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Advice needed for first letter box contact letter, how to start etc etc

56 replies

april74 · 04/03/2009 10:31

Well says it all really, I am due to write my first letters.

I know of plenty of things that I want to say and have the photo's ready, I just struggling with the first line.

I have to write 2 letters 1 to the birth parents and another to her half sister who has been long term fostered by a family member.

We changed the spelling of our DD first name, but I will write with the old spelling.

Just need advice on how to get started.


OP posts:
hifi · 04/03/2009 10:38

i ususualy start mine with " Hi sally hope you are keeping well, heres an update on how baby hifi is doing".
we changed dd name but i still call her original one in letterbox. remninds me one is due.

april74 · 05/03/2009 11:27

Thanks Hifi

OP posts:
KristinaM · 06/03/2009 14:06

good suggestion hifi. simple and practical

Clover1jaz2 · 04/07/2011 18:45

Hi, I'm just about to start my first letter to birth family, cant believe its crept up so fast, like april74 i also dont know how to start, didn't realise it would be so hard

Lilka · 04/07/2011 20:40

I write quite a few letters to DD2 and DS mum, but the first was definitely the hardest!! I said something very much like hifi did, I think that works well. I'm a bit more informal with siblings e.g. 'Hey "Mary" it's DD2's mum! I hope you had a great Christmas! We all did... etc.

I changed DS first name, but she knows what it is, and I write with his new one. But then, there's no security issue with her, and she does know our surname

Luckily we have good two way communication, so with the future letters I literally picked up where she left off, without any opening line (i never found quite the right thing to say, so just leapt in instead!)

Clover1jaz2 · 11/07/2011 17:34

Just wrote my first letter, I've put the heading as childrens update and wrote mine in paragraphs ie; general, school, holidays, health etc.. it has made the start so much easier as you dont need to address it to anyone and you can add photo's that go with each section.

walesblackbird · 12/07/2011 12:50

Keep it factual - height, weight, things you've done (vague details), what your child likes on the tv, dvds, what she likes to eat, what games she likes to play, a bit about her personality, illnesses etc etc

We didn't address ours to anyone - it was more of a report. Because of security issues we aren't allowed to use our names and so it didn't feel appropriate to use theirs either.

123caughtaflea · 01/08/2011 22:24

Have to say that though "just a report" sounds good, both my (adoptive)son and I find it hurtful that the parents of his half sibs adopted elsewhere can't manage to use our names and to sign (as we do for them and as was agreed with SWs). It just feels like another rejection for him. And as we don't like it from them, I don't do it for BM, though have been tempted at times when she has been particularly trying.

Aeschylus · 29/08/2011 14:18

Slightly off topic but in response to what you have stated above - have you changed first name completely or kept it close to original? Does this have to be approved by the Birth Parents?

I would forget if I wrote with a different name to what I call my child everyday I think (although typing a letter would be easier with 'find and replace').

Also, do you talk to your child about the letter or just write it? I thnk Hifi's suggestion makes a good start - if very against names, maybe just start with Hi, Hope you are well .....

Lilka · 29/08/2011 15:18

Whether or not you talk about your letters with your child depends upon their understanding of their adoption, what they want, whether the letters are appropriate to share etc
My two younger ones not only know about the letters, but are involved in creating them - DD2 (15) writes her own bit, whilst DS might pick a drawing to include from him, and they help pick the best photos of themselves to send. I read the return letters myself before they see them, just in case there's any serious news in them that I need to tell them about. Then DD2 and I sit down to read together, and I read the letters to DS seperatly (just in case one of them has a strong reaction I don't show the letters to both at the same time)

However other children might not even be aware their parents write letters, or might know but not care or want to contribute at all

Name changing is relatively common I think, although it might be frowned upon by some SS departments. Usually names are changed when there is a security risk or the name is very distinctive, in which case the first name is often moved back to be a middle name or something like that. Or you might just change the spelling. Name change doesn't need to be approved by birth parents (indeed usually they don't know the name has changed) however it's good to have your SW support (although you can proceed anyway generally). I changed DS first name, many reasons including a security risk. SS weren't best pleased but when I wrote and told his first mum (no issue with her knowing, so I told her) she wrote back that she was absolutely fine with that, which shut the SW up!! His old first name is now a middle name

You may think you would forget, but honestly I don't think you would when it came to it

Clake66 · 28/11/2013 09:23

As a grandmother who had her grandchild stolen by social services due to inaccurate investigation leading to false allegations, being told you had a great Christmas in this type of letter is shockingly heartless. Personally Christmas and Birthday comments should not be discussed

Lilka · 28/11/2013 09:49

I assume you're addressing that to me? If you read my post in full, you'd see that I was giving an example of letters I write to my children's siblings, not birth parents. Siblings who are also adopted as it happens, and I hoped did indeed have a wonderful christmas. And I write pretty informally to siblings, they write back in the same manner

As for birth parents, I did have a meeting with DD2 and DS birth mum before adopting them and I did specifically ask her what kind of things she wanted me to tell her about in my letters. One of those things she said she wanted to hear about was nice things we had done and holiday celebrations. She wanted to know that they had a lovely time, she wanted to know they were happy. Her choice. So I tell her about christmas

So please don't tell me what is and isn't appropriate to write when it's up to my children's birth mum and me what we write to each other, and we were both pretty comfortable with the content of our letters when we were writing them

You know, most adoptive parents do think very carefully about what to write in our letters, and we struggle to find a balance and word it all nicely. I always have thought very hard about birth mum's feelings when writing

drspouse · 28/11/2013 11:59

We write to birth mother and I know she shows the letter to grandparents and to the oldest sibling who lives with the grandparents (much older than our toddler). Of course we tell them we've had a great Christmas/birthday.

They want to know that their grandchild/child/sibling is happy and loved. Would they rather think that he is sitting in a cupboard not getting any presents?

We have been told to talk about his development, what he enjoys (even if it's mainly FOOD), what we have done as a family, who he has met in the family, and to emphasise that he is a beloved grandchild/cousin/nephew of our parents/nieces & nephews/siblings.

AngelsWithSilverWings · 28/11/2013 12:16

I style mine as a newsletter. I don't write hi , or dear BM or anything like that.

I met my DS's birth mother and the strongest message that she sent me home with was that she wanted to know that we loved him, that we would be proud of him. She said that she wanted him to have a better like than she had had. She asked if we would be taking him on lots of holidays as she didn't really have them as a child.

So my newsletters ( every 6 months) contain a summary of everything he has done since the last letter.

The first ever one talked about how he was settling in, how much everyone adores him, what toys, tv shows, music he likes. I told her about all the baby and toddler groups and clubs he was enjoying. What he got for his birthday and how we celebrated it.Ditto for Xmas.

Now they are all about holidays he has been on, I lift key points and comments from his school reports , talk about his sporting achievements etc.

I know his BM appreciates the time I go to to put the letter together with the photos. I once had a problem getting my photos printed and the letter was delayed a week. She phoned the contact centre to chase it up as she was so looking forward to receiving it.

The lovely thing about these newsletters is that I have kept a copy of each one and I have a wonderful record of everything he has done since he was a baby. If he is ever famous and needs to write an autobiography it will be a doddle!

Lilka · 28/11/2013 12:33

That's lovely angels Smile

There's not a right or wrong way of styling it - it all depends on your individual situation. This thread shows quite a range of communication which all works for us, whether it's a newsletter style letter, or a 'Dear X' very personal type letter, we all put different things in, address birth family in different ways - whatever it is, you just have to decide what's best in your own individual situation with individual birth family members and childs individual background/needs

excitedmamma · 28/11/2013 13:40

We have been instructed NOT to include any photographs in our letterbox contact.... any photographs must be sent to Social Services and then the birth parents invited in to view them... all to do with social networking... wonder if this is the same for everyone?

QOD · 28/11/2013 13:51

How do you you really feel about doing it though? Is it to supposedly benefit the child or the birth parent? If the child was taken away as opposed to relinquished does that make a difference?

A new friend has adopted 2 non related children, the oldest was taken from an addict mother at birth and was in hospital then foster care, the 2nd was relinquished at birth due to circumstances. 2 polar different starts. I will ask her at an appropriate time about whether she has to do it.

My dd birth mum is my friend anyway as she's a straight surrogate baby, so she sees her a couple of times a year, we're friends on Facebook etc.

Dd would, if given the chance, rather not see her than see her, I don't mean she doesn't want to see her, but she couldn't be less interested. She's 14

Lilka · 28/11/2013 14:12

excitedmamma photos are very situation dependent and different LAs have different policies. I've always sent photos but many others don't. Social networking is a recent concern, before 2009/2010 or so it just wasn't on the radar. However since it has become a concern, many agencies are becoming more wary of sending photographs. It still might be the most appropriate thing to do in certain situations but I think it's a bit less common now

QOD that's a pretty big question! I don't have the time to write a proper answer now, but I will later. For now, suffice to say it's very complex, I have had many emotions over the years attached to contact, and of course since every situation and every adoptive parent is different, people can feel very differently about it

I think it's quite likely your friend writes letters because a very large majority of adoptions have one or two letters a year attached. However it ends up, it's uncommon for an adoption to start without indirect contact. A small number of adoptions have face to face visits with birth parents, quite a few adoptions have sibling visits, and a minority have zero contact at the outset

QOD · 28/11/2013 14:20

I guess I still thought of old fashioned non contact adoption as still being the norm and dd knowing all about her birth family as being unusual!

I can imagine some of the feelings, DD's birth great nan asked to meet her when she was about one and it freaked me out completely as to WHY. I actually can't remember if if happened now! I know I ended up crying down the phone to birth mum saying along the lines of "but she has 2 great Nan's already and your nan isn't one" 'twas a very stressful time I can't tell you!

Lilka · 28/11/2013 14:27

No it's certainly not the norm to have no contact, that ended quite a long time ago, the norm (the most common situation) is letterbox once or twice a year. It would be pretty uncommon to start an adoption with no contact at all. But there's a lot of varying situations

Lilka · 28/11/2013 16:37

I'll try a response now - obviously this is very personal to me, and it's very different for other parents

Letterbox is definitely supposed to be for the childs benefit. It may benefit the birth parents as well, but that's not supposed to be the primary goal of it. On the other hand, some birth parents find the letters very difficult, and so they never write back, and it's all one sided. I think it's easy to assume that all birth parents benefit and it's for them, but in reality I think there are a relatively significant group of birth parents who it doesn't benefit, but it's set up anyway in the hope the child will be helped by it. On the other hand, I know there will be birth parents out there who count down the months and days till their next letter

I have written a lot of contact letters to siblings as well, but I find those to be very different to birth parent contact letters, very different emotions attached

Letterbox brings up a lot of emotions for me, a lot of feelings. Writing it is difficult, recieving it is difficult. However, I know that letterbox has benefitted my DD2, so it is has been worth it (I no longer write to birth mum) while it lasted, which was many years. If you can see letterbox benefitting your child, then that makes it easier because you can see the purpose playing out in front of you, and you can say 'this is really going to help my child' when you struggle. If your child is too young to really comprehend it, or doesn't seem to be getting real benefits from it, it can be harder

It does force you to confront not being the only mother in a head on way. Of course that's the reality of adoption, your child has a past, and birth parents, but when you write a letter, you really have to confront that head on, and that also happens when you recieve a letter. Now for me, I'm okay with this, but I know that some adoptive parents find that aspect of letterbox very difficult

For me, the hardest thing is confronting my feelings about birth mum. I'm really talking about letterbox with DD2 and DS birth mum here, not DD1's birth parents (she hated contact, I hated it, so I stopped it). I have many mixed feelings about DD2 and DS birth mum on the other hand...worry, sadness, anger, sympathy, can all come to the fore at once

I am sure if DD2 were a relinquished baby, writing would be different, but of course she's not. She was removed for serious neglect and abuse. The letters I would recieve from birth mum sometimes very forcefully reminded me of this - the dysfunction in her life was very evident in her letters. She also clearly had absolutely no understanding of how to raise a child. On the one hand, she would write that she was happy to hear that DD was happy, and she thought I was a great mum, which made me teary and feel very grateful to her (for being strong enough to write that to me when her children were taken from her against her will and she wanted them with her, not with me). But then DD and I would ask to hear some of birth mum's memories of DD, and she would write back that she was happy to share...and I will never forget this letter, one of her memories was of how she and some of the kids (DD included) liked to spend lots of time having fun and they all liked to have a drink together. Apparently DD2 loved WKD and she was happy and had funny when she drank 'a bottle'. It didn't help that DD2 herself thought (and probably still thinks) this was a really cute story. I don't think getting a 3/4 year old child tipsy/drunk on alcopops is cute. Obviously. But that's one good example of having to confront DD's past in writing.

And there's the affect on DD. She might recieve a letter, we would go through it together, and then she might cry and say how much she missed her mum. And that's hard, because I have to deal with the fallout. And then my own feelings related to that - eg. why does DD love and forgive her every single piece of neglect and abuse, no matter how awful the details? I hate dealing with all the problems caused by birth mum, while she never has to see it. I'm so sad that birth mum had such a bad life that she thinks like this and lives in such dysfunction. And so on and so forth. If DD were going through a bad patch when i wrote, it would be harder, because I'd be thinking 'what I want to write is, "she's really struggling now, and that's actually your fault because you x,y,z, did this, exposed her to that, and I'mreally angry right now". But obviously that's not appropriate, and I want a good letterbox relationship, so I'd try extra hard to get the right balance in the letter

Writing is hard, because you are always trying to get a want to write something good, and you strive to get the right do i write about difficult issues like diagnosis or therapy or not? You are very conscious about what you are writing (or I am anyway!)

I'm sure I've made it all sound really difficult. I can't speak for anyone else, other adoptive parents will find it a very different experience of course, and I expect you would get a completely different response to someone else

But as I said, I know letterbox has been of benefit to DD2, so for all the difficulties, I certainly don't regret writing to her, and I would do letterbox again, because ultimately I am doing it in the hope that it will be of benefit to my child, and I am willing to go through any amount of issues if it will help my child

Hayleyh34 · 28/11/2013 16:53

Just to add - my DD was a relinquished baby but I struggle with contact. My DD wasn't relinquished until she was 7 months old and then was moved around a lot before we adopted her when she was 3.

I found the first contact letter relatively easier to write (one to birth mum, one to birth dad and one to half sibling in long term foster care) but as the years have gone by I have found them harder.

The birth father contacted us for the first time this year and requested a photo (which we will not do). This bought out a lot of emotions. As far as I know he has never even met DD and I found myself feeling quite resentful about the situation.

Lilka is as always a great source of info and I wish I could feel half as positive about contact as she does


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Lilka · 28/11/2013 17:32

I wish I could feel half as positive about contact as she does

It's easy to feel positive (or at least, to feel 'yes this is worth it' if you can see benefits happening in front of you. But you're not going to feel particularly positive if it doesn't seem to be having many benefits. In fact, if I compare my views on contact now to what they were say 1 or 2 years ago, my views now are slightly more negative. Purely because of what's happened this year. Before, they wer both fine and DS was hapy with the letters, now all this stupid stuff has happened and DS no longer wants me to send letters so I don't

In fact, looking back, many of my contact posts are very positively framed, because it was working. I think my post from today is more...realistic of the big picture over time. Worth it but very difficult and emotional

In general, I feel quite neutral about contact. I also regret sending anything to DD1's BP's. I think it's a really bad idea for some children, and a good idea for others. Anyway, what I'm trying to say is maybe I'm not as quite as positive as you might think at first look, and your situation is totally different to mine and maybe in your situation I would feel the same way, I have no idea

TeenAndTween · 29/11/2013 19:33

We do letterbox contact, and exchange (good quality) photos.

The bit I find hardest is in fact supporting my DD to write her letter. I want it to be her letter, and yet we have to ensure she doesn't include location identifying information. Also we want to encourage her to consider the birth families feelings / understanding so sometimes we have to say 'you can't say that as birth family will misunderstand it / find it upsetting'.
I find this hard as I don't want my DD to say I am preventing her from writing what she wants to her birth mother. And it brings up feelings for me that I am 'second best' for her (DD was already in y1 when she went into care).
I tend to cop out and let my DH do the supporting/reviewing, as he is by far the best dad DD has ever had.

And don't get me started on how hard it will be when (not if) DD has direct contact when she turns 18 (if not sooner). But it will be the right thing to support her, so that's what we'll do.

QOD · 01/12/2013 13:20

I know my dd doesn't think about any of it at all in her day to day life, she just is who she is, I am who I am and it would be like constantly reminding her that we aren't an average family.

I understand it more for older children if they have memories of their birth parents but, I don't know, it's like a constant reminder isn't it?

You sound flipping amazing though!

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