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Parenting Tips: Lifebooks

Lifebooksa ministry of America World Adoption
“….a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12


My children ask me almost weekly to look at their baby books. They love to flip through and read the story of how they were born and “Oooo” and “Awww” over how cute they were as babies. Their books have become treasures to them, and remind them of how loved they are as a part of our family.

Our adopted children need this same treasure, to ground them in our family story and remind them of who they are. In the adoption community, these books are called “Lifebooks.” A Lifebook is an album or binder that tells the story of where your child was born and how they became a part of your family. Just like a baby book documents a baby’s first year of life, including pictures, growth, milestones, and significant moments, a Lifebook documents your adopted child’s life before they were adopted.
Besides the obvious value of documenting your child’s life for him/her, a huge value of a Lifebook for an adopted child is that it invites the child to look through their history often and ask questions as they grow and develop. What may seem like a small detail of their story as a toddler could raise important insights and discussions for your child as a teenager and a Lifebook creates these opportunities.

There are a few key guidelines to keep in mind when creating a Lifebook. First, the Lifebook is not about you or your family before your child was adopted. It is not a place to store your journal entries throughout the adoption process or document your feelings about the adoption journey. The Lifebook is completely child-centered, meaning that it should tell the child’s story from the child’s perspective, from his/her birth to his/her adoption.

The Lifebook should be truthful and factual. For many of our children, the details of their family history and life before they entered foster care or an orphanage is unclear or unknown. It might be tempting to fill in their story with details that we might wish to be true, but it is important to only include information that you know to be true and factual. If there is no information about your child’s birth parents or information that might make you uncomfortable, it is still important that you include it in your child’s Lifebook at an appropriate developmental level.

The Lifebook should also be comprehensive. It should include every memory that you can gather from your child’s life before you met him/her. You can gather this information from the referral information, and also from your visit to your child’s home country. Pay attention to details that you see and learn as you interact with your child, his/her friends, and his/her caregivers. Take pictures of rooms and people and food. If you have a translator available or know your child’s first language, speak with caregivers about your child’s schedule and personality. As you learn about your child’s birth country, include key historical events and dates, pictures of flags and monuments, and customs and food that are unique to that country. This information will not only be helpful for you as you begin to parent your child, it will also build a full Lifebook.

There are a lot of resources available to help build a Lifebook that will be really special for your child. Most formats are either a 3-ringed binder with sheet protectors, or a book created online (i.e. Shutterfly). Both of these are great options because they allow the child to look through the book often without fear of it being permanently damaged (they can be easily saved and replaced). Below are additional resources if you are interested in learning more about making a Lifebook for your child.


Salsa In China – example of an adoptive mom who used a binder; she explains how she made each page.

Adoption Lifebooks – Beth O’Malley, author of Lifebook: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child, offers a training course and other resources for parents.

No Hands But Ours – a blog from an adoptive mom who made a photo book; she explains the importance of the Lifebook for her daughters and explains how she made each page.

Adoptive Families – 5 adoption experts answer questions about how to create a Lifebook.

Catch My Story – a web-based program used to write your life story or any story and memories you want to preserve, add photos and have it printed in an 8 1/2 x 11 hardbound keepsake book. To receive a 33% discount on the software, enter AWAA in the coupon box at checkout.


Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child, by Beth O’Malley

Binder templates:


adoption in New YorkThis article was written by Samantha Fuhrman, MSW, the Director of Social Services of America World’s New York office. She is a Christian social worker who desires to serve God through advocating for those whose voice is not heard.

ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.

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