Adoptive families’ mental health: a reply from Kensington Palace

You may remember that at the end of January, our nine-year-old daughter, Joanna, wrote to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry to ask if Heads Together would address the issue of adoptive children’s mental health. You can read that letter here. On Saturday she had a reply from Kensington Palace. She was out when it arrived so we waited for her to come home before we opened it and read it together. (This took no small measure of self-restraint!)


I’ll be honest: although Joanna was delighted just to have a letter from the palace, me and Pete found it disappointing. There are a few turns of phrase that indicate a lack of understanding about adoption and the ongoing impact of trauma. (I don’t expect expertise from every member of their staff, but mental health is the younger Royals’ chosen area of focus.) It also doesn’t really address the issue of why Heads Together can’t join the conversation on this topic as they are drawing attention and resources to the issues of mental health in schools, PTSD in the military and post-natal depression, for example.

See what you think…


It reads:

Dear [Joanna]

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Henry of Wales have asked me to write and thank you for your letter of 27th January.

Their Royal Highnesses were grateful to you for taking the time to wrote and for so bravely sharing your experiences with them. The Duke and Duchess and the Prince were saddened to learn all that you have gone through, but are pleased that you have found a lovely family to live with.

Their Royal Highnesses’ Heads Together campaign is made up of various organisations so the campaign itself is unable to help directly. May I suggest contacting The Mix on 0808 808 1994 or Young Minds on 020 7089 5050 for guidance and support? I am sorry that we are not able to help further, but do hope that either of these organisations will be able to provide you with the appropriate help that you need.

This comes with my very best wishes to you and your family.

Yours sincerely

Natalie Burrows

Assistant Private Secretary to HRH The Duchess of Cambridge

Still hoping for change

It’s not that I expect the Royal Family to wave a magic wand at everything and make it all better, but when they are active in campaigning on mental health issues and Joanna’s letter related to that, I just hoped for something a bit better than a couple of phone numbers.

Pete described ‘I am sorry that we are not able to help further’ as the refrain of Joanna’s life, which I think sums things up well.

I’d love to see Heads Together include adoptive families’ mental health among the issues for which they campaign, and I’m still hoping the Royal Family might come to play a part in that.

What’s your opinion?

I’d love to hear what you think. Are my expectations too high? What would you have said if you’d been writing a response to Joanna? Do you have better advice for her? Any other thoughts? Let me know in the comments, and to discuss it with your friends, use the sharing buttons below.



  1. Sleepisforotherpeople
    19 March 2018 / 1:11 pm

    Hmm. Yes, I would have hoped for at least “we will talk to the organisations who are part of Heads Together and see whether they are experts in childhood trauma and adoption, or whether we need to invite another specialist organisation to join us”.

    The bit about being pleased J now has a lovely family sounded awfully close to “but why do adopted children still have problems after they leave their original living situations? Shouldn’t it be all better once they have a loving family?” Big, big sigh.

    • 19 March 2018 / 1:16 pm

      Yes – you’re spot on. That’s exactly what I thought.

      So much awareness-raising still to do, and adopters have so little spare time and energy with which to do it.

  2. 19 March 2018 / 6:12 pm

    It looks like a bit of a bog-standard reply to be honest. It just shows the lack of awareness of the mental health issues of adoptive children and their families. You should be really proud of your daughter writing to the royals in the first place.

    • 19 March 2018 / 9:02 pm

      Thank you. Yes, we’re really proud of her. The battle to be understood and supported continues…

  3. Claire
    21 March 2018 / 3:57 pm

    Very disappointing, I must say. A bog standard letter that I imagine nobody has looked at. So wonderful that Joanna did this. Hope you’ve tweeted it, Hannah x

  4. 3 September 2018 / 8:31 am

    Quite impersonal, sadly. What a brave thing of Joanna to do. I have had experiences with CAMHS which were not good myself and which included lots of not fitting into the right boxes and being shifted from one waiting list to another. I hope you get there in the end! I also found that sadly they didn’t seem to get that not everyone is the same, that a 9 year old is not a the same stage as a 3 year old or a 17 year old, so it was mostly aimed at the 3 year old. Your daughter is incredibly impressive and I hope she will manage to feel happier one day but I know these things aren’t a rapid process. I hope she will be proud that she did this one day and at such a young age. Best Wishes, Lucy

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