My life, in a book
Posted on: 18 October 2017
If there was ever a book that speaks to a child so clearly; that prompts conversation and that encourages emotion; and that’s rarely left on the shelf to gather dust, it’s my life story.
My Life Story. It’s a book whose story tells my life, in a way that I’ll understand bits of now and more of in future chapters. It’s a story about me. Who I am, where I’ve lived, where I’ve come from and who’s looked after me. In time it’ll give me assurance that while I may not have had the straight forward start that many children have, I’ve been surrounded by people who care about me. But right now it’s pictures, photographs, colours, memories that chronicle me. And it makes my life a little bit clearer to me, and makes moving to my forever family a little bit easier.
This week is National Adoption Week, and Devon County Council is raising awareness of it.
A few years ago, the Council’s Devon Adoption was applauded nationally for its work with children to support any insecurities that arise during the transition between foster care to adoptive home. It’s good work that’s continuing apace in Devon with success. It’s work that recognises that children in the adoptive system have suffered separation, loss and trauma.
Devon Adoption, now part of the wider Adopt South West partnership, endorse the development of Life Story books as an essential part in helping children understand what has happened to them, where they have lived, who has cared for them and why they are where they are.
The books evolve and grow with time, segmenting the child’s life story into digestible chunks. Children are encouraged to pick them up from time to time, to remember, to chat about them, to draw on them, to twist them and get cross about them perhaps …if that’s what they want.
Sometimes they’re written in the third person; the child represented by an animal, a fox or a penguin, telling the child’s story through the animal’s eyes. It can sometimes help a child to see things more clearly if they’re slightly removed from it.
“Moving to a new home can be overwhelming. Children may have moved a number of times, perhaps living with multiple foster families after leaving their birth parents. And it can be difficult to not be anxious about that journey.
“Life Story books can be part of the process that helps a child move on. The simple act of putting it all down on paper, in a way that’s easy to understand, and that opens up opportunities to talk. It’s therapeutic. And the response we hear from adopters is that Life Story books help that transition to forever families.”
Naomi, from Devon, has cared for two young boys for about a year and the family are currently moving through the legal process to adoption.
“Life Story books are an absolutely fundamental part of the process,” says Naomi.
“They show the journey that the boys are on, and explains the context around where they’ve been, where they are now in their lives and where there’ll be in future.
“And like a book, I think life can be seen in chapters, and right now our story is about where we all are in the adoption process.
“The boys have memory boxes – cards, pictures, things of significance – and their life story books are part of that. But more than a memory, the books are tangible, and they look at them and we talk about what’s in them, at their pace.
“Without doubt the boys value their life story books. For them they’re context that helps them understand. For us all, they’re conversation starters that help build our relationship.”
This week, Adopt South West is asking people to consider becoming adopters. Specifically, adopters of siblings are needed more than ever – siblings often waiting longer to be adopted than children on their own.
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