Help with Writing Letterbox

Today Sarah from The Puffin Diaries  shares her experiences and ideas about writing letterbox contact…


I remember having to write my first letterbox contact and feeling a little bit lost. Yes we had been giving some advice by social workers but actually coming to do it, and suddenly sitting in front of a computer screen, it was all a very different matter.  For some letterbox comes as part of a child’s profile, something you need to be prepared to take part in for certain children. For me it never seemed like something I couldn’t do, however as the years have gone on I have struggled at times. It’s great therefore that I have a strategy for doing the letters, a plan to help you through and get the job done.

As I’m writing this post from my own experiences, not as a complete expert if anyone else has any good suggestions please let us know in the comments below.

  • I try and cover a couple of main subject areas, achievements, likes and dislikes, health and any major events.
  • Don’t give too much personal detail, as in names of places or other people in your lives.
  • On the whole I keep it positive.
  • As your children get older ask them if there are things they would like to share in the letters.
  • I try to write at least a page of A4 in double spacing.
  • If you have to write a number of letters, duplicate what you’ve written with slight personal amendments. For example I write to birth mum and grandma, I add a little extra for mum but on the whole the letter is the same.
  • Keep copies of the letters and any pictures you send. I think it’s great for the children to see what you’ve written and it can make a good diary of events through their life.  I keep all ours in a folder.
  • We include photographs in our letterbox. I made a decision early on that I didn’t really like sharing our family pictures. What I do is send copies of school pictures and make sure that they have the shots done with no sweatshirt on, so the school can’t be identified.
  •  I usually ask politely that we receive a response, even though we have only ever received a couple of letters in the early years. The children ask why we don’t get replies and ask that I write that they would like to hear.

It’s not always easy maintaining this contact, especially when you don’t receive replies. However, I believe it’s important for your children to know that you have tried your hardest to keep to an agreement you made. As children get older it is good to include them in the process. I am still happy to write the letters, but do always ask if they want me to write and what they would like to be included. I am aware that some older children do not wish this contact to be continued and I believe this is very much a point of discussion and thought for each individual family.

As I said above, if you have any useful tips of your own I would really like to read them, as I’m sure others would too, so please add in the comments below.

18 thoughts on “Help with Writing Letterbox

  1. Rachel

    Hi Sarah,
    It’s really interesting to hear your experience. We have annual letterbox contact with birth mum and older sister, and my approach is pretty much the same as yours (minus the photos, I send some of their artwork instead).
    What I hadn’t thought about is continuing to write after the letters back have stopped, as ours already have. I’d planned to give it one more go then politely tell the letterbox facilitators that as there was nothing in it for the children I didn’t see the point of continuing. Your post has made me think again about that.
    So far I’ve only talked about this with our eldest (6) in connection with his life story stuff. He asked why I was writing to tell her about him, as it was none of her business (a couple of weeks later he asked if “that person” had written back yet – she hadn’t, and never did).
    I think I’ll continue until each child is able to decide for themselves whether to maintain a one-way conversation. As you say, I can show that at least I was willing to stick with what had been agreed.

    Thanks Sarah, and best wishes to you all,

    Rachel x

  2. Adoption Journey Blog

    We have only had to write one set of contact letters so far and all the above tips are ones which we had pretty much come to of our own accord. All good stuff. Certainly we found that the cut and paste function was a useful one in compiling our various contact letters. It is straightforward enough to genericise things while still retaining a necessary flavour of events, likes, dislikes, developments etc.

    On whether to carry on of the returning letters had petered out… It was very striking the amount of emphasis which was put on the value to us and our kids in the longer term of persevering. They stated that for a child to see that you have been the consistent one (while the birth parent hasn’t) can be a real strengthener to the relationship in the later years. It subtly underlines who the “real” parent is – the one who is dependable, committed, reliable, consistent, delivers what they promised. An important message for a hormone fuelled teenager who is trying to grapple with a complex life story and work out their identity. They also talked about the emotional effects on your child that you had done something hard and selfless which shown kindness to the birth parent – again painting you in a good, compassionate light. I am not 100% convinced whether I buy all that reasoning. However, I suspect that it is something which I will still hold onto as the years roll on. The thought that a few short hours each year will help lay down some longer-term reassurance and relationship building for our little one is a strong driver…

    Thinking about the question in Rachel’s comment above I think that your line “I believe it’s important for your children to know that you have tried your hardest to keep to an agreement you made” says it all for me.

