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5.3.1 Life Story Work Principles and Procedure


This chapter was updated in December 2013.


  1. Life Story Work Principles and Procedure
  2. Procedures
  3. Early Stages and Reviews
  4. Permanent Moves
  5. Best Practice for the Content of a Life Story Book
  6. Definitions

1. Life Story Work Principles and Procedure

1.1 It is the London Borough of Redbridge’s policy that every child who is ‘Looked after away from Home’ should have life story work undertaken with them that results in all the information being collated in a life story book. The life story book is an account of the child’s life conveyed in words and pictures. It should be developed throughout the child’s time in Local Authority accommodation and should accompany him / her into permanent placement. The book can be used as a tool to help the child understand his / her past, what is happening to his / her family and what it means to be in care.
1.2 Life story books can give a child both a structured and understandable way of talking about himself / herself and a record to which he / she and the adults caring for him / her can refer at any time, especially when there is a change of placement or a crisis. Life story work and a life story books can also be used to increase a child’s sense of self worth.
1.3 A life story book will give the social worker the opportunity to tell the child about things he / she can be proud of and the book should be written in a style that has this principle in mind. From the beginning of the child’s time in care it is the responsibility of the child’s allocated social worker to ensure that life story work is undertaken. When the allocated worker changes then the life story work must be taken up by the new social worker without delay and the life story book or material transferred safely to any new placement where it should be kept safe by the child or the carer depending on the child’s age and understanding.

The basic principles to be followed are that children must be given an explanation that is:

  • Truthful, yet compassionate;
  • Positive and factual;
  • At the child's level of understanding;
  • Removes blame from the child for their separation from their birth family;
  • Agreed and consistently used by those involved in the child's care.

From the beginning, carers and social workers are 'keepers of the child's memory' where children are separated from their birth family. Those who are caring and responsible for the child must:

  • Retain mementos of the child;
  • Collect photographs of the child and any outings / activities;
  • Keep a record of events in the child's life record any funny / touching stories of the child so that the child has stories to tell in the future;
  • Involves the child and where ever possible their birth family.

2. Procedures

2.1 From the first day that the child’s becomes ‘looked after’ it is the responsibility of the child’s allocated social worker to ensure that life story work is stared and continued whilst they have case responsibility for them.
2.2 When the allocated worker changes then the life story book and ongoing work must be transferred to and taken up by the new social worker immediately.
2.3 The allocated social worker remains responsible for undertaking and coordinating the life story work for the child while they are allocated to a case.
2.4 Compiling the book should be seen as a work in progress and should only be considered complete when a child moves to an adoptive placement and the adopters take over recording the child’s life.
2.5 Managers should check the progress of life story work during supervision at regular intervals and ensure that it is up to date at point of transfer.
2.6 Life story work and the collection of information should not be left for more than a six weekly period once it has been started.
2.7 If the child does move from one placement to another the worker can review the life story book with him / her if appropriate. If the child returns home then the book should be given to them or their parents.
2.8 Individual parts of the work in the life story book can be undertaken by the child’s social worker, foster carers, residential link worker, or by the child himself / herself.
2.9 There may be occasions when the child refuses to participate in the work or book this should be respected.
2.10 Foster carers and residential workers should always collect letters, photographs, school certificates; exam results etc. so that they can be included in the life story book.
2.11 Supervising social workers must check at each visit to a foster carer that the carer is collecting material photos etc. to contribute to life story work for any children in their care.

3. Early Stages and Reviews


At the first looked after review, the Independent Reviewing Officer will establish that the allocated worker has without delay undertaken to provide:

  • The child with an appropriate explanation of why they came into care;
  • All those involved in his / her care are giving the same explanation;
  • Memories / photographs etc. are being kept and added to the child's Resource / Memory Box.
3.2 The IRO will check on progress of the life story work at each review.

4. Permanent Moves

4.1 When a child moves to a permanent home the life story book should always be being checked by a manager for completeness and then handed to the child if age appropriate or the carer.
4.2 Social workers must ensure that the life story book’s given to a child moving into an adoption placement or when complete and a child is looked after long term are copied, with one copy remaining in the department / child’s file. At difficult times in children’s lives these books are often destroyed or defaced and should this happen we are able to supply additional copies.

5. Best Practice for the Content of a Life Story Book

5.1 Children like to have information about their own birth, including where they were born how much they weighed, how long they were etc. A baby picture should be included if one is available, and the child’s birth certificate.
5.2 Photographs of the child’s birth parents should be included, and any information the worker has about them. Birth parents should be encouraged to contribute to the book.
5.3 Foster families should document with photo’s and other material, the child’s life in their home, who was living there at the time and what it was like so that the this and other material can be included. The same applies to children in residential units when the residential workers or key worker should undertake this.

Additional information that should be included is as follows but not exhaustive each child will have their own special memories:

  1. Developmental milestones;
  2. Information about injuries, illnesses or hospitalisation;
  3. Favourite activities and toy;
  4. Favourite birthday and Christmas gifts;
  5. A life graph or timeline;
  6. Information regarding birth family;
  7. A family tree;
  8. Pictures of foster family and home;
  9. Special trips the child has been on;
  10. Name of teachers and schools;
  11. School reports;
  12. Special Activities.
5.5 Social workers are recommended to make reference to the CoramBAAF booklet ‘Making Life Story Books’ which gives details on how to start a life story book and the procedure to follow.
5.6 For those children who are aged between four and eleven years and in short term care of at the beginning of a placement, Fostering Network have published a book entitled ‘My book about me’ and its use is recommended.

6. Definitions

Life Story Work

Is collection of information, photos and other memorabilia by professionals and carer about a child’s life of how and why they came into care and their time in care. It includes the direct work undertaken with children in discussing and compiling this information into a book.

Life Story Book

This is a book that contains information photos and other memorabilia about a child’s life prior to and whilst they are in care. It can be an album or folder until the time it is considered complete and then it must be bound into an agreed format.