Memorabilia – foster carers as custodians of children’s memories

Importance of children’s memories

While your foster children are with you, no matter for how long, you are the custodian of their memories. You may well be the most constant figure in their lives for a period and it is you who can record the events that form their memories. They very often have a very fragmented sense of themselves as they move between families, and 'life story' books and keeping memorabilia in memory boxes will help children make better sense of their histories.

Children need anecdotes to be remembered as well as visual reminders of what they have done, for example:

Do you remember? This picture was taken when we went to the zoo and the goat tried to eat your scarf!

For many children in care positive memories, which in turn help to build their self esteem and sense of self, can be few and far between. Social services files all too often only record negative events. It is usually in the recording taken from foster carers and contact supervisors that children find what they really want to know, such as, Was I a sweet little girl/boy? and What did I like doing? Funny stories and tales of mild misdemeanours are particularly valued.

Memorabilia suggestions

Suggestions of how to capture and keep these important memories are:

  • albums and scrap books with photos, tickets, postcards, invitations etc (don't forget to label clearly on the backs as well as underneath who is in the photo and what the event was.) Don't forget the pets!
  • a scrap book for art work. You could take photos of any things that might be difficult to keep for long or fragile things that are made at school but which do indicate to the child/young person how their work and efforts are valued
  • diaries with little stories that describe everyday as well as special events
  • make a note of their favourite books/films/videos/games. If these can accompany the child when they move on, all the better
  • get a memory/treasure/special box for their things. This could be something the child decorates with you if they are old enough. Keep artwork, souvenirs and 'precious' objects in there for them to take with them when they move on
  • all children like to keep momentos from special days out, such as post cards or entrance tickets. You need to assist young people in keeping a record of such special items and ensuring this gets passed on in their treasure box/album when they move.
  • if you have any copies of videos or dvds that will help the child remember their history, they too should be included in the memory box.
  • ....and if you are able, keep copies of key documents as the originals can sometimes be lost or destroyed in the years that follow, and you (or the child's record) may end up with the only copy of a key item.

If you do not have a camera to record your foster child's time with you, purchase a disposable one just for them. It will also be important for children to know that you have kept a copy of a photo of them (many foster carers have a pinboard with photos of ex foster children). This helps children to be reassured that they are being 'held in mind' and will not be forgotten as soon as they go.





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