It’s Time to Deliver on letterbox contact
Pause’s report Time To Deliver, published in September 2021, explores birth and adoptive families’ experiences of Letterbox Contact. It is part of our wider Knowing They’re OK project on relationships with children.
Relationships with children are a top priority for women working with Pause. In particular, they consistently tell us about the difficulties they have with letterbox contact: an indirect form of contact where adoptive and birth families exchange letters, often once a year, through an adoption or fostering agency.
The current system is outdated, complicated and doesn’t always lead to the development of long-lasting, meaningful relationships, where it is in the best interest of the children. This report looks at the letterbox contact system, with a focus on the experience of birth mothers, and provides recommendations for changes to the system. Our key findings include:
- Over half of professionals who support birth parents and responded to our online survey thought the quality of letterbox contact in their area was average, poor or very poor (52% combined).
- Nearly three quarters of adoptive families and women who work with Pause who responded to our online survey (70% and 69% respectively) stated their letterbox contact had never been reviewed.
- The system is complicated and full of uncertainty. 60% of women who work with Pause and responded to our survey said that they were not sure what they can write in their letters. Similarly, adoptive parents also talked about the challenges they face writing letters.
- More support is needed in the system. Over 80% of professionals who support birth parents and responded to our survey said that having a designated person support contact would be effective in supporting relationships with children.
- Due to the support women on the Pause Programme received, the women experienced significant improvements in their relationships with existing children, both in managing the emotional and practical challenges of family time arrangements and in coming to terms with complex forms of loss and their maternal identities.
- The system needs modernising. Letterbox contact has remained the typical plan over the last 20 years. Technological advances offer new, digital modes of communications. Where it is safe and in the best interest of the child(ren), these can be beneficial to family time arrangements, allowing adopted children to communicate in ways that are more familiar and interactive than a letter.
The current letterbox contact system prioritises administration over building relationships. It’s not delivering. Pause report Time to Deliver sets out the following recommendations for change:
Want to support our #TimeToDeliver campaign?
Presentation to Operational Leads from 26 April: Pause in Practice – Letterbox contact – Download here
If you have any questions about the report or would like more information, please get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this report – all the women, adoptive families and professional who completed the survey, Pause colleagues who have supported the process and the women who work with Pause who were part of the reference group and delivery of this report. Without you, this report would not have been possible.
The name for the wider project that this report is part of – Relationships with children – was suggested and chosen by women. Thank you to those who were in those discussions as part of Pause’s Getting Involved work.