How to Keep a Journal


Peter A. Kenny, Attorney

The strongest material you can have in advocating for your foster child is a well-documented daily journal. Keeping a daily journal assists you when reporting to the Child Welfare Department or advocating for your foster child at case conferences and at court hearings. When opinions are divided, your journal provides you with reasons and documentation for your views.

You can keep your journal on the Internet in a designated site or folder, in a simple inexpensive notebook, or even on scraps of paper to be typed into your Internet site or entered into your child’s notebook later when it is more convenient. Be sure to write the date and the child’s name at the start of each entry. This can be important should a dispute arise at a later time. It is best to keep a separate site or notebook for each child.

Judges can only make decisions about a child’s case plan based on the information presented in court. The information, as presented by the Child Welfare Department or the birth parents, is often incomplete, biased, or just plain wrong. Your foster child depends on you as the most informed person in the courtroom to give the judge accurate information about his or her needs. Your journal can provide critical written evidence which can correct misinformation and bolster your position for what is in the child’s best interests. Federal law states you have the right to present both written and oral evidence to the court. To help you get started, this article will include examples of journal entries.

Example: Joey, Jan. 16, 20__.

Joey’s mother complained to the caseworker that we are not giving him his meds. I explained to the caseworker that the doctor changed Joey’s meds at the last visit and we are following the new schedule.

Include everything in your journal, the more information the better. You never know what problems may develop. Here are some situations where a daily journal is extremely helpful:

  1. You may need to defend yourself against a false allegation of abuse or neglect.
  2. You may feel that a proposed visitation with a particular person would be harmful to the child.
  3. You may be pursuing an adoption which one or both birth parents are contesting.
  4. You want to prepare a Life Book recording all that you know about your foster child’s past and present.

Write on a regular basis, daily or at least every few days. Set a regular time to write and stick to it. If you decide to write “when you get around to it,” the days will fly by and nothing will be recorded. Be sure to write when your foster child has had some special event in his or her life.

Example: Joey, Feb 13, 20__.

Joey’s school held a presentation for parents today. Joey read part of a paragraph. He spoke up well and did an excellent job. I got a picture of him during the performance.

Do not use your journal to attack the birth parents, the Child Welfare Department or any other interested parties. Instead pretend you are a camera, and record what happened each day. Did the child cry, laugh, get angry, act out, appear sad.

Example: Joey, Feb. 15, 20__.

Joey and William got into a fight after dinner tonight. My husband Bob bundled Joey and himself up and took him out for a walk. I got William working on his homework. After half an hour both boys had calmed down and by bedtime they were able to sleep.

Describe any actions of the child which influence your judgment: failing to eat; unexplained sickness or vomiting; fighting with another child in the household; destructive behavior of any kind.

Example: Joey, Feb 25, 20__.

Last night Joey had a nightmare. He started to cry and holler around midnight. I went to him and he started to sob and cling to me. I held him until he calmed down. Then we went to the kitchen and I gave him a glass of milk. He drank it and said he was ready to go back to bed.

Example: Joey, Mar 1, 20__.

William complained that he had five dollars on the night stand by his bed and it disappeared. I found five dollars under a book on Joey’s desk this afternoon when I was cleaning. I told both boys that I could not prove exactly what happened, but that I would check both rooms regularly and that I would not respect their privacy until this matter settled down. I don’t know whether this problem is solved. I’ll stay alert and keep working on it.

Describe the good things as well: school successes, kindnesses, good interactions with peers. Remember....facts, not feelings

Example: Joey, Mar 4, 20__.

Tonight after dinner the kids decided to play UNO. Joey joined in and seemed to enjoy it. He didn’t win, but that didn’t upset him as it has after previous games.

Start today to keep a journal. Your foster child needs your input.