  3. Shelley

    My grandson is currently a looked after child but is with his new family who are applying to adopt him. We were advised that our first letterbox contact would be March 2014 and as yet have received nothing.
    We have regularly contacted the SW and the adoption agency involved to chase this letter but we are not getting anywhere.
    If this is the image of things to come I do not believe my grandson will be given the right information on his birth family.
    There is always 2 sides to adoption and we are not being given the opportunity to know the facts. This is extremely distressing for us but the SW’s don’t seem to care :(((
    I just simply want to know how he has settled in and have something to look forward once a year. Is that so hard?

    1. tasocial Post author

      That must be really difficult for you Shelley. There are a number of reasons why letterbox may not have been written – but I do believe Social Services should be providing some kind of support to you.
      I can only give my experiences as an adoptive parent – we no longer have letterbox after my son decided he didn’t want his birth family knowing anything about him anymore, but I had to fight Social Services to get them to accept this. They strongly advocate Letterbox. Can you find out who the letterbox co-ordinator is and perhaps contact them directly?

  4. hannah

    i was wondering if anyone had any advice about how to go about getting letterbox contact?i am now 17 and was adopted when i was 11. i have a younger sister who is 5 and i have no idea where she is or who she is with all i know is that she has been adopted and i was wondering how i go about doing this???

    1. Stephen


      I’m no expert on the process – but the letterbox process will be administered and owned by the local authority that placed your sister for adoption.

      So I think the place to start would be finding out who they are and contacting them. They should contact the adoptive parents with you request and act as a liaison between you if they agree to it.

      Good luck ! 🙂

  5. suzanne

    Shelleys experience is something that I fear. we already have been kicked in the teeth(or thats how it feels) having shared so much with ASW for life story book with photos. Now to find sharing more than a few lines is all we will get. That our Grandchild may never actually see anything until they are 18. Then to find that letters may just stop from our grandchilds adoptive parent. She does not have to give us any explanation. The relationship with ASW pre adoption was not good and we are left to imagine what will be said about us that may make this a reality for us. I know our son will be devastated if contact ceases. The birth family support worker is a joke and needs a heart
    in any event as said above- if the contact ceases we will continue to send with proof of postage letters until she is 18. so we can prove our commitment. the whole process has been an absolute nightmare.

  6. Michael

    I am new to This and I’m due to write to my son can you put that you miss them and how you love them

    1. Stephen


      I would think that’s fine. I think it’s just getting a balance between being honest, appropriate to their age, and not unsettling them.

      The local authority should help with what kind of things they would be confortable for you to include.

    2. tasocial Post author

      Yes I think that it’s important that they know you love and miss them. I know for my own children that part of the letters we do have is the most important bit, to know that they have always been loved.

  7. Kirsty horsted

    I was just won ding if u can help me as my son was adopted and I am ment to get 2 letters twice a year but have not received them
    But I don’t no what to do can anyone help me

    1. Lily

      Hi Kirsty, I had 3 sisters who were all adopted which I knew nothing about. I eventually found out and tracked down the adoption local authority. I suggest writing to the adoption services in the borough your son was born in and see if they can help. They were very helpful for me and managed to track down letters the families had been sending me for years.

  8. michelle

    You need to get in touch with the local authority where you send your children’s letters to that’s what I do good luck see were there based and check online.

  9. georgina blair

    i have a daughter (9yrs old) thats adopted. I never know what to say and it’s even harder as i suffer from mental health.. does anyone have any suggestions on what to write roughly

  10. lou.

    I too ( in the past) suffered mental health issues, this should be brought to the attention in regards to helping you write (try) your VERY IMPORTANT LETTER. Hand on heart ,my daughter was adopted at the age of 3 and i have only wrote one letter since her adoption ( she’s now 16) I now have a 3 year old son and life is very different (for the better) my daughter knows about her half brother and now i face ( for the first time) how very important the letterbox contact to the child that’s adopted. Through my thoughtlessness ( which i know now) choosing to ignore and not deal or even think of my daughter ( i just thought of my own pain) very selfish . Now i have strength through my son and for the pure love i feel for both my children i still having problems starting this letter. So much off me wants to say so much but where and how do i start. I also want and need to thank my daughters mum ( adoptive) how truly im so very, very ,very thankful and that she and my daughter were, are meant to be together. Hand on heart, my daughter being adopted was/is the best thing to happen for all the people involved, including my daughter. Much love, peace and eternal happiness to all of you x


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