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5.1.9 Life Story Work


This chapter was reviewed and amended in August 2014 to emphasise the importance of life story work and that it should be undertaken for any permanent placement that does not include a return to the child’s parents.


  1. Policy
  2. Guidance

1. Policy

The importance of life story work cannot be emphasised too much. It will provide the child with the explanation and narrative pathway that will avoid the need for the child to either search for information or reasoning or to feel the need to fill in gaps with half remembered or inaccurate information. Thought should always be given to who holds the information with additional copies available and particularly as an electronic record should the original be lost or destroyed.

Every looked after child who has a permanency plan aside from a return to residing with their birth parents must have a life story book. This work should be an integral part of social work practice with all looked after children and should commence at the point the child is looked after.

The life-story book should be developed throughout the period that the child is looked after.

It is the responsibility of the child's social worker to ensure that work on the life-story book is undertaken and the book is maintained. However it may be appropriate for this work to be carried out or contributions to be made by the child's foster carer, staff in children's homes, others involved with the child and the child him or herself. In appropriate cases, the book may also include contributions from the child's family.

The Life-story book must be completed prior to a child being adopted or made subject of a Special Guardianship Order and likewise when a permanent foster placement link is approved. The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) should monitor the progress of the life story work and timescales for completion at each statutory review.

2. Guidance

The life-story book is an account of the child's life in words, pictures and photographs and is a tool to help a looked after child to understand his or her past. It provides a record to which the child and the adults caring for the child can refer at any time.

It provides an opportunity for the child to know about things to be proud of and the book should be compiled in this vein.

It may be appropriate to give parents, grandparents or other members of the wider family the opportunity to contribute to the book, for example by writing a letter or card to be kept in the book, for example if parents wish to try and explain why they were not able to be part of the child's life.

The life-story book can help to:

  1. Organise past events in chronological order;
  2. Aid the child's development;
  3. Increase the child's self-esteem;
  4. Recall past events at the child's pace;
  5. Enable the child to share with others his or her past;
  6. Build a sense of trust between the child and the worker who aids in compiling the book;
  7. Enable the child to gain acceptance of all facets of his or her life and understand the past;
  8. Facilitate bonding.

Information to be included in the book can be:

  1. Information about the child's birth including the birth weight and height, a photograph if possible and the birth certificate;
  2. Photographs of the child's parents and any information about them including a family tree;
  3. Information about the child's life in foster care or residential care including photographs of the foster family and foster home or the children's home and staff;
  4. Developmental mile-stones;
  5. Information about injuries, illnesses and admissions to hospital;
  6. Favourite activities;
  7. Favourite birthday and Christmas gifts;
  8. Special trips the child has been on;
  9. A life graph;
  10. School reports and names of teachers and schools;
  11. Exam results and certificates;
  12. School photos;
  13. Information about previous placements and significant people with photographs if possible;
  14. Small mementos connecting the child with his or her more distant past, such as the first tooth lost, a lock of baby hair or the 'bracelet' from the hospital where they were born.

As much of the child's life story work as possible should be copied into the child's electronic record and agreed within the statutory review who will retain the hard copy. When the child returns home or moves to independent accommodation or to a permanent family placement, the life-story book should go with the child and be handed to the child or his or her parent (where the child returns home) or the child's new carers. Again it should be recorded who has the hard copy.