Helpful hints and tips for writing Keeping in Touch letters (Letterbox)

Jan and Karen from our Adopt South West ‘Keeping In Touch’ team have put together some hints, tips, and things for adoptive parents to think about when writing letters.

We all know how important keeping in touch (Letterbox) letters are for children in supporting them to build a full sense of identity and belonging. Being open and honest about adoption and their connectedness to both their adoptive family and birth family builds a foundation for their future.

We also know it can feel tricky knowing what to write in the letters to birth relatives and feeling confident that the letter is going to be helpful to everyone, and support the continuation of the exchange.

Please remember:

  • to include the month and year on the letter
  • to include the reference number
  • to write the letter from adult to adult, rather than to/from the child
  • if you don’t want to use your real name, you can use an alias, this can be more personal than witting “the adopters” or using initials
  • you don’t need to wait for us to send you a reminder letter, you can send your letter either through the post or via email, anytime
  • if you’ve moved house, please update us; we will not send out any letters until you confirm your address

What to write about:

Birth families want to know how things genuinely are, they will want to know about any negative or more challenging news as well as positive news about the child. They want you to be as open and honest as possible with them about the child’s progress.

  • How your child/ren are doing in school or nursery?
  • What interests, hobbies, or talents does your child have?
  • How your child is developing? For example, are they walking, talking, can they ride a bike, swim?
  • Does your family have any pets that your child enjoys taking care of?

Asking questions:

Feel free to ask birth family questions which might help you in supporting your child or helping to share some insights to your child. For example,

  • Do you have any health conditions which might be genetic?
  • Do you have any special skills or talents that they might have?

Keep writing:

We know that sometimes it might feel frustrating if a birth relative has not sent a letter, there are lots of different reasons that this might happen, often this is likely because they are unable for one reason or another. However, your letters are still important, and we would encourage you wherever possible, to keep this communication opportunity going. Birth parents might not be able to write straight away or all the time, but we do everything we can to share your letters with them. They may be in a better position to write in the future. Your child can access all their information, including your letters and letters from birth family in the future.

Birth parents have the opportunity to be supported in writing their letters and we give them guidance on what to write about and share.

Please try to be on time in writing your letters, birth family members can feel anxious or worried when letters are late to arrive. We know that sometimes life can get in the way, but please keep in mind that often birth family members have been waiting roughly a year to hear about your child and how they are getting on.

Have you considered a direct meeting or contact?

Face to face meetings between adoptive parents and birth family can take place at any point, not just during the transition period prior to your child living with you. You could find that a face to face meeting can really support you in helping your child to build a whole sense of who they are, and help you in building more understanding of the birth family and what’s important to share in your letters. There is no time limit to when you could arrange to meet a birth parent. It must be the right time for everyone involved, but we have arranged these several years after adoption.

Although we know it is not right in every situation, there is increasing evidence that children who are supported to have direct contact with their birth family grow up with a stronger sense of self and struggle less as a result. If you haven’t previously had a direct contact arrangement for your child with their birth family, please know that you can revisit this at any point you want to, now or in the future.

You can talk to the Adopt South West team about arranging a meeting with a birth parent or exploring direct contact for your child with their birth family to get more information at any point.

Contact us

Please contact the (Keeping in Touch) Letterbox team if you need any further support or advice.

You can call: 0345 155 1076. This line is open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9am to 1pm.

You can email Adopt South West letterbox: