I recently supported an adoptive family to meet with a birth parent, (mother). At the point the birth parent meeting took place an adoption order had been granted with no conditions attached. There was no requirement for the birth parent meeting to take place, nor was there any requirement for any form on ongoing contact attached to the adoption order.
Preparing for the birth parent meeting
However, my adoptive family understood the benefits to their son and also themselves of meeting the birth mother. Nonetheless, I was aware that they felt apprehensive about the birth parent meeting. In order to reduce anxiety, we ensured that the adopters and the birth mother exchanged questions that they would like to know in advance. The birth mother was also supported, by the child’s social worker, to understand what was okay to ask during the birth parent meeting e.g. questions about the child’s location and surname, etc. should not be asked, as they wouldn’t be answered.
What my adoptive family were keen to know
My adoptive family wanted to gain some of the softer information that is not contained in reports that their son might want to know when older e.g.
- How was his name chosen?
- Does he look like anyone in the family?
- What were her favourite subjects at school?
- What music does she like?
- What is her favourite food?
What the birth mother was keen to know
The birth mother was keen to know
- What the child’s height, weight and shoe size was
- How his speech was
- What he liked to eat
- What were his favourite cartoons?
- Does he misbehave?
What happened on the big day
Unfortunately, due to COVID the birth parent meeting had to be held virtually and this also meant that it was not possible to take a photograph of them together, which would have been a great addition to the child’s memory box or life story book. Despite being held virtually, the conversation very quickly started flowing and the adoptive family shared lots of information about the child’s likes and dislikes with some funny stories included.
The birth mother also shared lots of information and they discovered she had enjoyed art and design at school, the child also loves drawing and painting. The birth mother also shared family background stories that no-one was aware of e.g. her great grandfather was Polish. Having information like this will be so important to the child in terms of their understanding of their birth family and what traits they may share.
It was a very positive experience
Parts of the birth parent meeting were emotional e.g. when the birth mother was asked what would she like the child to know about her as he is growing up. However, overall I think the birth parent meeting was very positive and she was reassured that the child was safe and well and would always know who she is. For the adoptive family having met her they would now be able to share with their son what she looked like, how she sounded and what they had discussed.
Letterbox contact was agreed going forward
A really important link had been made with the birth mother and the adopters hoped to maintain it, so also agreed to exchange letters once per year and found out what the birth mother would like to know in the letters. The birth parent meeting went so well that the adoptive family decided to share a picture of the child with the birth mother and she, in turn, advised that she had some pictures of the child as a newborn with her that she would send to them via the social worker.
How letterbox contact helps the adopted child
Not all adoptive families feel able to meet with the birth parents or maintain a level of contact, however for the child, this level of openness will really help them to understand and make sense of being part of two families. As children get older they can play an active role in the letterbox contact and decide what information to include in the letters or even send a picture they have drawn. It also provides children and adoptive parents with the opportunity to ask questions and gain the reassurance that the birth family is okay.
Are you interested in letterbox contact?
In addition to supporting adoptive families to meet birth parents, we can also offer support with letterbox contact. Writing a letter to a birth family can be a difficult task, people are aware that these letters will be cherished by the birth family and read and re-read a number of times, so can feel anxious about writing them. If anyone is considering letterbox contact or requires support to write a letter to the birth family please don’t hesitate to get in touch as this is something that we can support you with. We also have written guidance notes we can provide people with.
If you would like to find out more about adopting or fostering a child through St Andrew’s Children’s Society please call 0131 454 3370 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.