For many New Jersey districts, school starts this week. Don’t forget to take a first day of school photo! This is especially important for foster children. Make sure to put a copy of their photo in their life book. A life book is created for children to tell their story. The start to a new school year is always an important milestone in a child’s life.
What is a life book?
A life book is a collection of answers to every child’s questions: Who am I? What is my journey? Who are the important people in my life? A foster child can be involved with the child welfare system between a few days to years, so a life book is especially important for those who are in the system. A life book (also known as a life story book) can be a scrapbook, a three-ring binder, a photo album, etc. It contains all the important moments in a child’s life. It is a place where they can find memories of their past, present, and future. It’s a place to store photos, events, memories, thoughts, and feelings important to them. A life book is like a journal, but it is much more than that because it contains much more than that. Some ideas of what to include in a life book are:
- Photos of the child.
- Photos of people they love and who care about them: a favorite teacher, parent, grandparent, resource parent, cousins, friends, Girl Scout troop leaders, karate instructor, coaches, CASA, mentors, YAP workers, Big Brother Big Sister mentors, camp counselors, pets.
- Photos of the child’s milestones: birthdays, developmental milestones, first day of school photos, school pictures, dance photos, band and orchestra concerts, school plays, soccer games, softball and baseball games, swim lessons, youth group.
- Tokens of places visited such as tickets, souvenirs and photos: Philadelphia Zoo, Turtle Back Zoo, Cape May Zoo, Great Adventure, Harry Potter Exhibit, Legoland, a Broadway show, Grounds for Sculpture, Adventure Aquarium, Liberty Science Center, Diggerland, Statute of Liberty, vacations.
- If there is something in particular that you want them to remember and cherish, like a favorite moment or special memory or small art project, then put it in the life book.
- If there’s something that might be relevant later on to reflect back on when they are older such as certificates, awards, teachers and school names, and report cards.
What is the importance of a life book?
The benefits of recording memories in a life book are:
- It is an opportunity to reflect on one’s own experiences and share them with others.
- It can help a child look back on their past with fresh eyes.
- It can provide comfort in times of stress or grief.
- It can detail the journey of a child’s life including resource or kinship placement history.
- It can celebrate accomplishments and empower a child as they grow.
What should you do with a foster child’s life book?
- Keep it somewhere safe.
- Look through it from time to time with the youth. Ask them if there is something special they want to include in their book.
- Make sure if you are a resource parent and a child is moving from your home to pass it along to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly DYFS) caseworker or CASA volunteer. When doing so, make sure to emphasize how important it is so the Life Book does not get lost.
- Consider making a copy to give directly to the child.
- Let the Law Guardian and therapist know who you gave the life book to in case it cannot be located in the future.
Be creative and have fun putting a child’s life book together!