What is Life Story Work in Childcare?
Life story work has been developed to help children who experience foster care create a story for themselves. The creation of a life story is beneficial for emotional intelligence and for building a strong identity in children who have been separated from their parents. It bridges a gap between their birth and subsequent carers. By using the Space directory, Tara found Goodstart Pacific Pines was a perfect fit of her foster child Alana. As part of the enrolment, Tara discussed the life story work Alana’s case worker and Tara had prepared for her.
Life Story work in early learning centres
The Life Story work culminated in a Life Story Book. Alana’s Life Story Book included information such as where she was born, her birth weight, and other birth details. This basic knowledge is important for the identity of care experienced children as they move from home to home. At Goodstart Early Learning Pacific Pines, educators take care to make themselves familiar with children’s life story before introducing activities that may make them feel vulnerable or disconnected.
When creating Alana’s Life Story Book, Tara and her case worker created a family tree which gave her a sense of identity and connection to the past. This included information about her birth parents and their vulnerabilities to help her understand why she was unable to stay with her birth family. This information provides children with concrete information that allows them to build their own strong identity based on real knowledge about the circumstances of their young lives. Having a sense of belonging is a strong element of emotional intelligence and a foundation for creating resilience and well-being in children which in turn contributes to the ability to learn and develop appropriately.
Filling in the Gaps
Alana’s Life Story Book also included the other care homes Alana had been placed in, ensuring that there were no unexplained gaps in her life as she got older and began to ask questions about memories she may have or experiences she couldn’t explain. When children are separated from their parents and are moved from family to family, there is no repository for their childhood experiences or memories. Children usually hear about their life’s journey and stories about themselves from their parents but if they are moved from their parents, this leaves a gap in their knowledge about themselves. The Life Story book attempts to close this gap by providing the children with a clear picture of their childhood.
A story for life
The Life Story book can travel with the child and continue to be filled in as the child progresses. This ensures that even if the child changes case worker or foster family, they still have the knowledge of each home and circumstance of their life. This record of themselves in words, pictures and photos has shown to greatly assist children who experience life in care situations develop a sense of self and security they may otherwise be without.