Michael’s* first memory is of living at his aunt’s house with his older brother and two cousins. This memory only recently came back to Michael, 13, while talking about his life story to his caseworker at the Rice Child + Family Center. The residents at Rice have been some of the first at Children’s Home + Aid to take part in Mobility Mapping, a process where children work with their caseworker or therapist to draw out their life story – from their earliest memory to present.

Once children have completed their maps, Children’s Home + Aid works with the National Institute for Permanent Family Connectedness. They analyze the maps and locate and engage the people who have loved and supported the children and bring those adults back into their lives. The goal of Mobility Mapping is to build a network of life-long connections.

Children’s Home + Aid started this work as part of our new Therapeutic Foster Care program as a way to build support networks for youth in foster care. One of our goals at Rice is to increase family engagement in the treatment of children and youth while at Rice, and Mobility Mapping offers a great way to help families become more involved.

“When we first started this project with Michael, he asked us if we needed to go get his file, which really struck me,” said Sarah Vitzthum, Supervisor at the Rice Child + Family Center. “This isn’t about their files, it’s about empowering them to tell their story. Mapping has not only helped the children build trust with us as staff, but has also helped them to develop listening and empathy skills.”

Since completing his map, Michael has reconnected with his mom, who he previously lost contact with after her parental rights had been terminated. Michael now has phone contact with his mom and has visited her home, where he’s been getting to know his newborn sister. His older brother, who was initially skeptical of reconnecting with their mother, now visits her house too. Michael’s mother has also engaged in therapy sessions with Michael over the phone.

“I’m back seeing my mom and my little sister,” Michael said. “It makes me feel good to know they want me in their life. My siblings and I play games together, watch scary movies and joke around a lot.”

Children’s Home + Aid has completed Mobility Mapping with five children at the Rice Center so far and plans to open the process up to children and youth who are in foster care.

This Thanksgiving, Michael will spend the holiday with his birth family for the first time in his life – something he never even considered a possibility before.

*Names has been changed to protect the identities of the individuals