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Letter from Birth Mother - WWYD?

(16 Posts)
Adopter12345 Wed 18-Nov-15 18:50:25

I have name changed.

LO has been with us for a while and is in reception.

we have received a letter from BM - which I am pleased about because I just want LO to receive something from BM.

However, the content has totally thrown me. Last year's was in a similar vein but this year - the letter said things like "all your grandparents send you kisses and love and hugs" (can just about cope with this. And fully expect the BM to say something like that but for some reason felt slightly unnerved by this.)

Then BM went on to say "Sorry my letter is short. It's just because you don't write letters to me yet. When you do, we can both write lots of long letters to each other." The letter is written to LO rather than me and DH.

BM has never been forthcoming about any of her personal history (and she is foreign so SS's investigations into her background yielded v little - though LO was born and adopted over here from care) and it really annoys me and even upsets me that she won't tell LO anything now until LO can write...

I am grateful that she wrote but the letter is not one I can share with LO for a while - maybe not until she/he starts secondary school. I have asked SW to perhaps write to BM to explain how letterbox is meant to work.

It saddens me because there is hidden blackmail - ie I will only tell you something about myself when I can correspond with my child - not with the adoptive parents.

Sorry for rant but the letter has haunted me a bit. And not sure at what age it would be appropriate to share with LO.

Would you share that sort of letter with LO? Or wait until early teens? am I being too sensitive?

combined02 Wed 18-Nov-15 19:53:30

I would read "Sorry my letter is short. It's just because you don't write letters to me yet. When you do, we can both write lots of long letters to each other" to mean "I am struggling with this, and I just don't know what to write, I feel I have so much to say but no idea how to put it in context for you" - but that may be just me... and I haven't seen the rest of the letter.

I am not totally au fait with how letterbox works, in terms of procedure, but can you write back (via the social worker?) and be specific about what you would like to hear about - ask specific open questions - like what were her favourite activities when she was younger, did she like school, did she love to read, write, do maths (ie reception level), run around, trampoline, ride horses, ride bikes, play music, sing, etc etc what was her favourite film, animal, music, etc. Ie all the sort of questions a 4 or 5 year old would be asking (mine would, anyway) and about her culture, in general terms.

Sorry if that all sounds a bit naff...

Adopter12345 Wed 18-Nov-15 19:59:28

Thanks Combined. I hadn't thought of that - that maybe she is struggling. It just made me feel as though she thinks I am babysitting LO rather than parenting.

Not sure I can write again but will bear it in mind and ask her questions - we did when we met her but she gave very vague answers. Eg when I asked her what she liked doing as a little girl, she said "volleyball" and nothing else. She doesn't want to give anything away. Ever. She is very private. Stupidly, I think of her as part of our family - and so I wish she would be a bit more forthcoming with info as I know it will benefit LO and in the long term - might make LO seek her out/build up a better picture of this stranger...

I don't know why it's got to me so much.

Mollybird1 Wed 18-Nov-15 20:54:13

Hi. I've just been approved and we have a 6 year old birth daughter. I really don't think your over reacting! As you say, it sounds like a letter just to her and not you and your partner. If I received a letter like that to our adopted child I would also be quite upset about it. Saying that her grandparents send her kisses! (Her grandparents are your parents!, and yes I think it sounds like she thinks your just babysitting.) whilst I understand how hard it must be for birth mum, surely she should just be writing, hope your getting on ok at school, and made lots of friends etc, really just hoping that she's happy and settled. My sw said when we do adopt and have this letterbox contact, that our sw will read through all our letters first before they get passed on. It sounds like your sw hasn't done this, surely she wouldn't of let this get sent to you if she had? I too wouldn't want to show this to my child, maybe when she's older, it's a tough one. Feel for you. Talk to your sw.

combined02 Wed 18-Nov-15 21:12:24

OP, it sounds like you doing a great job. I hope that she will eventually open up more, in a good way, to enable you both to work together!

anxious123 Thu 19-Nov-15 07:36:42

As a birth mum with letterbox contact myself I'd also read it that she's struggling with it. I know from my experience that the letterbox guidelines aren't often given to birth mums - I had to tease information out of my birth sons SW over quite a few months.

She may not feel comfortable with strangers having so much personal information about her, I ended up writing LO s SW a very long email as I couldn't face discussing it (long history of abuse etc).

