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  Written by Karin Price, Dillon International on 30 May 2013

Would you like to boost your child's self-esteem and avoid struggles with behavior problems?

Clear and open communication is a crucial factor!

Don't just take my word for it: numerous studies on the dynamics of adoptive families have proven this to be true. How and what a parent communicates is important.  Information and understanding reduces uncertainties, anxieties, fears and anger associated with "the adoption story."

One great tool for telling the adoption story is the Lifebook. In 1957, the Children's Bureau of California began developing Lifebooks for children in foster care who were waiting to be adopted.  In the 1970's, Lifebooks were popularized as a therapeutic tool to help children understand their lives before they joined their adoptive family.

When I meet with children, these are some common questions they ask:

  • Why didn't they keep me?
  • Why did I have to live in an orphanage/foster care?
  • Do I have any other brothers and sisters?
  • Why didn't anyone else in my birth country want me?
  • Who gave me my name?
  • Why wasn't I adopted sooner?
  • How do you know I wasn't kidnapped?

These questions may be a result of natural curiosity. At times, these questions are inspired by something a child heard from others or or something a child has seen on TV or the internet. Children with a Lifebook already know the answers to these questions.  One child told me, "Oh, I have always known because my story is my Lifebook."

So what is a Lifebook?

Author Beth O'Malley offers this definition: "A Lifebook is a collection of words, photos, graphics, artwork and memorabilia that creates a life record for the child who is adopted." (

Vera Fahlberg, a retired pediatrician and psychotherapist stresses the importance of a Lifebook, saying, "It is difficult to grow up to be a psychologically healthy adult without having had one's own history. It is never too late or too early to make a Lifebook. Each time the Lifebook is read the child is likely to understand the message in a slightly different way, reflecting her current intellectual abilities and psychological needs."  (

Over 25 years ago, I helped a family create a Lifebook. Through the years, I have learned that Lifebooks help tell the adoption story, facilitate attachment, separate reality from fantasy or magical thinking, enhance identity formation, and help children answer the many questions they are asked by others.

It's never too early or too late to get started on a Lifebook.

Contributed by Dillon International. Dillon offers an online workshop to help you get started. Learn more here:




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