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(117 Posts)
Lyndiloo Sat 23-Jun-18 02:06:06

A young friend of mine and her husband are intending to adopt. They've been through all the training and have been accepted. That's great! However, one thing niggles with me. They've been told by their Social Worker that whatever child they adopt - as soon as they are old enough - will have to write to, or 'phone their "tummy-mummy" annually.

Firstly, I feel that this could be very upsetting for both the child and the adoptive parents. Potentially, all the child is going to get out of this is just more rejection, and a constant reminder that "tummy-mummy" didn't want him/her. And for the new parents, a constant, maybe painful, reminder that the child is not their natural child.

Secondly, would this be a legal commitment? Would Social Services be able to enforce this? After all, the child will be legally theirs by then, and if they don't want this birth family connection, why should they comply?

My thoughts are that this is a mad idea! Okay, when the child grows to adulthood, they may want to trace their biological parents ...? I get that. But I do feel that this yearly contact for young, adopted children would very much impinge on their settlement and future progress. What would they get out of it? Nothing but more hurt, in my opinion.

stella1949 Sat 23-Jun-18 02:22:34

I think your friend may have the details a bit confused. It's not the child who writes to the birth parent, it's the adoptive parents.

The adoptive parents send the birth family a letter and photos every year via a social worker or adoption agency intermediary. If the birth parent wants to respond, they also have to go through this method.

Adoption is a very big step to take - your friend should get every bit of information before she makes a decision. Good luck to her.

Lyndiloo Sat 23-Jun-18 04:06:48

Oh, that's not so bad then. But do they have to? Are they enforced to?

Thanks for that information.

silverlining48 Sat 23-Jun-18 06:54:04

Its been a while since i was a SW so things could have changed but i too think theres been some misunderstanding here. Its highly unlikely the child will be asked to make contact but there were times when the adoptive parents did agree to send annual info via social services to the birth parent but that was by agreement of both parties.

alreadytaken Sat 23-Jun-18 07:37:37

This has really irritated me, for all sorts of reasons.

It isnt always the case that "tummy mummy" (why cant we just say biological mother?) didnt want the child. Giving a child up for adoption can be a very brave decision that you are unable to give them a good life. It can be unselfish in seeking something better for them. Young women can also be put under great pressure to do this.

I believe very strongly that the people who raise you are your parents and words like "not their natural parents" should never be used. Your biological parents give you your medical history, your birth parents give you your life. An annual letter to someone who probably did want you (because they wouldnt ask for letters if they didnt) doesnt change that. It does provide a little comfort to the person who gave up a child that they did the right thing.

I'm not adopted, I've never given up a child. I have helped adoptees who wish to know their ethnic background, I see it as their right to know. But I always warn them that they may not like what they find out.

Panache Sat 23-Jun-18 07:58:35

Well I was adopted and speaking from my own point of view and recalling my Birth mother contacting my "adopted" mother when I was about 6 years of caused utmost grief to my "adopted" mother,and quite possibly was the catalyst that was at the root of the cancer which claimed her life.
Such contacts after a number of years serves no one............other than the birth mother.......and quite frankly speaking from my own point of view, simply having the basic facts of your "real" parents .....and the ability to contact and get to meet and know them, say at the age of 18 and afterwards, should be enough contact.

Iam64 Sat 23-Jun-18 08:43:59

Very few children are 'given up' for adoption these days. Thank goodness we're beyond the 50's and 60's where children and young women who were pregnant, single, were dispatched to mother and baby homes, from which their babies were removed and placed for adoption at about 6 weeks of age.
Adoptive parents go through a lengthy process of assessment where the possible backgrounds of the children they may adopt will be discussed in detail.
Research shows how important it is for children to have age appropriate information about their background throughout their lives, rather than be told "when old enough" that they are adopted.

Phone contact would be rare. An exchange of very brief information between the adopters and birth parents, on an annual basis much more common. I don't say the professionals involved get everything 100% every time but, they're the people with years of experience, training and research available. Every child placed for adoption will have a plan that is scrutinised by a Court and experts to ensure any arrangements for indirect or rarely direct contact are in the child's best interests. also, that those arrangements won't de-stabilise an adoption.

sodapop Sat 23-Jun-18 08:55:47

I was adopted and totally agree with alreadytaken I really dislike those euphemisms but understand its a way of explaining things to a small child.
I also dislike the term 'real mother' when used for the biological mother. The real mother us the one who brings you up, cares for you when you are sick and deals with teenage angst.
I agree with the other points made by alreadytaken

Anniebach Sat 23-Jun-18 08:56:47

My younger daughter went through the whole training thing, she decided she could not realy bond with an adopted child and the child’s tummy mummy, and there is the fact the child may want to return to tummy mummy so always a feeling you are a child minder not a mother.

henetha Sat 23-Jun-18 09:24:06

I have two adopted grandchildren and Stella1949 is absolutely right. This annual letter is done through a social worker or adoption agency. And, in our case, their birth mother responds with a letter, also through the same third party. She does not have the address where the children live; in our case she does not even know the town they now live in. There is no contact.
But at 18 the child has the right of access to a file with details and the right to approach their birth mother if they wish to. My grandson is now 19 and has absolutely no desire to see this file or meet his birth mother, - not yet, anyway.
I myself was also adopted; there were no such arrangements in those days, but I have a legal document signed by my birth mother stating that she gives up all rights and claims to me.
Adoption is final and definite. There is no way that a legally adopted child can be returned to it's birth mother.
Not until they are 18 anyway and of their own choosing.

bmacca Sat 23-Jun-18 09:51:09

This "Letterbox" arrangement is always discussed fully before any child is placed with adoptive parents. The exchange of letters/cards/photographs goes through a social worker who will check that nothing inappropriate or hurtful has been included. In my experience, we tried to arrange the dates for Letterbox exchange away from birthdays because this was usually easier for both families. It's evident that having this exchange is helpful to the adopted person, whether they go on to have contact with their birth family or not when they become adults.

Luckygirl Sat 23-Jun-18 09:56:57

My nephews are adopted. They have had the potential to receive contact from their birth family, which is huge, all the way through. They are now young adults. One said he was very clear that his adoptive parents were his parents and he felt no desire to seek them out in any way. He is a cal, well-balanced and charming young man.

The other has always struggled with his birth parents' rejection of him; some time ago his birth brother, whom he had been seeing, tricked him into a meeting with his birth father. This already very troubled young man was very very disturbed by this, and his behaviour deteriorated accordingly. He and his brother were taken from the birth parents at a very young age for very sound reasons, and so were all there string of siblings as each in their turn were born into a hellish home.

My feeling on all this is that adopted children should be told from day one, however tiny they are, that their adoptive parents are not their biological parents. My dear nephews used to have a birthday and a "Choose Day", which was when their adoptive parents chose them. They should then simply have the option to seek out their birth parents at the age of 18. The unreliable contact with their chaotic birth family has been entirely negative, however well-intentioned by the SWs at the time.

But the SWs will hopefully have made a judgement in each case as to what might be in the best interests of the child. It is important not to have a on-size-fits-all rule, as often the circumstances around a child needing adoption are very complex.

Luckygirl Sat 23-Jun-18 09:57:14


BlueBelle Sat 23-Jun-18 10:06:52

Having watched some if the reuniting tv programmes and see the absolute hell some parents have gone through when allowing their babies to be adopted I think an annual letter to let them know the child is alive and well should be welcomed if it’s between the parents and not the child there surely is no harm done
The world needs to be a little kinder to all people I don’t see why it should blur the edges for the child who doesn’t need to be involved apart from knowing that his/ her parents loved them but couldn’t look after them maybe I m looking at it to simplistically I wasn’t adopted or have any personal involvement just how my heart would feel

grannyactivist Sat 23-Jun-18 11:58:02

I spent much of my career as an adoptions social worker. One of the children I placed was the child of a young woman who had almost completed her professional training when she found she was pregnant. Against all family advice she chose adoption over abortion, she helped to choose her baby's adoptive parents from basic, non-identifying information and she asked for annual letter box contact. Once a year she receives a letter and photograph from the adoptive parents. The child has grown up knowing that she was chosen by her adoptive parents and that her birth mother wanted her to have life. Her adoptive parents are delighted that they have a child who knows that her birth mother maintains an interest in her life and that she was never rejected.

