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Lifebooks provide healing for foster children

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Dr. John DeGarmo


By Dr. John DeGarmo


The departure of a foster child from your home is often a difficult time. Because this can be a time of great difficulty and one of emotional upheaval, it is important to prepare beforehand when it comes to the transition of your foster child from your home into another. From the very first day you bring a foster child into your home, it is critical to remember that he will very likely not be with you forever. There will come a time when he will move to another home; whether it is reunification with his parents, his family members, another foster home or adoption. Therefore, planning for his departure begins when he first arrives.


One of the ways you can prepare is by organizing a lifebook for your foster child. This book can be a wonderful healing tool for your foster child as he moves to a new home. For some children, a lifebook is the only reminder they may have of previous houses and families they once called home. Essentially, a lifebook is a scrapbook of your foster child’s life, and is something he can take with him to his new home, and throughout his life. Sadly, when many foster children are placed into a foster home, much of their early life story is lost, and can never be retraced. A lifebook can not only help the child remember important aspects of his past, it can also bring to light memories that fade away when a child grows older.


When designing a lifebook for your foster child, make sure you include him in creating the book. Do your best to trace his early life; ask your caseworker for information, try to retrieve early pictures and information from birth parents and family members, if possible. Add pictures of the birth family, when possible, as well as any other foster parents he might have had. Include pictures of his friends and other important people in his life. Be sure to identify each person in the pictures. If you have any certificates of any kind that he might have earned or received, include these also. Letters from important people in his life would also be a great addition to his lifebook. Also, be sure to include any medical history you can locate. You may need help from his caseworker, along with his birth family, if possible. Also, any family history you can add would be very beneficial to him, both now and later on in life. This might include military service, education and accomplishments. Don’t forget to add information about his own interests and hobbies, with plenty of pictures of him engaged in activities. Finally, leave several blank pages in the back of his lifebook, so he can add pictures, information and even his personal thoughts later on as he grows, or perhaps even in his next foster home.


A lifebook helps a foster child recognize his or her individual worth, something that is so very important for each child in foster care. For many foster children, placement into foster care is a traumatic experience. Lifebooks can be a testament to their strength and their ability to overcome whatever challenges they may face while in care.


Dr. John DeGarmo has been a foster parent for 11 years now, and he and his wife have had over 30 children come through their home. He is a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system, and travels around the nation delivering passionate, dynamic, energetic and informative presentations. Dr. DeGarmo is the author of the highly inspirational and bestselling book Fostering Love: One Foster Parent’s Story, and the upcoming book The Foster Parenting Manual: A Practical Guide to Creating a Loving, Safe and Stable HomeHe also writes for a number of publications and newsletters, both here in the United States, and overseas. Dr. DeGarmo can be contacted at, through his Facebook page, or at his website.


Inez Donley's philanthropy helped countless KidsPeace children, families

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Inez Donley

Some people make such an impact on their communities that their work will live on long after they are gone. Such is the case with Inez Donley, who died Sunday at the age of 97, after dedicating nearly 70 years to volunteer work in the Lehigh Valley.


Inez and her husband, Edward Donley, were major supporters of KidsPeace, donating more than $1.47 million to our organization to help children and teenagers with behavioral and mental health challenges. Their names grace buildings on our campuses, a testament to their continued support of our work. Their historic gift of $1 million was used to create the Donley Therapeutic Education Center on our Orchard Hills Campus in Orefield, Pa., a place where children learn, play and heal.


For years, the Donleys supported the KidsPeace Children’s Fund and KidsPeace Auxiliary. Inez Donley’s family has encouraged people to donate to KidsPeace in her name. 


Inez, who served on the KidsPeace Board of Directors for 15 years, and also suggested other people who would be positive additions to the board, remained an honorary member until her death. Mary Jane Willis, chair of the Board of Directors, says the KidsPeace community has lost a special champion.


“Inez Donley dedicated her life to supporting programs to benefit children and education,” Willis says. “Her steadfast commitment to KidsPeace has given countless children and their families the help they needed to begin down a path to healing.”


Edward Donley, former CEO of Air Products, met his wife in 1943 when she began working as his secretary when the company was still located in Tennessee. They later followed the business to the Lehigh Valley, where they raised three children, and Inez became well known for her volunteer efforts in the Allentown area. Many of the major institutions in the Lehigh Valley were recipients of the Donleys’ goodwill – Lehigh Carbon Community College, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Cedar Crest College, the Allentown Library.


After Edward Donley retired from Air Products in 1986, he and Inez established the Donley Foundation, which issued scholarships and grants to educational programs and libraries. In 2009, KidsPeace created the Donley Society to honor our strongest annual financial supporters.


William R. Isemann, president and CEO of KidsPeace, expresses gratitude for the years of service and support from Inez Donley.


“The KidsPeace community offers our sincere condolences to the Donley family as they mourn the loss of this phenomenal woman,” Isemann says. “Her philanthropy and dedication to the children and families we serve has made an indelible impact. Her heartfelt commitment is an inspiration to the entire Lehigh Valley community.”    

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