Since I wrote my post Letterbox contact: a template letter, which helps adoptive parents write contact letters to birth family members, I’ve heard from several birth parents who’ve asked if I can write something similar for them. I was keen to help out by providing their own contact letter template to use when writing to a child who has been adopted, but wanted to produce it in partnership with a birth parent who could share their perspective. I wrote this example letter (below) with Zoe, a birth mum who contacted me via my Facebook page.
Thank you Zoe, it was lovely to connect with you. I’ve changed names and some other details to keep Zoe and her daughter’s identities private.
Writing to your child who has been adopted
Writing to your child can be difficult for lots of reasons. It can be really hard to know what to say, to know what’s allowed, and to manage the emotions that come up when you think about sending a letter. Using a template like this can make it easier because it gives you ideas and a framework to use for what you want to say.
Questions can be helpful
Start by asking questions. What are the things you’d like to know about him/her? Bear in mind that you probably can’t ask about places. Topics like how he/she’s growing and what foods he/she likes, what words he/she’s learned and games he/she plays are all fine.
What are his/her favourite TV programmes? Does he/she go to the park? What does he/she like to do there? Does he/she have any pets? What did he/she do at Christmas, for his/her birthday, or in the summer holidays? What sort of things does he/she do during the week and at the weekend?
If you have already had a letter from your child or his/her adoptive parents, you could write about the things they mentioned. Have they asked you any questions? Your answers could be really helpful for your child, so try to answer them if you can.
Then you could think about what you’d like him/her to know about you as he/she gets older. Do you live on your own, with a partner, with family or pets? What do you like to do? Favourite films, TV shows, music, books? Your favourite memories of him/her?
If you have specific questions about things you want to write about, it’s usually a good idea to ask your social worker or letterbox co-ordinator. These could include mentioning particular family members or sharing sensitive information. The rules are different for each family depending on what they think is going to be most helpful for the children.
Dos and dont’s
- use surnames or specific locations unless you are sure this is OK,
- make threats,
- or say that you expect the child to return to live with you in the future.
These things may mean your letter is not passed on to your child or that you are asked to write it again.[EDIT: Some adoptive parents have let me know that their letterbox contact arrangements say that birth parents must write to the adoptive parents, not directly to the child. I’ve added a second template (below) for this situation. If you’re not sure what the rules are in your case, check with your social worker or letterbox co-ordinator.]
- let them know they are loved and remembered,
- that you are proud of them,
- that you enjoy hearing from them.
This type of letter is likely to be treasured.
Letterbox contact: an example letter for birth parents
How are you? I hope you’re really well and that you had a lovely Christmas. What did you do at Christmas? Was it quiet or did you see lots of people? I spent Christmas with my boyfriend, James. We went for a walk on the beach, watched TV, and played games. My favourite parts of Christmas were going to the cinema to see the new Star Wars film and eating mince pies. I also thought about you a lot and wondered what you were doing. Did you have fun?
I know you are growing really fast and I expect you are learning lots of new words. What other clever things can you do now?
I live in a flat near the sea with James and my cat Charlie. During the week I work in a bakery, and at the weekends I like going to the cinema, watching Holby City, and going out with my friends. I like Chinese food. What is your favourite food at the moment?
Do you like going to the park? I wonder what you like doing there. What about at home? What do you watch on TV? Which programme is your favourite?
I remember when we went to the beach together. You jumped in the waves and we made a sandcastle. I have really happy memories of that day.
I look forward to hearing how you’re doing.
*It’s a good idea to check with your social worker or letterbox co-ordinator the name that you and the adoptive parents agree if you’re not sure. It’s not usually appropriate to sign yourself as just ‘Mummy’ or ‘Daddy’, because that can be confusing for the child. We call our daughters’ birth parents Mummy (first name) and Daddy (first name), as in this example.
You can download and edit this contact letter for birth parents (MS Word file). There’s also a version that’s addressed to the adoptive parents (MS Word file). Use whichever is appropriate for your situation.
I’d love to hear your feedback – has it been useful? Are there other questions you’d like me to address, or other topics I should include? Please let me know in the comments.