Life books – A Way To Tell the Adoption Story

What is a life book you may ask? It is a pictorial and written representation of the child’s life designed to help the child make sense of his unique background and history. A life book is similar in many ways to a baby book that parents keep for their birth children. It can include the child’s vital statistics; date, time and place of birth as well as the child’s weight and length at birth.  It can include a chronological history of developmental milestones.  It includes pictures of the child and others who play a role in their lives. However a life book goes a step further.  It fills in the blanks for the adopted child just like pieces to a puzzle.  It gives history about the birth family, orphanage, previous foster families, cultural background or country of origin. It explains how the child came to be adopted and how his/her family came to adopt him/her.  This can be conveyed at whatever developmental level the child is at and can be expanded on as they grow and understand more. It is a way to reassure a child who is adopted that he/she is loved and accepted.

Life books are a wonderful narrative tool that parents and children can use to discuss the child’s adoption story starting from when they were born – not just from when they joined a family.  It can include information on the child’s birth parents and family, adoptive family and how they all came together through the adoption journey. A life book is a concrete tool for meaningful conversation.  It is based on facts and is an open and loving biography of the child.  It makes adoption everyday conversation and allows parents a structure for telling their child’s story, both the positive components and the and the difficult components of that story. It allows parents to honor ALL parts of their child’s life  . . . every minute and everyone who has played a role.  A life book works for a child from any adoptive circumstance, including domestic infant adoption, international adoption, kinship adoption and foster to adopt.

By connecting all of the pieces of the puzzle together for the child, he/she can then truly feel that he/she belongs in the adoptive family because it provides the complete picture more clearly.  It can be a wonderful bonding experience between the adoptive parents and the adopted child.  Creating a life book allows the adopted child to bond more fully to his adoptive family.

Submitted by Dede Mogck, Adoption and Foster Care Programs

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