What is it?

Trove is a physical and digital tool that enables children to be in control of their own life story.

Trove looks after children’s most precious objects, and uses simple digital technologies to bring these objects to life. The child’s own voice can be linked to objects, to keep a digital archive of their life to help support them through times of change and uncertainty.

Trove has been co-designed with children in care, adopted children, foster parents, adoptive parents and social workers through a series of workshops and pilots.

Trove has been created by a multi-disciplinary team.

Trove is in development and looking for funding to get it to the next stage.

What’s the process?

First find all the objects you want to add to trove, this could be birth objects (objects given to a child by a birth parent) or it could be special objects that remind a child of foster placements or even just a train ticket from a nice trip they had last weekend. It is up to the child to fill it with what they think is important.

Then place a sticker on the object, this allows the object to become interactive and able to trigger audio.

Place the headphones on, use the visual interface to record an audible story. You can also take a photo if you like.

Once you’ve finished telling the story, swipe the object on the X. Now the story you’ve recorded and object are linked together. There is also an archive of all the stories you’ve recorded to reflect back on.

Why is it unique?

Multi-sensory – Uses recorded audio stories of child’s own voice, tangible objects and photos all in one handy place. Audio and visual prompts allow there to be no written instructions – more accessible for different learning needs.

Child Led – Whatever is important to the child can be added to trove – they record the story and guide the narrative. This gives them a sense of ownership and a safe space to explore difficult subjects.

Changeable – Allows multiple narratives to coexist and evolve with the child as their understanding changes over time. Can be used to look back, to try to make sense of the past and to connect the dots. Also can be used to record the ‘Now’ and build a stronger sense of identity for the future.

What is the impact?

Trove has been co-designed throughout its development with the intended owners. From our 10 trove pilot with adopted children we conducted (link to research page), our work with Mulberry Bush School and our work with Bristol Children’s Services we have found so far that trove:

  • Supports independence and identity for the child
  • Supports relationship building when used with others
  • Constant throughout different placements helps with stability
  • Makes child protagonist in their own story
  • Allows children to keep precious objects somewhere safe
  • Gives control to the child of their own life story

How does it work?

Trove is based on innovative practices that are already used across the care system – story telling, narrative identity and object importance in memory making – however the product wraps them up into one accessible tool so that the practices can complement each other. Trove can be used alongside Life Story Book Work, to include important objects which are often left out of life story work.

And you can see the process step by step here.

Object Importance and Attachment

Objects are important for us all, but they take on special significance for children in care and adopted children. They can provide children with feelings of security, continuity and belonging. Especially if a child has multiple placements, they can form attachments with objects that to an outside observer may not seem significant – like a piece of paper – but it can help them through change and uncertainty.

Trove builds on this, by allowing the child to record why the object is important, to attach multiple different stories through time for one object, and also to record stories about larger objects that may have been lost, or living things, like a particular pet in a foster placement that holds a lot of value for the child.

Life Story Work

Life Story Work aims to help children to understand their journey through the care system, supporting them to fill gaps in memory and understanding. Currently the main way to achieve this is to create a life story book which is usually completed by a social worker for a child. Research has found that children highlighted areas for improvement in these such as: quality of storytelling, use of inappropriate information for the age of the child, significant gaps, child not in control of their life story (book doesn’t reflect child’s own memories), multiple narratives not being accommodated, linear format (start and end), no space for physical objects, and photographs being stuck down so you can’t hold them.

We want to make life story work, more physical focusing on objects, easier to archive and maintain, the child is in control to complement life story work.

Identity - Being able to tell your story

Trove offers a safe place for children to be reflective about identity and tell their story in their own words. There’s no public sharing, rating or pressure. It’s like an interactive diary with tactile triggers that can act as a comfort for recording and documenting their life story for themselves. Mental health is a key challenge for us all, but in particular children in care and adopted children. We believe that trove can help in forming a strong sense of self and that is vital for identity building and overall mental health and wellbeing. If we can get sense of self right when children are younger, it means we can potentially prevent mental health challenges at teenage years.

Figuring out where boundaries are within their own identity and history in the context of this technological age is key, trove can be a tool for doing that safely and independently throughout childhood.