- Family and Parenting
Scrapbooks are Important to Children in Foster Care
I used to be a social worker that worked with children taken out of their homes due to abuse and neglect. The goal was always first to try to return the children home. That did happen in many cases. But there are other cases where the father was unknown, and the mother was drug addicted and could never seem to shake the habit to get her children back. Or the one parent chose to stay with the abusive parent over providing a home for their child. Such sad situations for the children often caused mental health issues. I did the best I could to reassure them they were lovable and that this situation was not their fault. I never felt as though it was enough, but there were tools to help them cope with living in foster care. My favorite tool was called a "Life Book."This was in the 1980s, and the term "Scrap Booking" had not even been invented yet, but a Life Book was a scrap book of the child's life to date.
Before the Scrap Book movement that we have today, encouraged by companies like Creative Memories, the Life Book was a much simpler form of saving memories. It was a regular scrapbook with paper pages with no plastic coverings. Kids could add pictures of their birth families, their schools that they had been to in their lifetime, and pictures of their current foster family, as well as others that they had lived with, if they had had multiple placements, Although sad, a foster child being in multiple placements was often the case, and still is today. Some foster families are great at taking pictures of the child at school functions, with favorite teachers, and family trips or outings that the child went on. If a social worker is on top of his or her game, they ask the birth family for a variety of pictures starting with a baby picture and get pictures of the hospital in which the child was born. Bringing a camera with them to take pictures of places the children had been during supervised visits with parents is also important. Sometimes the foster families just need respite, so if the social worker brings the child on an outing to a park or museum, pictures of that are important as well.
And pictures are not the only items that can be included in a Life Book. Pamphlets from places the child has visited, tickets to shows or movies, special art work the child created while in different grades are also important to add. For many of the children in the foster care system, these items were never kept or got lost in a multitude of moves, so it's not always easy to locate these types of items. But they can be very meaningful to a child who has spent time in foster care.
Although half of the process of creating a Life Book is about saving memories and creating a special place to keep mementos, the other important part is the process of creating the Life Book itself. Whether it takes place in a therapist's office, or with a social worker, it's important to let the child express their feelings about the pictures and the items that are added to the life book. Often, a child doesn't understand why they can't live with Mommy and Daddy, and while the pictures are being pasted into the book, this can be discussed, There will also be feelings of sadness or happiness based on certain pictures, and those emotions can be brought to the surface and discussed as well.
A Life Book that is created with a foster child as a process of looking at their life and creating a special place for memories can be very therapeutic for a child in care. If at all possible, each child in foster care should have help creating a Life Book to keep with them into adulthood to help them process their life experiences and be a reminder of all they have been through, and how far they have come.