A lifebook brings together a child’s past, present and future. It’s essentially a scrapbook that celebrates a child’s life − including their birth family, milestones and accomplishments − through photos, drawings, journal entries and other mementos. Lifebooks can include just about anything to help children work through difficult and traumatic events.
Foster parents can work with children on their lifebooks as a bonding activity, to open the door for honest discussions about the difficult circumstances of their lives. Lifebooks also can help children feel a connection with their birth families and understand where they came from. If they can understand the reasons for the moves they’ve made, they’ll be better able to process future transitions, whether that means a return to their birth family or permanency with an adoptive family.
Questions Lifebooks Can Help Answer
- Where is my family? Will I see them again?
- Why am I in foster care? Why am I in this home?
- Where is my stuff? Where is my pet?
- What did I look like as a baby? Who in my family do I look like?
Benefits of Lifebooks
- Help form a bond between the child and the foster or adoptive parent
- Give children a clearer sense of their life story
- Help children understand their life events
- Provide an outlet for children to share their stories with others
- Increase children’s self-esteem by documenting their growth and achievements
Information in a Lifebook
- Birth information: birth certificate, weight/height, hospital information
- Birth family information: pictures, names, birthdates, occupational/educational information
- Placement information: photos and information about former foster families and past social workers
- Medical information: health care providers, immunization records, other medical records
- School information: previous schools and report cards, photos of friends and teachers
- Religious information: places of worship and religious records (such as for baptisms or confirmations)
- Stories: from the birth family, siblings, the child or even past foster families
- Preferences: special skills, likes, dislikes
A lifebook can be started at any age. If a child comes to your home without one, it’s the perfect activity to help make them feel at home.
Additional Information and Sample Lifebooks
- IFAPA Lifebook Pages from the Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association
- Making History: A Social Worker’s Guide to Lifebooks, by Joann Harrison, Elaine Campbell and Penny Chumbley
- What Is a Lifebook? from the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange