My feed

to access all these features

Here are some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on adoption.


Letter box woes!

38 replies

Weatherforducks · 30/11/2019 18:42

We really are committed to letterbox and really do want to preserve those links to birth family (until children are old enough to say otherwise or circumstances dictate), but goodness, they are not making it easy! We took a great deal of care picking the month we would write (avoiding birthdays/Christmas/significant dates), and it just seems like such a waste of headspace now. They were two months late setting us up for letterbox anyway and then since sending the letters off, it has taken more than a quarter of a year to get to their intended destinations! I know all of the agencies are under pressure and have recently changed structure - but over a quarter of a year late? I just feel that it may erode any potential trust between adopters and birth family for no good reason. And for them to finally arrive just before Christmas...

OP posts:
darkriver19886 · 30/11/2019 19:23

I am a birth parent and I feel your frustration!
Luckily mine isn't three months late but it's late and looks like it's going to arrive just before Christmas which I would have loved to avoid. I got a letter to say the service had received it but I had to send a letter back to say I wanted it. 🙄 (even more frustrating was they left one of the children of the letter)

I have worked really hard to maintain the stance that its the letterbox service that is making it hard and I still trust the adopters still to send the letter but, I feel that there is no connect somewhere!

Weatherforducks · 30/11/2019 19:56

@darkriver19886 it’s just rubbish isn’t it? And nowhere near good enough. Currently we are no photos, just once a year letters, since knowing about the circumstances to do with my children’s adoption and meeting birth mum, I have always thought that a more open adoption may be possible in the years to come, photos to start with and then who knows? But unless i’d bothered to ask, I wouldn’t know if birth family had received them, I may have just thought that they hadn’t replied. They may have thought I hadn’t bothered penning the letters to begin with, or I’d not given a thought as to when they’d arrive. To get the best possible outcome for the kids out of this whole process, is for everyone to have a modicum of trust in each other. I worry that unnecessary delays erode that trust and each of us are left wondering if the other party just ‘aren’t bothered’. I know the reasons for not writing or not writing back can be very complex, but unnecessary delays really do not help. I am going to take this further, as including the 2 months late to set us up, makes the letters nearly 6 months late! What on earth was going through everyone’s heads during that 6 months? It could have done so much damage!

OP posts:
darkriver19886 · 30/11/2019 20:09

It's awful. It's really hard to build trust in this way. I am fortunate (maybe) to have letterbox every six months and am supposed to get view only photos. Well mine was sent to my home on the first official letterbox and I had to return them. I understand a lot of services are merging and it means stuff isn't getting sent/sent late/incorrectly.

When letterbox was set up for me and my DDs parents the dates were really off in June. Feb and November I think it was, I pointed out that it wasn't six months in between and asked if I could change the date, the adopters agreed and there still problems with the off dates when I met the adopters in Jan.

I am sorry this is happening, it can get really discouraging. I wish there was a more efficient system but, it's not looking likely.

Weatherforducks · 30/11/2019 20:33

I really am going to push for a better service. I am quite shocked with the delay (given the emphasis placed on letter box when we adopted ((and I’m fully behind that reasoning)). One of the strange things I found about adoption was all of the connections we made with people we otherwise would have never have met: birth family; foster carers; siblings; social workers, healthcare workers (I think of them as like little spider webs that weave in and out of our lives). I will not let any of those threads break on my watch, unless they threaten our safety or my kids say otherwise, they are all important because my kids were loved, by many, they just weren’t safe. I feel that the letterbox service is just not doing anyone any favours right now (I have told the kids that I write to birth family, but just in passing (not contents) when discussing life story, they are both so very young so have never asked about letters or content, but imagine if they were teens and hadn’t had a reply they were expecting for 6 months.

OP posts:
Italiangreyhound · 01/12/2019 00:57

We are adopters of a little boy and in our situations delays have happened but we have just plodded on. The service is between the adoptive parent and the birth parent and so it isn't really (at least initially) directly for the child.

In that sense it shouldn't be capable of doing damage to the child, IMHO, it should just be a case of birth and adoptive parents corresponding.

I honestly don't think a three month delay is that bad. Our service has had delays due to staff going on leave or changing and these things are, sadly, quite hard to avoid.

To some extent I think it is the intention behind it, for birth and adoptive parents to try to correspond. There are so many things that could cause delays and frustrations. So just plodding on with it is, I think , the best option.

As adoptive parents we are sometimes responsible for the delays (speaking from personal experience). We've been dealing with a hugely stressful situation at the moment so would not want to be judged for those delays.

If it is early days for you, I'd just preserver, there are so many other things which could cause stress.

Hope things work out soon. Thanks

River I hope your letter comes soon.

AhhhhhhNuts · 01/12/2019 08:29

I might be a hardened old bat but honestly, as wonderful as your intentions are, you are going to find it impossible/extremely difficult to change how anything is run from your position as adopter. All services are under pressure and letterbox isn't the top of the list.

You get used to the delays as the years go on. Like you, we also carefully chose our date. We actually have an "outstanding" service so are lucky but the letterbox being delivered to us is always 2months late.

Don't forget that when you write in the month also counts.

I do this (dates changed):

Letterbox from us is due in July. So I write and post it off middle of June. I assume therefore they receive it end of July/August.

Their letter to us is due in November. I'm going to assume they are normally quite late in this (from things they write). So they probably don't write or send it until the END of November. That means it won't get to us until the new year. So writing at the beginning or end of your designated month will make a months worth of difference.

If you are really worried about your letter being late then do what we do, send it in early. It's not fair but it is about all that can be practically done.

AhhhhhhNuts · 01/12/2019 08:31

Oh and if it provides any reassurance, despite delays etc both of our birth parents have written every single year for the last 5 years.

ClArabelle67 · 16/01/2020 16:43

It isn’t necessary for you to use the LA letter box contact service, but they are obliged to offer it. If you feel it’s manageable then you can, along with the BF set up a separate distinct email address and correspond that way.

I’m on the LB coordinator like a hawk when the letters are due and seek confirmation my letters have been sent the same week that I respond. She apparently ‘has to’ send them via recorded delivery.

My LA have been shockingly lax regarding LB contact and draconian in regard to what the feel should be included - to the point where they have refused to send a letter in which I shared my email address in order for the adopters to have access to a Dropbox of photos of the children’s first few years.

I hear all of your frustrations and as a grandparent of adopted children I have to say I am really heartened by some of your comments and your understanding of building and maintaining relationships with birth families in the best interest of your LOs.

defaultusername · 17/01/2020 22:40

Our letterbox service (like the rest of the LA) are abysmal. I'm interested to hear that there could be an option outside it, but I wonder how that works for birth parents? I would find direct contact outside the LA much easier, but at the moment, I know they have a SW go out (when then can, which is often months after LB was sent) and support BPs to read, and then reply to the letterbox. I don't think they'd be able to manage outside the LA system, much though I wish they could.

OP, I admire your determination to try and change things. And am surprised that even after adopting, you could be so optimistic! But good luck to you.

ClArabelle67 · 18/01/2020 14:34

@defaultusername, it sounds like in your situation the BP aren’t currently in a position to correspond directly. The fact that the BF have a SW that reads your letters to them and supports them to write back seems to be well beyond what most local authorities offer, so that’s a positive. Re other options, I think adoptees and birth families aren’t aware; legally the LA have a duty to provide a service, hence the Shoddy service people receive, but the actual legislation and family court guidance states that this service should be available while the two families build a relationship that they are happy to manage themselves.

defaultusername · 18/01/2020 21:24

I absolutely think BPs wouldn't correspond directly. They don't correspond much with the support. (Going by other info, BPs are literate. I don't think they'd ever chase letterbox, or reply without prompting though.) I don't know how much that is due to patchy support. I am unsure as to whether the BPs are 'supported' with letterbox because BPs can't be bothered otherwise, or because the LA want to control it. I suspect the latter sometimes, and the former othertimes. Likely a combination. I wasn't aware that we could communicate outside the LA. We had to sign at placement saying that we wouldn't contact BPs, otherwise the kids would be taken back, so I didn't know that was allowed even. If BPs had appeared motivated and interested, we would have been open to direct contact, but that is difficult to build up to via an inefficient LA system. Are there any private providers you know of, who could support BPs more consistently? That way we'd know we'd done everything possible to support contact from our end.

ClArabelle67 · 21/02/2020 17:25

@defaultusername, did the LA give you a reason why you could not contact the bps directly while on placement? Re private services, no I think they do not exist. There are specialist mediation organisations and you are entitled to ask the LA to pay for that - and in fact LAs should also provide mediation regarding changes to contact plans.

jellycatspyjamas · 22/02/2020 09:03

Unless there’s an agreement to direct contact at placement I wouldn’t expect adoptive parents to contact birth parents directly at any time - the birth parents will have their own needs and direct contact can be incredibly stressful, undermining and may tip them into crisis.

ClArabelle67 · 24/02/2020 13:23

@jellycatspyjamas, I agree. It sounds like in @defaultusername case the LA would have considered direct contact too risky. As that was the advice at placement stage, and the LA would have PR, then I understand them explaining the consequences. Perhaps I misread the post as was left a bit confused as to how their could even have been a possibility of non mediated/ direct contact between the adopters and the BF.

defaultusername · 24/02/2020 13:33

It sounds like in @defaultusername case the LA would have considered direct contact too risky.

No, I don't think so. It was a standard form at placement, looked like the form they use for everyone, saying we agree not to contact BPs privately, or allow them contact with the children. These are 'low risk' BPs, we are told by the LA. The LA communication of risk has been all over the place, and wildly inconsistent, though. Hilarious that you think the LA would pay for anything. Bloods and stones.

I agree direct contact may upset BPs, though, and wouldn't do it for that reason. I do think an external, private, mediator outside the LA could be better, as the LA are terrible, have been terrible to them, and to us. I hope the BPs respect that we haven't contacted outside the LA if they consider contacting DC before 18, too, but I worry they won't.

OurChristmasMiracle · 24/02/2020 14:09

Personally unless there was an intermediary agency as a birth parent I would be concerned about my privacy and how it would be handled. Firstly how would letters be exchanged?- I’d be happy with a email address being shared with them but I would never share my home address- for 2 reasons- firstly I don’t think it’s in our sons best interests to have access to that and just turn up, I feel this is done best with counselling and support for all involved and secondly I have to consider that these people although are my sons parents are strangers to myself and as such I have to protect myself.

As a birth parent I am fully aware that the system in place is completely unfit for purpose and puts enough stress on all involved- and this is why I don’t find it surprising that letterbox does indeed breakdown.

ClArabelle67 · 24/02/2020 14:41

@defaultusername, you’re aware you are entitled to see your little ones file? That should give you access to child protection meeting minutes, assessments, permanence record and a copy of the judgement. Sounds to me your LA have been less than transparent and have taken a blanket approach to contact. Of course it’s likely that the records are well below the expected standards ( according to the research).

Have you discussed setting up a separate email for letterbox with the BPs? It’s not something the LA can prohibit you from suggesting if you and the BPs are comfortable with it? Maybe the coram legal advice line could offer some guidance?

Re funding - I’ve read some research that states LAs often take the approach of ‘ were giving you a child, be grateful, get on with it’. Appalling.

jellycatspyjamas · 24/02/2020 16:10

It sounds like in @defaultusername case the LA would have considered direct contact too risky.
It’s not always about risk tbh, direct contact isn’t the norm in many areas for reasons around establishing the child’s new family, recognising the change in legal status, vulnerability of the birth family and supporting them to adjust to their loss - there are usually many factors to consider which won’t be shared with adopters or with birth families depending on what those issues are because both sides deserve privacy around their personal circumstances. It’s difficult to balance all of the competing needs and legal processes to everyone’s satisfaction but where I am no direct contact is the norm with letterbox the usual default but direct contact is managed via the local authority to ensure all sides keep appropriate boundaries.

