In its general sense, life story work refers to a kind of social intercession for both old and young clients, which emphasises and recognises the roles and influences of one’s past, present and future in the immediate problems or conditions…
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The idea of life story work could be traced to the 1960s or just before this period. However, many of the discussions on the use of this intervention on dementia patients, foster care and adoption children became more widespread in the 1980s and later years. Due to these discussions, life story work is currently a well documented concept, especially in the UK where the concept has even been integrated into the adoption legislations (Rusell & Timmons, 2007). Academic and professional discussions and debates have not discussed the application of life story work but also the professionals supposed to be involved in life story work. One of these professionals is the social worker. In this regard, social workers are required to take the critical role of making certain that clients such as children under adoption care or soon to be adopted have a life story record or book. Since social workers are perhaps the bearers of the most accurate information on a child’s background and upbringing and the reasons for which such children were placed under foster or adoption care, it is essential that such information is availed for use in life story work interventions. Besides social workers, the other people expected to use life story work are foster care givers, residential support workers and adoptive parents. In addition, children’s carers have the best information on their daily lives and achievement, which they should give for the benefit of life story work. Birth parents are also important bearers of children’s life events and achievements and should provide such information for use on adopted children or on their own children (Rusell & Timmons, 2007). In addition to the named groups, any willing adults or bearers of any important information on the lives and times of life story work clients should come forward and present such materials. Importantly, such a person should be willing and able to spend time with such a client or a child so that a strong and trusting relationship is built between them. Nonetheless, some stakeholders opine that untrained persons should not support clients with life story work even if they are nurses, social workers or foster carers. A point worth noting about life story work is that the gender, ethnicity, religion or culture of the parties to a life story work should be taken into account and respected (Rusell & Timmons, 2007). The Principles and Benefits of Life Story Work As a social and medical intervention, life story work is based on several core principles, which practitioners such as nurses and social workers should uphold. As must have been understood by now, life story work targets people (children and adults) who may have forgotten or have a fragmented idea or understanding of their own history or a broken sense of themselves. Thus, life story work seeks or attempts to assist such people to have a redeemed or stronger sense of their history and identity, in the process helping them make sense of their lives, situations and history. In general, life story should aim at answering clients’ and carers’ questions regarding what happened, when, how and why certain events occurred to clients. Thus, a rather holistic approach to life story work is recommended. In this approach, the influences that every individual in a person’s life may have on his or her life and experiences are
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