Here’s a post I promised a couple of months ago about what are called Life Story Books.
Somewhere along the line ‘the powers that be’ found rather than concealing a child had been adopted, treating it as a taboo subject, as if it were something to be ashamed of, that if someone knows where they came from and why they are better able to become well-rounded individuals. One of the things which social services are now obligated to do to help with this is to provide every adopted child a Life Story Book.
So what are they? They are a ‘book’ usually created by one of the social workers involved in the adopted children’s case. Essentially it contains a child friendly version of the child’s history up to and including the point where their new adoptive parents become their legal family.
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Apparently that’s not always the case: http://www.theguardian.com/social-care-network/2015/jul/31/life-story-books-adopted-children-past
Getting the language right in the books can be quite difficult. They can contain some concepts that could be quite difficult for a young child to grasp. The correct balance of truth and age-appropriateness is sometimes difficult to achieve and failing to do so can result in children building a fairy tale in their mind about what their life would have been like if they had stayed with their birth families. If their histories aren’t explained to them properly this can lead to resentment of their family and further anguish along the line.
Essentially everyone has a right to know where they came from. I know if I left one family and was brought up by another I would want to know as much detail as possible about why, or at least have the option to find out.
Not all children want to know, sometimes hearing their story once is enough, but sometimes they need the reassurance of why they are where they are. That is where the Life Story Book is meant to help fill in some of the holes in their story. It’s there for reference and for rereading.
We will be spending time with our children when they are a bit older to help them understand where they come from. This is what social services refer to as ‘Life Story Work’. For a child that was adopted at an older age it is often appropriate for social services to do this work instead of their parents, this is because it is sometimes easier to hear difficult information from a neutral party than from someone who is very close to you.
There is another element to the Life Story Work called a ‘Later Life Letter’. Also written by social services, this is for a much older and mature individual and contains the full story of why they came to be where they are. It is aimed at an adopted child once they are old enough to fully understand what can be very difficult things about their life and their birth family’s life before they were adopted.