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Make a Lifebook for a Child in Foster Care

by Jamie Littlefield
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Foster care can be a scary, disorienting experience. The 399,546 kids in the American foster care system will move between foster homes two or more times after being removed from their parents. A barrage of social workers, foster parents, judges, psychologists, and other officials will come in and out of foster children's lives.

Children in foster care have little stability until they find a permanent home. Because of this, many foster care kids have a hard time establishing a positive sense of identity. They long for a sense of history, a sense of self.

Lifebooks can help foster care kids recognize their individual worth. A lifebook is a scrapbook-like creation that records a child's life, how he entered foster care, his experiences with different families, and his feelings along the way. Lifebooks are unique in that they document the journey, both good and bad. These books record the love shared by their birth families, their foster families, and other people that pass through their lives.

During troubled times, foster care kids should be able to look at their lifebooks and see just how far they've come. Their lifebooks should be a testament to their strength and their ability to overcome whatever challenges life may bring.

You can help a foster care child develop a greater sense of identity by participating in the creation of a lifebook.

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Step 1 – Find a child who could benefit from a lifebook: Call your local foster care agency to ask how you can help. Many foster care agencies have programs that match volunteers and foster care recipients. If not, the agency may still be able to direct you to a foster care family that would appreciate help with a lifebook project.

Step 2 – Meet with the child and her foster family: Find out what the child's interests, needs, and troubles are. This information will help guide the development of the book. Be sure to spend time talking with the foster care child and figuring out what she wants the book to look like.

Step 3 – Gather materials: Once you've determined what the foster care child and his foster family have in mind, it's time to gather supplies. Be sure to keep the child's vision at the forefront of the project. Gather any photos the child would like to include, such as pictures of his birth family, foster family, friends, and anything that she feels is important. Certificates, awards, high-scoring exams, ticket stubs, and other paraphernalia can also be included. For an easy solution, you can download an entire fill-in-the-blanks lifebook at no cost. Family Tree Magazine also offers free downloadable record pages such as an ancestral chart. Adding a few kid-designed pages with supplies from a local scrapbooking or craft store can help make the lifebook feel more personal.

Step 4 - Create the lifebook with the foster child and family: Work together to create a foster care memory book she'll want to keep for the rest of her life. Browsing foster care lifebook page layouts from other families or on the web can help inspire you. Here are a few pages you may want to consider including:

  • The Day I was Born
  • My Birth Family
  • My Foster Family
  • My First Day in Foster Care
  • A History of Where I've Been
  • My Talents
  • Goals and Dreams
  • My Friends
  • School
  • Happy Memories
  • Sad Memories
  • What I Want to Be When I Grow Up

Step 5 – Celebrate: When the book is complete, celebrate with the foster care child and her family. She'll have a memento that lasts forever.

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