I'm not saying she's right to behave like this by any means but I can understand her behaviour. None of the adoption process is easy or plain sailing for anyone, hopefully given time & guidance she'll start putting LOs needs before her own x

TeamAcorn Thu 19-Nov-15 10:50:34

I'm an adopter. Completely get why this letter makes you feel the way you do. I would feel exactly the same. I think Anxious is right though. I don't think in many cases birth parents get given much info on what to write in contact letters. If you think about your own experience I'd be pretty sure you've had training on what to write and why writing in a certain way is important and maybe even read books about it to prepare you? I bet you've had nothing in writing in the form of guidance from SS? Or if so, maybe less than an A4 side? The birth mum doesn't get training sessions in how to deal with their child being removed, like we do in how to adopt a child, so it won't be covered and I doubt they'll have anybody telling them about books to read on the subject. They'll likely get a brief verbal description of what to write or rather what not to write, probably at a time that is so traumatic that remembering everything said and taking it on board was probably a bit much to ask. It's just not enough. Of course I could be wrong, I'm on the other side of it and guessing based on a very overworked SS.
Is it likely birth mum wants to send kisses from birth grandparents or talk about some future dream of long letter writing? yes. But she hasn't had it explained to her how damaging that could actually be. Is it her fault? No (if she hasn't had it explained). Who would think sending kisses and love could be harmful....without the bunch of training we've had. So I'd push for her to be better informed about what she can and can't write and why. I'd ask questions too e.g. It would be lovely to tell LO whether you liked riding a bike when you were little. Did you at all? Obviously even after advice, guidance and leading questions the situation may never change. But at least you'll have tried and you can explain to LO when older that you did. Let's face it a well written birth parent letter will get shared with LO, ones that continue in this manner will stay on a file because no one would advise to share them as harm of sharing them could do more harm than not. SW needs to explain to BM that. Contact following the rules, to allow the child to be put first, will lead to a better relationship when everyone is an adult and a happier child during childhood. But that needs explaining by someone. Birth parents loss I would assume is all consuming and asking them to see the situation from everyone's point of view without much guidance is a bit much really.

So yes, I'd be upset and worried for future contact letters but don't give up hope yet, push to get her better informed (letters should be addressed to you for a start) and give a few more nudges in your own contact letters. I hope it changes over time for your LO to experience positive BP contact. Good luck!

UnderTheNameOfSanders Thu 19-Nov-15 13:24:25

In my LA we wouldn't have received that letter as it would have been pushed back by the letterbox coordinator.

- letters are officially between BPs and adopters, not the children.
- 'all your grandparents ...kisses ....hugs' would be seen as too smothering
- 'we can write lots of long letters' - No, false expectation

Sadly, I would be tempted to send it back to letterbox coordinator, saying your concerns, and asking for it to be kept on file. Also request BP is given guidance before writing next letter.

Italiangreyhound Thu 19-Nov-15 17:54:56

Adopter12345 I am sorry this letter has upset you. You know you are not just babysitting, you are his mum, but she is also his birth mum and she is writing as that, it must be very hard to follow rules, especially if you do not even know them.

I would be happy to speak privately through pm if it were helpful.

Our ds is 5 and has been with us for 18 months, we have an 11 year old birth dd and have received a few letters from our son's birth family.

The letters are addressed to us and we do not share then with ds, we drip feed in bits of info from the letters, e.g. your birth mum liked ice hockey when she was younger... etc. This is the style of system I think is intended, where we are, and I think this works best.

When ds is older we may move to a system where she writes direct to him and vice versa, but my gut feeling is that we may always keep this system, since it puts me (and dh) in control of what bits of letters get passed on, with the understanding when he is 18, ds will see all the letters and be free to contact his birth mum if he wishes to. Luckily, for us, our son's birth mum seems to understand the way things work, but then our county adoption services are excellent and I am aware not all areas work so well.

I would ask the letter box services to explain to her how it works and encourage her with some support in how to write.

I feel TeamAcorn has hit the nail on the head with a number of points and I agree with them.

I would also go further and say that if she is from another country her English (spoken or written or both) may not be excellent or native speaker level (and although you have met her in person and know how she coped speaking English you may not know how she copes writing in English).

So she is most probably rather traumatised at the loss of her child, whether she gave up her child freely or they were removed, regardless of how deserved the removal was, she may well sill feel very shaken by this even years later (as I know our son's birth mum is).

So to the specifics I would say that the secrecy and not wanting to say too much could be a personal thing, or a relic of being from a different country (in some countries revealing personal information is seen very differently and it may be that in her native country people are less free with information for all kinds of reasons). In order to combat this I would (in your shoes) say lots of encouraging stuff (if true) e.g. dc was pleased to hear you liked volley ball and we watched some on the telly, on line etc etc. This may make her feel willing to reveal more.

I really think in your shoes I would seek some help from someone (adoption services/adoption buddy/a good friend who has adopted) to work through these feelings induced by the letter and find some peace.

Your child does have a birth mum and therefore they have birth grandparents, whether they see these people ever again or not (and the reality is they may well never see them again). So the comment - '... all your grandparents send you kisses and love and hugs" to me says 'you have not been forgotten by your birth family.'

This could be very hard for children who were abused by birth family or birth grandparents. And if this were the case (not saying it is, of course), I would certainly feel these comments were inappropriate. But if not, then I would just read them as '... you are not forgotten and you are cared for, from afar.' I don't see it as harmful.

As others have said, I would read "Sorry my letter is short. It's just because you don't write letters to me yet. When you do, we can both write lots of long letters to each other." To mean she does not know what to say and is a bit floundering.

