by AUK staff member

“Everyone’s story is different, and you may not always understand other people’s.” Growing up, I often heard these words from my parents. Now, more than ever, I understand what they mean.

We adopted our son nearly two years ago. I don’t pretend to understand why his birth parents couldn’t do what they needed to, but we I know we must help him understand how things came to be as best we can. Guiding your children and doing right by them is all part of being a parent – you have to do your best even when you don’t quite understand.

We have letterbox contact with his birth family once a year. It was agreed way before we even met him, when our birth family knowledge was a report that made for difficult reading. Now, I sometimes wonder if once a year is enough. Letterbox isn’t the easiest – it stirs up a heap of feelings. Pride and love for the achievements and wonder that my son brings to our world every day, but also sadness and (dare I say) guilt for the loss, ache and confusion for all involved – my son and his birth family primarily. As is usual in adoption, feelings are a complete amalgamation!

When we found ourselves facing a world pandemic, our autumnal letterbox update seemed so far away. I couldn't help but think about my son's birth family – people who are a massive part of who he is, people with real emotions and worries – who were likely to be wondering whether he was OK.

It didn’t sit well with me to wait until autumn to update them, plus I wanted to know that they were OK too. Our son is too small to understand what is happening in the world and is thankfully enjoying extra time with us in his safe space, but one day he will understand what happened and I wanted to be able to show him that when the world imploded, we remembered his roots and his roots had thought of him too.

And so, we wrote. We kept our letter reasonably brief – letting them know he was OK and including a few anecdotes that would hopefully make them feel a little closer to the wonderful person he is growing up to be.

Our decision to write to birth family with an additional update was right for us. We sought advice from our social services teams and checked that our desire to write would not override any existing letterbox contact agreement as we still planned to write in the autumn.

I am so glad we did it, and I do hope that we receive letters back. But I know writing won’t be right, or possible, for everyone.

Doing what makes sense for your family will always be paramount and there may be other, more appropriate ways you can help your children maintain links with their past and work towards understanding their life story.