Lutheran Children and Family Service (LCFS) staff meet with many children who have limited, or in some cases, no history, fond memories or family identity to help them with a sense of where they came from. Liz Hogan, LCFS Foster Care Permanency Placement worker, knows about the emotional turmoil children experience in the child welfare system. Some have never known their biological parents, and often have disturbing memories of their past.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
The goal of Permanency Placement is to return a child to their birth family, move into a foster or adoptive home, or live with a permanent guardian. During a six month period of individual sessions children are encouraged to share their past experiences and future hopes and dreams. A series of activities are used to create a “Life Book,” or album, in which the pages are designed to answer questions such as: “Who am I?” “What happened to me?” “Where have I been?” “Where am I going?” “How will I get there?” and, “When will I know that I belong?”
“Something as simple as coloring a heart-shape to represent their feelings is helpful,” says Liz. “Others will write out their hopes of reunification with their families. One girl built a house of popsicle sticks – each stick representing her hopes for the future – ‘Mommy plays with me, gives me juice, makes me safe, feeds me, and Mommy loves me.’”
One of the final activities involves cut out dolls that represent the child’s “forever family.” The cut outs are placed inside a pocket folder that represents the home where they will live. Liz concludes: “No matter how old the child, these activities begin to tell their story and become an important foundation for their future.”
“Something as simple as coloring is helpful to the children we meet.”