Nowadays the vast majority of children have been removed from the care of their birth families; often against the wishes of both child and parents. Sometimes letterbox contact appears to be a positive thing and at others it is deemed too fraught to agree to - the decision is always made in the perceived best interest of the child and may be reviewed at any time.
Decisions are usually evidence-based and not made on a whim. Firstly a panel of experienced people and then a court makes the final decisions about ongoing contact - and although they don't always get it right, most of the time they do. Dealings with people can never be an exact science, but there is a body of research and experience to call upon to inform decisions.

Luckylegs9 Sat 23-Jun-18 18:33:54

I can't begin to think how upsetting it must be to give up a child, for whatever reason. You must just want to know they are happy and well, that you did the right thing for your baby. The adoptive parents love their much wanted child so much, it must be upsetting having contact with the birth mother. I do think most adoptive children would want to know their roots, but surely that family who have bought you up are your real parents. It must be the worst pain giving your child away.

sodapop Sat 23-Jun-18 20:15:25

I know I've said it before but have to say it again. Those TV programmes about reuniting families are absolute tripe and give a totally unrealistic view of the process.

Iam64 Sat 23-Jun-18 20:17:10

I’ve missed something soda pop, if you can be bothered, please say more about the unrealistic view of the process.

Anniebach Sat 23-Jun-18 20:27:41

Experts now claim tummy mummy is important to the child, at one time experts said children should never have contact with their biological mother, perhaps experts will have a different opinion in the future.

Izabella Sat 23-Jun-18 21:18:42

I think it is the right of the child to know when they reach the relevant age. Assuming they want to of course. I wholeheartedly support the concept of letterbox contact and am aghast that anyone would think this should not take take place. Quite an emotional subject and I am not sure I have expressed myself too well here. Honesty, openess or transparency, whatever you want to call it, should be the order of the day.

As an adoptee I always knew I was different from the rest of my family and the relief to be proven right has been one of the most profound moment of my life.

Izabella Sat 23-Jun-18 21:19:31


Iam64 Sat 23-Jun-18 21:25:56

Isabella, thanks for your moving post. I believe it’s better for children to be brought up knowing they’re adopted. Otherwise adoptive parents can struggle to know when the “relevant age” arrives. I’ve close friends who were adopted and who have themselves adopted. The research says age appropriate information when preparing children for adoption, continuing as the grow and ask questions.
As Annie says, expert opinions aren’t set in stone. It used to be thought children should be told “when old enough to enderstand”. We ask a lot of parents and imo even more of adoptive parents.

Eloethan Sat 23-Jun-18 21:48:25

In my view, it is about the emotional wellbeing of both the child that was adopted and the parent who gave the child up for adoption.

The programme Long Lost Family shows the heartache of women who, for a variety of reasons, felt they had no choice but to put their children up for adoption, primarily in the hope that the child would have a safer, more comfortable and secure life.

It also shows the heartache of adults who have been adopted but who know almost nothing about why their parents gave them up for adoption or indeed any other information that might be quite important for them to know.

As Bluebelle says, why is it wrong that doing this small thing to make the world a little kinder is seen by some as wrong?

My own feeling is that when adopted children express no desire whatsoever - and sometimes a great resistance - to finding out about their birth mother it is because they have picked up some fear and animosity from their adoptive parents.

I had a cousin who was adopted and her (quite old) adoptive mother used to tell her she'd been adopted because her mother didn't want her. Needless to say, she turned into a very disturbed and disruptive young woman.

I believe the current and former social workers on here have said that there would be circumstances where such a "letterbox" system would be considered inappropriate and would not be implemented.

GrandmaMoira Sat 23-Jun-18 21:48:41

It is well recognised that people need to know where they come from and, even if it is bad, adopted children need to know something of their background and that their birth mother did love them but was unable to cope whether because of illness, addiction, learning difficulties or something else.
The letterbox contact also helps the birth families. It is known that some women have their children taken away as they can't cope but keep getting pregnant again and repeating the cycle. It is extremely painful to have your child taken away and not know where they are, what their name is or if they are alive or dead. This contact can help these women improve their lives.

Izabella Sat 23-Jun-18 21:51:20

This thread made me weep. Then I looked out of the window at the most amazing beautiful pink sky and suddenly I feel peaceful again