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Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child

by Beth O’Malley; 55 pp. $13.95   Adoption Lifebooks With So Many How-To’s, How Do You Choose?

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Adoptive parents hold in their hearts precious bits of information about the earliest days, months or years of their children’s lives before joining their families. We understand this information to be invaluable to our children, yet often wonder how to organize and share it with them. A child’s life book documents—in a sensitive and developmentally appropriate manner that emphasizes the child’s resilience—all that is known of his or her life before adoptive parents came into the picture. Equipped with this truth, our children are better positioned to claim their beginnings and move forward on their paths to self-understanding.

LifeBooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child focuses on the child’s background and beginnings.  LifeBooks, Beth O’Malley aims to educate parents about the value of documenting what is known of their child’s past. O’Malley, herself an adopted person and state adoption social worker, honors the significance of the child’s birth parents and foster parents and encourages readers to do the same. Her book is likely to be most useful to social workers and adoptive parents of children who were born in this country and who are currently or were once in public care.

O’Malley suggests that a friend might create the lifebook for one’s child. However, parents often find that the process of composing a life book gives them the opportunity to think hard about how to present sensitive information in a telling framework that feels right. Later, when speaking with their children, their words flow more easily.

The stories of our children’s beginnings deserve special treatment in a separate book dedicated to conveying strong, positive messages about their lives before adoption. Therefore, my own belief is that it is best to avoid juxtaposing the child’s beginnings with, for example, names of elementary school teachers or favorite birthday gifts, and thus trivializing sensitive early information.

I encourage parents to share with their children the stories of their beginnings. For more information about lifebooks, contact other adoptive parents, workshops sponsored by parent support groups and some adoption agencies.

By Cindy Probst, an adoption social worker, adoptive mom, and leader of lifebook workshops for the FCC-New England lifebook project.

Copyright © 2001 Adoptive Families magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.

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