An integral part of supporting children and young people in care is developing their individual life stories. This helps to shape their identity, build their sense of belonging, and guide their pathway in life.
For most people, the ability to reflect on their childhood helps develop a sense of self and informs who they are today, particularly around family background and culture. Even just the occasional flick through an old family photo album, looking back at school awards, or sharing childhood memories with the family, can be important experiences.
For many children in care, there may not be a strong connection to their birth family or background, and they may be missing records of notable events and key moments in their life. It falls on the community around them to help support and maintain their unique story.
Family Spirit Carer Support Workers help children create their life stories, by linking children with existing family connections they may have lost and giving children the opportunity to reconnect when it is safe and appropriate to do so.
“Our job is to capture as much of the child’s life story as we can, so they can carry it with them, especially as they grow up and want to share their experiences with their own family.”
For one 11-year-old girl coming into care, a key milestone was reached despite an initial lack of connection to her mother’s side of the family. Through searching, the Family Spirit team managed to re-establish a connection with her grandfather. Although he was based interstate, a gathering of other family members was in the making, and an open invite was extended for the young girl to join the family get-together.
The young girl was excited by the invitation, and with the support of her current carer, a trip was planned to rural Queensland. This allowed her to reconnect with her culture and meet a large group of her extended family members for the first time.
“It was beautiful to see her connect with cousins her age and to see aunties and uncles embrace and connect with her. There were lots of photos taken across the weekend,” said her Care Worker.
For the foster carer, it was a special experience to be able to walk the journey together, learn more about the young girl’s culture and share in her excitement of a first plane trip. Also, the trip helped the carer to forge a deeper connection with the child and develop skills to be able to help support her understanding of her life story.
Following the trip, family connections have been made and regular updates and information are shared across all parties. There are plans for another family catchup down the track.
Life Story training has been undertaken by the PSP Family Spirit team and they work closely in partnership with the carers to help capture this in a way that is unique for each child.
The main way this is done is with a Life Story book, usually maintained by the carer, which highlights various aspects and moments of the child’s life. The Life Story book can be full of different things, from memories that the child may have, to funny stories or pictures, quotes, drawings, awards, school reports and so much more.
“Just because these children are in care, doesn’t mean moments shouldn’t be captured, just like any other child.”
If it is in the best interest of the child, birth families are part of the growing life story and receive updates so that they can share in the joy of the child’s life.
Children and young people play a leading role in developing their own life stories and, following the Charter of the Rights of the Child, their opinions are heard, and each young person is treated as an individual.
“There are some decisions we may have to make, but it’s being transparent with the child about why we feel it’s the best decision for them.”
Individual voices are captured at several points throughout the year. Children have a say in their future goals and things they want to achieve, including interests and life events that are important to them. They also have a say in any updates shared with their birth families.
“A child’s life story is at the forefront of everything, it’s a top priority and so important for a child to have.”
Family Spirit is an NSW foster care and adoption agency that seeks safe and caring homes for vulnerable children and young people across Sydney and regional areas.
To find out more about becoming a carer, or foster care in general, register to attend one of our upcoming foster care information sessions by clicking the link below.