Life story book

The objective of life story work is to create a secure base for the looked-after child to explore their past, present and future.
Life story work is an important way of helping a child to integrate their past into the present, in order to help them to move into the future. Social worker and Fosterline advisor, Elaine shares her experience of life story work.

Children and young people who are in foster care are unique individuals with a “life story” unique to them. These children and young people, separated from their family with the experiences of trauma and loss will need “life story work” to help them make sense of their experience and history with a view of gaining a sense of their unique identity.

The principles of the Children Act 1989, the Adoption and Children Act 2002, the Fostering Services Regulations 2011 and the Adoption Agency Regulations 2005 underpin direct work with children and Young People including “life story work”. The objective is to create a secure base for the child to explore their past, present and future and should be undertaken with a sound knowledge of child development and understanding of attachment theory. Life story work is based on a “relationship” and should not be viewed as a task, it is central to the meaning of the child’s journey and the pace, progress and timing of this work must be child led.

Speaking from experience of my time working in a residential unit I was the allocated key worker for a 12 year old girl. She was in the residential unit as so many placements had let her down she was considered to be “difficult to place”. My role was to build a working relationship with her and support her through her journey…………. it was an emotional time.

I will call the child “Faye”, Faye a feisty 12 year old whose mom was in prison and father had been victim of grievous bodily harm rendering him severely brain damaged. Faye idolised her mom, her mom had never been emotionally available for Faye choosing heroine over motherhood and she was unable to protect Faye from harm displaying little affection towards her daughter. Faye nevertheless saw her mom as a victim Faye was exhibiting a trait entrenched deep in her core and that of being the “parentified child”, anxiously attached and displaying compulsive caregiving. Not at all extraordinary with traumatised children, parentification is particularly common in dysfunctional families with toxic parents. This role reversal leaves the child shielding the parent from the emotional consequences of their actions, sadly this was so prevalent in Faye.

Faye engaged with her life story, under her terms and with frenzied emotional displays of anger, hurt, happiness, joy, defiance and sadness. She was honest, insolent, rebellious, rude, funny, vulnerable, and brave but above all she was heroic.

Christmas, a reflective time, its essence, the “story” of a child, and carries a message of “hope”. Christmas a time where we exchange cards and gifts with those whom we care for and who care for us. The card Faye was dealt was “chaos”, rejected, stigmatised yet she grew and became “measured”, her rage and compassion, her love and loathing, her fear and laughter, her pain and joy was all there to see and feel she openly displayed her depth in equal measure. Fifteen years on and an enigma, Faye was a gift to all who knew her. I hope she is OK and I believe the fire in her belly will keep her warm.

If you would like more information about life story work or you would like advice on fostering in general call us on 0800 0407675.

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