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5.7 Life Story Work with all Looked After Children

In August 2021, this chapter was added to the manual.


  1. Policy
  2. Scope
  3. Definition
  4. Principles
  5. Procedure

    Appendix 1: Life Story Process Map

1. Policy

The Department will ensure that all looked after children will have life story work undertaken with them and a life story book produced, which provides them with an age appropriate understanding and, factually accurate account, of their past, what has happened or is happening in their family, and an explanation of what it means for them to be in care.

Statutory Framework

  • Isle of Man Fostering Minimum Standards 2007 (amended 2013);
  • Isle of Man Adoption Minimum Standards 2013.

2. Scope

Applies to all Looked After Children.

3. Definition

Life Story books provide a structured record for a child or young person to understand their family history and why they are in care. The process allows the social worker the opportunity to tell the child or young person the reasons they are in care and engage them in discussion about this, enabling the child or young person to talk about themselves and their understanding of their experiences. The book is also something they and the adults caring for them can refer to.

Life story work may involve direct work being undertaken with the child or young person and relevant adults, as well as compiling a Life Story Book. It should begin at the time the child or young person becomes looked after, and co-ordinating its completion is the responsibility of the allocated social worker for the child or young person. Life story material and books should be kept safe and transferred with the child to any new placement and the social worker should discuss it directly with new carers

4. Principles

  1. Children and young people should have an explanation for being in care that is;
    • Truthful, factual and compassionate;
    • At the child's or young person’s level of understanding;
    • Therapeutically removes blame from the child or young person for their separation from their birth family;
    • Is Agreed and the shared understanding is consistently used by those involved in the child's or young person’s care.
  2. A child or young person’s Carers and social workers are 'keepers of the child's memories' where children and young people are separated from their birth family. Those who are caring and responsible for them must:
    • Retain mementos of the child or young person;
    • Collect photographs of the child /young person and any outings / activities;
    • Keep a record of events in the child's or young person’s life record;
    • Stories of the child /young person so that they have stories to tell in the future;
    • Involves the child/young person and where ever possible their birth family.

5. Procedure

  1. It is the responsibility of the child/young person’s allocated social worker to ensure that life story work is started, compiled, co-ordinated with others and continued whilst they have case responsibility for the child/young person. This means it will be a live transfer when workers change;
  2. Compiling the book and arranging any therapeutic support should be seen as a work in progress and should only be considered complete when a child/young person moves to a permanent placement and the carers become permanently responsible for the memories;
  3. It is an expectation that all carers will continue to share and discuss the Life Story book with a child/young person as a means of helping them to understand and make sense of their care journey;
  4. Prior to the 2nd Statutory Review, a Care Plan should be presented to Permanency and Legal Decision Making Panel, with a clear outline of the child/young person’s permanency plan, including any Life Story work that has been undertaken and plans for continuation and completion. Please see Appendix 1: Life Story Process Map;
  5. Managers should check the progress of life story work during supervision and ensure that it is up to date at point of transfer;
  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;
  7. If the child/young person does move from one placement to another their social worker should review the life story book with him / her. If the child/young person returns home then the book should be given to them and their parents to keep;
  8. Individual parts of the work in the life story book can be undertaken by the child/young person’s social worker, foster carers, residential link worker, wraparound therapist or by the child/young person himself / herself;
  9. 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;
  10. 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 child/young person in their care, and social workers should check that residential key workers are doing the same;
  11. There may be occasions when the child/young person refuses to participate in the work or book this should be respected but the material should still be collected.

The Life Story Book should be available by the time permanency is achieved for that child/young person and a copy provided to them, and the adoptive parents / permanent carer(s) who may wish to continue collating memories of the child or young person into adulthood.

The IRO will check on progress of the life story work at each review.

Life Story Books should be approved by the team manager, the adoption practice lead and strategic therapeutic lead.

A copy of the final document should be retained on the file of the child/young person

Appendix 1: Life Story Process Map

Click here to view Appendix 1: Life Story Process Map

Original Publication Date March 2021
Last Review Date New policy
Next Review Date March 2022