Assembling the story of your child's life can be one of your greatest gifts to her. Your efforts to contact her biological family and find out that she had a puppy when she was six or that she played Little League in the third grade and her team won the sportsmanship trophy will be valuable to your child.
You may have a hard time finding anything if your child was placed in protective custody by the state, and you may have acquired a lot of negative information about your child's circumstances in the course of your adoption. Keep those kinds of records separate from more benign information.
The agency who placed your child should have records that you can read and copy. Court documents should also be available to you. Current privacy laws may make access difficult, but do your best.
You shouldn't sugar coat the negative things that happened in your child's life. Your child may very well have a truant record at school or have been in trouble with the law. However, separate the negative material about her or her biological family and put it in a private place if it's anything that can be extremely uncomfortable to remember. Your teen will eventually be able to deal with the realities of her painful past, but that might not happen until she's much older.
Assemble historical information from newspapers for your child's birth date, the day she entered kindergarten, and other important dates. Find out where she lived and what was going on at the time. Sports and entertainment events, including popular music, videos, and games, will add interest and fill in gaps.
You and your child may wish with all your heart that you could have interceded and gathered her into your arms and protected her from the pain and neglect she faced in the past. Decide now that you will control the present by building a record for the rest of your child's life. You can spend oodles of money on special papers, forms, or ribbons for scrapbooking, but don't think you need to do so. Scrapbooking can be a bonding activity with your child, but you can have just as much fun with photographs and three-hole punched construction paper.
In addition to the material you gather from your teen's previous life to preserve in books and shadow boxes, assemble all paper work, newspaper clippings of current events, school papers and reports, and court documents from what's happening now into files to maintain until she's grown.
Develop a camera habit and snap pictures or videos of every important event, such as baseball games, band recitals, and birthdays. If you don't have time to paste things into scrapbooks, just keep them in dated envelopes and or folders.
Instead of looking back and being stuck in the ugliness and sorrow there, turn your attention to now, to repeatedly saying, “I love you, my child” and “This is your forever family.”