Letterbox guidance for adoptive families

As your adopted child gets older, they may want to know more about their birth family in order to understand their personal history. Here is our advice and guidance for keeping in touch with the birth family through our Letterbox service.

It can sometimes be very difficult and daunting to sit down and write a letter to your child’s birth parents/relatives. However, the information that you send is usually the only contact that your child has with their birth family, and your child may want to know more about them.

Remember you are sharing information with your child’s birth parents/relatives, not strangers, and they will have their own feelings and memories about your child. If you are proud of your child, you can get pleasure sharing that pride with their birth family.

It is important to remember that this is a newsletter and not a formal report. It is also a chance to build a good relationship with your child’s birth family and they may be able to give you information about your child’s early life and extended birth family.


The name that you call the birth parents/relatives when talking to your child is usually the best name to use in the letter. However, it is up to you how you refer to yourself. You may wish to sign your letters off with ‘[child’s name] and family’ or ‘[child’s name] and adoptive family’. Remember, if you have changed the name of your child after adoption, always refer to him/her by his pre-adoption name in all letterbox correspondence with the birth family, as this is how they will know them.


Do not make any reference to the area you live in, use your surname, or mention places that you visit regularly.

Contents of letter

What you write in your letter depends on your child’s age. Over a period of six months or a year, all children make some progress and learn new skills.  Try to include some details of new achievements and hobbies, particularly if you know that the new skill is one shared by the birth parents.

It is not always wise to mention any worries that you have about your child – the birth parent is powerless to do anything about them and may become anxious. However, all children get up to mischief and it can be helpful to build a more realistic picture if you include some amusing anecdotes.

Avoid stating the age of your child; birth parents will be fully aware of the age of the child.

Although photographs help a birth parent/relative to appreciate how the child is growing up, most agreements do not include photographs therefore, a written description of their physical development since the last letter is also important. Most birth parents feel reassured by the fact that their child is loved and well cared for, so do not feel reluctant to share the happy times in your letter.

Birth parents/relatives have no way of knowing that their letters have been received by you so it would be reassuring for the birth parents/relatives to know that their letters are being kept safely for your child. Similarly, if you have received a letter or photographs from the birth family, it would be kind to acknowledge this in your next letter and mention that you have received them safely.

As children get older, they may want to contribute to your letter. Parents often need to take the initiative on this because children may not know what to say. Just because children do not talk about their birth families, it does not mean that they are not thinking about them. This will certainly reassure the birth parent that your child knows some of his/her history and is aware that their birth parent is a real person. It may also help you to open up a dialogue about your child’s past.

You may want to include some of your child’s artwork from playgroup or school to share their achievements with his/her birth parents. Perhaps as a child gets older, he/she could be encouraged to select the items to be included. This may be helpful for when they are 18 years old when they need to consider if they wish to correspond with their birth parents.

You might wish to keep a copy of your letters to remind you of what you have said.  Please date the letters and sign them using your first names or “Adoptive Family”.


The majority of agreements do not include photographs, however, if the agreement does include photographs, clear and well produced photographs are important. It is always nice to know something about the photograph. Was it taken on holiday, or his/her birthday? Perhaps you could write the year on the back of the photograph so that the birth parent will always know when it was taken.

Please do not include school photographs as the uniform and school badge may be identifying, also be mindful of any other background that may give any identifying information about where the photograph was taken.


Dependant on the letterbox agreement you may receive a reminder letter from the Letterbox Team during the month before you are due to send your letter. The birth parents/relatives will be expecting to receive a letter from you at the agreed time.

Please remember that it takes time to process the contact exchange and you need to allow at least two weeks for the post to arrive on time.

The Letterbox Team will acknowledge receipt of any letters received from adoptive families. If no acknowledgement is received within two weeks of sending the letter, whether this is by post or e-mail we would advise you to contact us to ensure that they have been received.

What happens if we don’t get a letter?

Sometimes, lifestyles can be hectic and change and the birth family may dip in and out of contact. A flexible approach towards contact can still have huge long-term benefits for the child/ren.

If for some reason there has been no contact between adopters and birth family, there are always options to start it up again until the child reaches 18.

Urgent news

If you have relevant urgent news (Such as Illness or death) regarding an adoptive family member that you feel needs passing onto the Letterbox Team before the agreed contact time. Please do get in touch to discuss this with us.

We understand that you may like to discuss some aspects of letter writing and we will be happy to help and support you.

Download these sample letters to help get you started

Contact our Letterbox service by phone, post or email:

North Wales Adoption Service
Letterbox Contact Team
3rd Floor Lambpit Street
LL11 1AR

Telephone: 01978 295311

If you’re interested in adoption, need additional support, or just want to ask us some questions, we’d love to hear from you.

You can also speak to an adoption worker for an informal chat, and we can then send you an information pack.

0800 085 0774