AdoptResources's Blog

blogging about adoption, attachment, parenting & family life

Keeping in touch…

with 2 comments

It’s time for us to write to the children’s birth families as part of the contact arrangements set up for our adoptions. We write to the birth parents twice a year and they can send letters to us twice a year. We can include photos and anything the kids want to send. Letters to and from us are checked by our social workers to make sure that the content is appropriate for whoever is on the receiving end.

Contact is a complex area. The aim of any contact arrangement is that it should be in the best interests of the child. However, this can be difficult to get right and needs may change depending on age/circumstances etc etc. Most of the current adoptions in the UK will involve some form of contact – from direct, face to face visits; to indirect “letterbox contact”. Contact can involve birth parents, grandparents or siblings. For me, the key importance is for adopted children to keep some sense of who they are, and to maintain any meaningful links with their birth family. Another (untested) hope that I have is that when my children want to find birth relatives that the ongoing contact we’ve had will make any kind of searching easier (in terms of legwork).

So far so good, but one of the difficulties with contact for children who have been adopted from the care system, is that they are likely to have suffered abuse from or been neglected by the people that we are maintaining contact with. So contact, even a letter, can stir up all sorts of emotions/conflict and have a knock on effect on behaviour and relationships with others. Another factor to consider is the age of the children expected to deal with all of this stuff and the impact their early experiences have on their ability to process emotions. None of this should argue that contact should not happen just reinforce the focus on the needs of the child and making sure appropriate supports are in place for everyone involved.

For me, contact is about a sense of identity and making information as accessible as possible for our children. Knowing who you look like, do you have any brothers or sisters, do you have risk factors for diabetes/heart disease, etc etc is so important to feeling ok about yourself. Black holes and gaps in information are inevitable but, again in my opinion, some information is better than none. You can’t make the past disappear by ignoring it, pretending it didn’t happen or keeping it secret.

I find writing the letters difficult, hard to get the pitch right. How much information should we include?  Whatever I write it always seems so trivial – like a note to an elderly relative. If letters are full of all the fab things you’ve done is it insulting to them/their circumstances? Whatever concerns there are, I think working at getting contact right is important for our children and their sense of themselves. Balancing the needs of everyone can be tricky but the focus needs to be on the children, not the adults involved. So I’ll get on with writing our letters and wait to see what, if anything we get back…

Written by adoptresources

January 25, 2010 at 1:33 am

2 Responses

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  1. Very interesting to know how open adoptions are these days. I’ve no idea how you’d know whether the content of your letters is being well received, but at least the communication channel is there for your kids and their birth family. I have every admiration for people who adopt, and wish you all the love in the world to you and your kids!
    I was adopted at birth in the 1960’s and of course both the birth/adoptive families were told there’d never be any contact again… I’ve finally met my birth mum in the last year, discovered I’ve a sistertoo and they’ve been amazing! I think you are so right about the sense of identity, it was quite freaky to suddenly find that I resembled someone – in fact my new sister has commented that I look more like our ‘Mum’ than she does hehe!


    February 2, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    • Thanks Jo – I think the whole who do I look like thing is huge and if contact helps answers some unanswered questions then it’s a good thing. I guess it’s all about the balance. Lovely to hear about your reunion and finding out about your sister – hope things keep going well for you all.



      February 2, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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