The Importance Of Memory Books For Kids In Foster Care

I have a TERRIBLE memory. I don’t remember much of my childhood. The memories I do hold are the ones my mom snapped a picture of and printed for our family’s photo album. Still, I am not sure if I ACTUALLY remember the moment or just the image ingrained in my mind from the photograph. Either way, I am fortunate to have some visualization of my life as a child, my foundation.

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Me laughing on the rocking chair, surrounded by girl cousins and brothers. 

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Me on the far RIGHT with pigtails, with my best friend and cousin, Maddie, and my little brother, Justin. (“John Henry” was the name of the cow lol)

 

Personal and family photos contribute to your sense of belonging and connection to SELF and personal identity. Many memories do fade with time and most of us do not remember anything before age 3. But, through pictures and videos, memories are solidified and strengthened and we can more readily recall places we have been, things we have done, people who have invested in us over the years, and more.

For kids in foster care, childhood memories can be very challenging. Kids who have experienced abuse or trauma may repress or block out periods of their lives. A sort of protective amnesia. They often have been told bits and pieces of their story but may be left with more questions than answers.  They may lack an understanding of their foundation and feel a detached sense of self.

School projects that request a baby photo be brought in to share or a family tree be filled out can lead to feelings of embarrassment or isolation.

Being in foster care is hard enough, these kids deserve to have caregivers who take time to carefully document their journey for them, highlighting the moments of JOY, LAUGHTER, LOVE, and TOGETHERNESS. This way, when they look back, they can see that people cared for them, loved them, sacrificed for them, prayed for them, and were BLESSED by them.

This is why I have lost sleep to scrapbooking lately. Luckily I love to scrapbook and it is very therapeutic for me, but I have stayed up until midnight and 1am working on Life Books the last couple weeks. I joke that our foster kiddos scrapbooks far trump our bio kids… but it is true.  I feel responsible for the formation of their childhood memories right now… if I don’t do it, who will?

So I snap hundreds (may be pushing thousands) of pictures and print the keepers. Photos of being discharged from the hospital at 2 days old, of that first time riding home in a car seat, first bottle at home, first bath, first pet, first loves. Photos of a (foster) mom and dad who love them unconditionally. Of a big brother and big sister who adore them (most of the time lol). Photos of learning to walk, to ride a Plasma Car, first holidays, Snow Days, etc.

[I wish I could share these sweet photos but it is part of my job as a foster parent to protect these kids and let them share their own stories some day if they chose to do so.]

Our “smart” phones these days make it easy to not miss the BIG moments (Except for when “Precious” rolled back to front for the first time and I MISSED it!). Walgreen’s photo app makes it simple to click and print and pick up 2 hours later.

Then it is time to put them all in order and scrapbook. A tip, for any parent really (but especially foster parents), is to use a large 3 ring binder and sheet protectors. That way if you accidentally skip something or want to add anything in later (or take it out), it is easy to rearrange without having to tear pages or somehow add one in. Also, it makes it easy for anyone to continue the book should they move to a new home and to make it more than just a baby book (it can be continued as a Life Book for years to come). Typical baby books don’t work anyways because they contain pages for things like “Mommy’s Pregnant!” or “My Baby Shower” or “My Family Tree”… pages that sadly are difficult to complete.

It does not have to be anything fancy, you can do as much or as little decorating as you like. The most important thing is that each child has something to show them they were (and are) loved and cherished. Something that can make them feel connected to their past.

Our foster son’s book starts at 10 months. It breaks my heart because I am not sure photos exist of him before that point in his life. BUT he will forever (I hope) have this binder now to remind him how adorable he is, how loved he is, and how blessed he made us by having him in our world.  

We were fortunate to be able to take baby “Precious” home straight from the hospital so her book begins there, day 2 of life. But wherever the journey begins, whenever a child’s path crosses yours, it is a beautiful opportunity to MAKE LASTING MEMORIES.

As Fi Newood said, “We do not need to know the beginning of a child’s story to change the ending”.

Have A Great First Week of MARCH!

Angela

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