If it can be explained to her that the letters are from birth family to adoptive parents and vice versa she may begin to open up rather than waiting for the day when the child could write.

As I say, I do not expect my son will write letters (apart form us, who does these days!) and the danger I see in ever putting it into my ds's hands is he would say he did not want to, and I would want letter box contact to continue. So I feel for our son's birth mum to have the contact is good and it will continue as long as it is appropriate.

I am not sure if my comments will help or not. I just feel you are reading a bit more into what is there and that the birth mum is not sure how to phrase things, which could be for a whole range of reasons.

I was very unsure about contact, ours also includes photos, which I was not sure about. But it has been good and it has helped me, and I hope her too, so even though it is all for the child, actually it is helping us too. Hope this makes sense. And it is just my humble opinion.

Adopter12345 Fri 20-Nov-15 18:41:51

Thanks everyone for your responses. I've been mulling it all over and I think you might be right - that maybe BM is using it as an excuse not to write because she finds it so hard. I don't think SS have been great in explaining to her how letter box is meant to work or that she can't expect LO to contact her immediately on turning 18.

I think I got upset because she struck at my insecurity - that somehow she views me as a babysitter. I also get cross about references to all the grandparents sending love etc because none of them were prepared to take LO on...it was actually quite sad.

Next year, I will ask specific questions.

Having said all of that, I am grateful and happy she wrote. Just wish it was a letter I could share with LO.

Thank you for your helpful words

Italiangreyhound Sun 22-Nov-15 21:50:17

Glad you are feeling better.

Ohyesiknowwhatyoumean Fri 27-Nov-15 16:51:03

Just de lurking to suggest that you make sure your AC at least knows the BM has written, even if you have to heavily censor what you tell them about the letters.

As a family we are dealing with the fall out of my 18yr old adopted niece's birth family tracing her and her absolute and total fury at my dsis for not telling her that BM had written. She too had written inappropriate letters and the SW suggested they were not shared with DN, who had been both abused and neglected until coming in care at 5. DN moved out to live (couch surf) with birth family for 3 months and is now living with my aunt.

For dn it's been a huge betrayal of trust, my dsis is now the focus of her anger that should rightly be aimed at the abusive and chaotic birth family, but they are currently "the heroes who never gave up on me" and she is the person who lied. It's easy to say what should have been done in retrospect <sigh> but both she and the birth family have been able to latch onto the fact that she wasn't told BM had written as "proof" that dsis was a bad mum.

On her good days he acknowledges that it was right she was taken into care, but wishes it wasn't dsis who adopted her. Dsis is in bits.

Claraoswald36 Fri 27-Nov-15 20:48:49

I supervise letterbox contact for some of my clients. I would have rejected that letter entirely. Please refer it back to the co ordinater and don't let it upset you Amy more flowers

Italiangreyhound Fri 27-Nov-15 22:24:19

Ohyesiknowwhatyoumean I am so sorry for your dear sis and your niece. I do hope that there will be a real healing of these very raw emotions. I am sure 18 can be a very dramatic age for any teenager and a dramatic/traumatic age for any person who goes through the process of adoption and on becoming an adult suddenly has contact with birth family. I do feel one of the benefits of good letter box is that it helps to 'soften' this because the birth family have been known/known about for the child's life.

I really hope your dsis will get some professional help and support on how to deal with this. Do tell her about us as someone here may have support. You may wish to ask to have your post pulled if you do!

I wonder if this charity may help...

www.afteradoption.org.uk/

Ohyesiknowwhatyoumean Sat 28-Nov-15 08:02:37

Thanks italian

Yes she does have support thankfully, including lots of professional support. It was more a cautionary tale really about the need for honesty with an AC about the existence of letters, even if the content can't be shared whole. Birth family are now claiming that they wrote a lot more than they did and because DN has lost trust in dsis (and her SW) she is swallowing their version of events. It's a minefield.

Adopter12345 Sat 28-Nov-15 08:37:48

Thanks Ohyes for your note of caution and so sorry your Dsis has had to go through this. One of my nightmares. LO is still very young and shies away from any talk about B Family. I did tell LO that we had got a letter but she/he wasn't interested so I am certainly not going to hold back the fact that BM writes. And I can share a couple of lines of the content.

I won't share for a good few years the content - but I also don't think I will wait until LO is 18. The first letter we got was in a similar vein - but slightly more suitable (in my eyes) so I would be happy to share that. This one - maybe at 12 or 13.

But at the moment, LO has no interest. Not interested in life story book, the fact that some of his toys came from B family and she/he loves to pretend that she/he came out of my tummy - even though I always correct LO.

I hope next year's letter is slightly more appropriate.

I actually blame SS in some way - as I wonder how much guidance BM has had. And I know BM thinks that as soon as LO hits 18 she will get full contact and they will be able to have a full relationship. It might happen but unlikely. Certainly not at that age.

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