Friday 15 August 2014

Life Story Book

I apologise in advance as the following blog has no whimsical anecdote or profound insight that will ruminate in your soul. It is just a plain old moan.

We seem to have a pants time of it with Life Story Books for Flossy and Lotty. I understand the usefulness of them as a tool for unraveling their journey. Though the big three did not have life story books they had albums of photos and they were a wonderful tool to use to illustrate their story. We kept them safe but where they could access them when they wanted.

Flossy and Lotty's first Life Story Books books were rubbish, and I assure you I am choosing my words carefully. We received them after their protracted and painful journey into adoption and from the outset we realised that we could not use them. The main reason being they had birth mum's address in. You don't need a crystal ball to work out what they would do in a fit of teenage rage 10 years down the line.

We contacted the LA and asked for them to be changed or amended as they were laminated. We were politely told 'no', just 'stick something over the address'. To be honest it was the least of our worries so we tucked them away.*

Turn the clock forward 5 years and with the imminent arrival of Peanut looming and the knowledge that birth mother had moved we felt it would be good to get the books out and see if they would be of use. Time had faded the memory of the other reasons that we weren't impressed. Incorrect names and dates, Disneyesque sentimental twee poems (don't get me started) and when your seven year old can point out spelling and grammar mistakes on each page then you know that things aren't good. We cleared up factual errors and let the girls keep them, shaking our heads in dismay.

Along came Peanut and as the opportunity arose we requested that the Flossy and Lotty be issued with LSBs that matched the one to be issued with Peanut. After showing the rather embarrassing previous attempts the head of service agreed and apologised for the shoddiness and the incompetence previously shown.

We got new Life Story Books, all was as it should be and the girls were pleased and they were stowed away in their rooms. Occasionally, they come out and they have a look.

So, to this week. I arrived home in the late evening gloom after an evening presenting the Skills to Foster course, all emotive stuff. Lotty was waiting for me and asked me to look through her Life Story Book. It was unusually peaceful and after my evening the significance of the Life Story Book was perhaps more focused than usual. I read through the pages, we looked at the photos and the clip art used to illustrate points. I then realised that every piece of clip art (there's a lot) was of a white face, a white mother and baby, a white family and so on. For the observant Lotty does not have a white face, the photo's in the Life Story Book reflect this fact.

I feel a little embarrassed that I'd not noticed sooner and I'll admit that my appreciation of race and identity is a work in progress. For all children identity can be challenging but to ignore such a significant aspect in what are widely hailed as significant tools for adoptive parents is just plain crap. We have never relied on the Life Story Books  to do the work that is our responsibility but it should be a tool available to us, beneficial and informative.

For us this is clearly not meant to be.

While I'm on, I'm still waiting for Later Life Letters from 2008, but I'm not bitter.

* Rest easy in the knowledge that in the intervening 5 years we had done a significant amount of work in relation to life story just not used the book.


  1. Our life story books are not great and incorrect on some things, like birth signs, which I hold little importance in but our son has. There are very generic pictures and bits of writing which you know they've rattled off for other children. And yes, grammatical and spelling mistakes. To join your rant, if such importance is placed on this information for our child/children why on earth can't LA's do a decent job on them. Also feel very annoyed for you still waiting for later life letters. You've got me all flustered. ;-) Thanks for sharing on #WASO

    1. Thanks for your comment.
      I'm sure that SW's are run ragged and though they appreciate the benefits and usefulness that a good life story book have they are hamstrung by time and resources. As for the later life letters, we have pushed but were not holding our much hope, but we did receive fantastic information and a photo album from the excellent foster carer for Peanut. We see her often and value the work she did and her ongoing influence.

  2. Really interesting post. Good for you for seeing the importance of it!

    1. Why thank you and thank you for taking the time to comment.