Having seen the fall out of what can happen when we’ll meaning private arrangements go wrong, I’d always support working with the local authority/placing agency because it gives all parties a measure of distance and gives some protection for all concerned.

Ted27 · 24/02/2020 16:53

I was left pretty much to my own devices after the first meeting with my son's dad. We get along OK, he is not a risk.
From my experience, where it has gone 'wrong' is that for a variety of reasons he just cannot sustain it.
I have bent over backwards to enable him to see his son, but he very often just didn't turn up. I couldn't continue with it, I found it incredibly stressful and of course my son's confusion and disappointment was crushing

ClArabelle67 · 24/02/2020 17:31

That’s heartbreaking @Ted27. It makes me wonder what, if any, post adoption support and counselling the BF was given or if he simply wasn’t committed himself to continuing contact.

@jellycatspyjamas, I understand that decisions re contact are more nuanced than just the consideration of harm, and at the same time I’m concerned that the courts and the LAs apply blanket practices based on resources rather than the child’s best interests.

I do wonder how the situation will be when this generation of children become adults and how many of them will feel about the system.

Ted27 · 24/02/2020 18:18


He has too many of his own problems and struggles with mental health. My son knows I tried my best and that I have never stood in the way of contact. He knows his dad is free to call, email, and even visit us at our home. The day is coming soon that my son will want to ask his own questions of his dad - I don't think he will get any answers. I'll be there to pick up the pieces as usual.

jellycatspyjamas · 24/02/2020 19:29

I do wonder how the situation will be when this generation of children become adults and how many of them will feel about the system.

I imagine not too differently to those many adults who have been through the system already tbh - this isn’t by any means a new issue and in many ways has improved over time as research and knowledge has improved (which is a scary thought given the challenges that we all know all too well). I don’t think there’s much, if any support given to birth parents following permanent removal - it’s certainly not easy to access . You’d made the comment about LAs feeling they’ve given a couple a child and so have done their bit (or something similar). I think the same applies to birth parents in that they’ve removed the child to a safe home, there’s no further risk to that child and no further role for services. I’m not saying for a second I agree with that stance but I think it’s pervasive across statutory services.

In all honesty unless social work services are appropriately funded and resources things aren’t going to change, and no one wants to fund social work services because that doesn’t win votes. We’re not valued in the way nurses or teachers are, not seen as necessary in the way police are - literally no one wants to strengthen social work, which is a shame because there’s so much incredible work that could be done if we weren’t constantly fire fighting. And costs would lessen in the long run if vulnerable families had proper, ongoing work to support their parenting and wider issues.

ClArabelle67 · 24/02/2020 22:22

@jellycatspyjamas, I’m with 100% in that reasoning. Given the current climate even the police/nurses, etc aren’t given the credit and support they deserve; my local,police force has been cut from 21 per shift to 7. the SWs conference research paper from last( ?) year saying so many feel ethically and professionally compromised purely due to resource allocations... the legislation is there for early intervention but the resources aren’t, and therefore SWs are left firefighting. Of course there’s always an element in SW were staff are young/ inexperienced or just bloody minded. It would be great if there was an MP/ member of the commons/lords to really advocate for families and the professionals and appropriate budget allocations, but that’s not happening and unlikely to under our current climate. I guess as someone else said, we just plod on individually and hope to make a difference.....

ClArabelle67 · 24/02/2020 22:26

@Ted27, it sounds like you’ve been really open and done all you can, and will continue to support your boy. As you said, autism has its upsides ( and I’ve often thought this with my girl)... it’s heartbreaking for you but you your boy will be more pragmatic about it all due to his diagnosis, and you are there beside him to cradle him. Much power to you x

jellycatspyjamas · 24/02/2020 23:08

Of course there’s always an element in SW were staff are young/ inexperienced or just bloody minded.

Always, but we used to have time and space to train, support and mentor young and inexperienced SWs. In many places now you’re lucky to not just be handed a case load at graduation...

Please create an account

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.