care of them. Also lacking is birth information.
Areas to check out:
Make a page of Basic Life Facts and bring it with you to each visit.
Want to use a checklist I developed? Download for free by clicking here: https://adoptionlifebooks.com/social-worker-info.htm
Seriously. Have prizes; make a ritual of asking the questions every home visit.
We have to directly ask children/teens what they know. Because we can’t assume the paperwork is always correct. If you don't have some of the answers, make it your “social worker homework” to find out.
Don't forget to share the information with foster mother and/or therapist and/or other involved professionals. Maybe one of the grown-ups has a special baby story to tell. After all, we all started by getting born.
P.S. Make sure every child on your caseload knows that everyone in the world, including them, started by getting born.
O'Malley, M.Ed. is a lifebook expert, adoptee, adoptive mom and
professional in the field of adoption. With a Masters in Counseling, she
relies on her instincts and experiences as an adult adoptee and as much
as her professional skills when writing and working on lifebooks.
Approved for training purposes & individual family use, providing the author and contact information is included. Copyright 4/1/2015 Beth O'Malley.