F The File: Fighting the File and Rewriting Identities

Founded by Tori Hope Petersen

As a former foster youth, I felt like my case file defined me. I always feared what my file said since my caseworkers told me that I was “unplaceable.” Then one of my foster mom’s said, “You’re nothing like what your file says.”

In the book The Body Keeps the Score, Bessel A. Van der Kolk suggests that the number one healer of trauma are experiences that contradict it. I started a project called F(ight) the File to encourage foster families to contradict the trauma that a foster youth has faced. I launched F the File because I’ve experienced that healing starts and ends by knowing who you are and what you’re made for.

Foster youth are more than their file. More than a foster youth. More than their trauma. As their caregivers, we have to let them know who they truly are in tangible and meaningful ways. By participating in F the File, you are able to rewrite their file so that it speaks about who they truly are, the best of them, and the good in them.

Since launching F the File, we have received feedback from former foster youth and caregivers. The project has brought caregivers and youth closer while reminding foster youth who they are.

We invite you to join us and fight the file and rewrite identities because we believe healing begins and ends with identity.

How do you participate in F the File?

Step One: Rewrite your foster youth’s file. Write a one or two page description of how you truly see your child. These pages can include things like what you have noticed they are interested in, positive character traits, encouragement to chase their dreams, reminders of their worth and dignity, and why you are thankful they are a part of your family.

Step Two: Set up a phone camera horizontally to record. The purpose of recording is to capture the expressions and emotions of a special moment shared between you and your foster child. We hope by showing people the reactions of foster youth when we speak life over them, people will be encouraged to do the same and caregivers will feel compelled to participate in F the File.

Step Three: Give your foster child their rewritten identity in a file folder. Foster youth are used to seeing file folders carried around with ‘all’ of their information in them. The significance of giving your foster child their rewritten identity in a file folder is symbolic and powerful. Inspired by the below quote from The Body Keeps the Score, we see that this kind of folder directly contradicts the traumatic experience many youth in care have regarding their file.

“The challenge is: How can people gain control over the residues of past trauma and return to being masters of their own ship? Talking, understanding, and human connections help, and drugs can dampen hyperactive alarm systems.”

“But we will also see that the imprints from the past can be transformed by having physical experiences that directly contradict the helplessness, rage, and collapse that are part of trauma, and thereby regaining self-mastery.”

-Bessel A. Van der Kolk, The Body Keeps the Score

Step Four: If your foster child wants to be a part of this movement, email us your video or a description about the experience. This step is completely up to you all. There is no pressure to submit a video and explain the details of your experience, but if you are willing, we would love to share your story to encourage other caregivers and foster youth to participate! You can email about your experience to [email protected].

The steps above are flexible and can be altered to better serve your family and environment. Do what you are comfortable with, but remember that when we are vulnerable, it is often uncomfortable. We would love to hear feedback on how this experience was for your family!

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