Today we shared our little girl’s Life Story Book (LSB) with her for the first time….
Before we came to adoption I had never heard of a Life Story Book, so when I first heard it talked about I didn’t really know what it was, or why it is significant in an adopted child’s life. I am adopted myself, but don’t have a life story book, so I wondered what’s changed in the 30years since I was adopted.
So, what is a Life Story Book you might ask? Well, it is exactly that, a ‘life story book’ It is a specially written book that explains to the child in an age and developmental appropriate way about their life, and how/why they came to be adopted. They are meant to be adaptable, so they grow with the child as their understanding and comprehension of their story increases. Information can be added, and facts can be expanded on to provide more detail. The child’s Social Worker (or more often than not a support worker) will put together the book. I think it’s meant to be done by no later than just after the granting of the Adoption Order. Once the child is old and mature enough their parents can share with them their Later Life Letter. This is a detailed letter written to them at the time of adoption by their social worker. It details everything about their journey to adoption. If life story work (with or without the book) is done properly, then the basic facts in that should not be new information.
The quality of Life Story Books varies massively, with some being great, and others really not. Some have inaccurate information, poor quality pictures and are not age or developmentally appropriate. Some children never get their book, even years later.
We were very lucky and have got a really good book. Yes, it does have quite a bit of the standard clip art, but there are lots of photos (that we provided when requested) too. The written information is just about right for our little girl now, and for the next couple of years. The pages are removable, so if we want we can just take some out if we don’t feel it’s helpful. It’s a large photo album type book, with each page really nicely presented on bright colourful paper that appeals to a little girl. We were actually given our book back in the summer, but have held off until now to share with our daughter. When the social worker brought it, our little girl was just about to start nursery so we didn’t feel it would be right to add the book into her life just yet. We have felt that the time was right to share the book in the last few weeks, but wanted to wait until after Christmas to do it. This was a partly selfish decision because we wanted to enjoy Christmas during a time in which we all felt quite settled, and didn’t want to ‘rock the boat’
I have always know I was adopted, and when I was talking about this to our social worker she asked how my parents had helped us to know, understand and accept this. I chatted to my Mum, and she said that it was just something that was talked about from the very beginning. Initially with just the basic facts, but building on them as we got older. She said that by the time we could really understand, we already knew our stories, and nothing was a surprise. I guess this is partly why we didn’t have Life Story Books as they are known now. So, this is how we’ve tried to approach it with our little girl, to slowly drip feed her the information and facts as opportunities have led us to. We’ve had quite a few situations where these conversations have been prompted, such as attending court for our celebration hearing and contact with birth family members and foster carers. We have read a few books about adoption, so we’ve started to introduce that concept. She knows she didn’t grow in my tummy and we have been able to tell her why her Birth Family were unable to look after her. Also why she didn’t stay with her Foster Family who she adores. She knows the social workers looked hard to find Mummy and Daddy, and that she is going to stay with us forever. She loves her intro book, and we still read it regularly. Just recently we’ve talked a bit about what we did with her in intros, which she remembers some of. It all helps to build up a narrative around why she came to us and what her story is.
So, today was the big ‘unveiling’ of the book. I felt quite apprehensive about it because I didn’t know how she was going to take it. I’ve heard some stories of children really struggling with their books, and it causing lots of confusion and upset. It felt like a big step to take, and my girl is so little still really, was it fair to unsettle things when we had worked so hard to settle her? Could I deal with the emotional fall out, life is tiring enough without that extra stress? She wasn’t particularly asking for more information, so did we need to give it now? Lots to consider, but we felt that now was the right time as we wanted her to be familiar with the book. We thought it would be better to give her the information (as appropriate) now whilst she is little so she can take time to absorb and process it, rather than wait until she actively asks and it be too much all at once.
I sat with her on my lap, and together we looked through the book. Her Daddy was also in the room, so could join in any conversations, and could reiterate the important bits. Because she can’t read, I was able to go through and only pick out the bits she already knew. She enjoyed looking through the photos (I’m so glad I spent the time sending so many to the support worker, it was worth it). It prompted conversation about why she couldn’t live with those people again. She was able to really start to understand where she came from. I think the only new information she got today was that we’d met Birth Mum and another relative. We looked at photos in the book that were taken at this meeting just before we met her. She didn’t actually recognise Birth Mum from the photo, but she already knew her name. We talked about how I think she probably got her height and beautiful smile from her. She asked to ‘read’ the book again, and took time to look at the photos again. We sat and looked/chatted for quite a while, and my husband said she had the look on her face of real concentration and processing what she was learning.
She has seemed ok for the rest of the day, happily making some thank-you cards and then engrossed in Peppa Pig. She is feeling a bit unwell, so actually a great opportunity to try to relax and not rush around. I hope this gave her a chance to start to process it all. She may be too young to really realise the significance of it all, but I’m glad we’ve taken that step on our journey together. I’m sure there will be some more wondering and questions, and probably some confusion shown in various ways. I hope that she knows how loved and cherished she is. I hope we can help her to understand that all those people in her book loved her too. I hope she knows she’s our girl forever now and although she has her future with us, we’ll always respect and acknowledge her past as it’s part of who she is and what makes her her.