At Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI), we are passionate about Lifebooks. We believe a Lifebook is a powerful tool that can help children understand their own stories and put the pieces of their lives together.
We believe so strongly in the power of Lifebooks that we set a goal to get a Lifebook into the hands of every foster child served by LSSI. That's almost 2,000 children! It took us two years, but we met out goal, and we now introduce Lifebooks to all new children entering our foster care program and are continuing our efforts to ensure that all children in our foster care program are working to complete meaningful Lifebooks.
How'd we do it?
Using our Lifebook DVD, "Putting the Pieces Together: Lifebook Work with Children," and our companion staff training curriculum, we trained all of our staff (including caseworkers, supervisors, therapists, resource staff and administrators) in Lifebook work.
We also developed a shorter curriculum just for foster/adoptive parents and provided training for them, too.
Our staff and foster parents were instrumental in getting Lifebooks to all of our foster children because they embraced the idea that every child deserves a Lifebook.
As a statewide agency with more than 10 program sites and approximately 2,000 children in foster care, we knew our foster care staff couldn't do it alone. We hired five Lifebook specialists to champion Lifebook work across all of our offices.
The Lifebook specialists were responsible for conducting training, as well as doing whatever they could to help caseworkers get Lifebooks into the hands of kids.
They delivered Lifebooks to kids, introduced them to foster parents, developed Lifebook groups and handled "targeted cases" where they did the primary Lifebook work with the children themselves.
They also handled small, but important, details for the caseworkers (like looking up placement histories, taking pictures of children’s previous homes, contacting former caregivers to write letters for kids, etc.). You name it – they did it so that these children could include these essential elements in their Lifebooks.
"My Awesome Life" -- LSSI's Lifebook
Based on our experience with Lifebooks, we decided to develop our own Lifebook that would build on everything we had learned over two years of doing Lifebooks with so many children. The result is "My Awesome Life," LSSI's Lifebook.
We love our Lifebook because it has lots of places for children to answer open-ended questions, with some fill-in-the-blank pages, too. We also developed sections for kids who were returning home and those who were being adopted.
We also developed the first two sections ("About Me" and "My Family") to be used by any child, along with three more sections geared specifically for children in foster care and/or adoption ("Where I've Been...Where I'm Going," "Going Home," and "Getting Adopted").
We relied on our Lifebook specialists to tell us what would work and what wouldn't, and we field tested pages with kids in our programs. We think the result is pretty great.
Christopher Family Foundation
This project made possible through the generous support of The Christopher Family Foundation. We are grateful for their faithfulness and commitment to the children that we serve in Illinois and now through Lifebook, nationwide.