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Are my friends mentioned in my life story book and memory box?

Life stories and memory boxes

Young People who are in care and in particular those who are about to be adopted are often given a ‘Life Story Book’. It is intended to help them make sense of their situation and understand their past and the events that lead to them being looked after.

There are different approaches to life story work and there are training and resources available to help practitioners conduct this important work.

Life Story Work (3rd Edition 2007) – Ryan and Walker

Life Story Work for People with learning disabilities Helen Hewitt

It is vitally important that life story work and life story books for foster children not only captures young people’s story about their family but also gives them a full picture of their friendships as they grow up.

‘My experience is that children’s friendships are often neglected, not just when they move between placements but also when they are in stable placements. I agree that life story books tend to focus on parents – in my training I encourage participants to include everyone that is important to the child – grandparents, neighbours etc.’
– Polly Baynes, children’s guardian and independent life story work trainer

In consultation with practitioners it became evident that the focus of life story work is often on the young person’s family, understandably, however young people who we consulted placed a lot of importance on the memories of their friendships as they grew up.

In Life Story literature and training, friendship is often missed or overlooked.

Keeping important items in a memory box

Although the responsibility for the life story before a child comes into the care system lies with the local authority, it is the foster care provider’s responsibility to ensure that life story for the duration that a child is part of a foster family is maintained. Social workers who are responsible for life story work report that they are reliant on the foster carer keeping important items and recording significant moments for the child to remember.

These can be kept in different ways, some foster carer’s support young people to keep a memory box so treasured items are kept safe.

Good Practice Example

Foster Care UK (Independent Foster Care Provider) give all their Carer’s a box to decorate and personalise to keep important items and reminders of the child’s time with that family.

They have a leaflet in each box which details the kind of items that could be kept. After discussion with the Friendship for All project they added a specific section about friendship to this leaflet.

See link for some top tips and a checklist for Foster Carers. This can be handed out to foster carers during training, at placement meetings or during supervision to make sure that those important memories are kept.