Bath and North East Somerset

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8.2.17 Later Life Letters


  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of the Later Life Letter
  3. What Information Should be Included?

1. Introduction

Later Life Letters are written by the child's social worker in conjunction with the adopters' social worker and are given to prospective adopters. The expectation is that the letter will be given to the child at an appropriate time after the Adoption Order is made - usually within 10 working days of the adoption ceremony, i.e. the ceremony to celebrate the making of the adoption order. The precise timing of the passing of the letter to the child will be considered at the placement planning stage and at subsequent Adoption Reviews.

2. Purpose of the Later Life Letter

The Later Life Letter gives the child an explanation of why he/she was adopted and the reasons and actions that led up to this decision being made. This should include, whenever possible, the people involved in this decision, and the facts at that time. You must be aware of the pain and anger that may have been around then, and this needs to be reflected in the letter.

The child is the focus of the letter and it must be remembered when writing the letter that the child has a need to know why he/she was placed for adoption. This is important information and it must be a true account of the process.

If birth parents were involved in the choice of adoptive parents, the letter should include reasons why they chose their child's adoptive parents. This may seem simplistic - e.g. "they live in the country"- but it needs to be stated (in contested situations this information may not be available). If the child's birth parent expressed any wishes about the choice of adoptive parents these should be included, e.g. would like him/her to have a sibling.

Remember that every child will see the letter at a different age, and so the letter, whilst being truthful, may have to be written so that a child can understand it.

Our expectation would be that the child sees the letter around the ages of 10-12 years, but the decision on timing would be at the discretion of the adoptive parents. In very difficult situations (e.g. incest, mental health problems, abuse) it may be better to write two letters. The second one for when the child is in mid-teens, and more able to understand about his/her history.

The letter is in addition to the child's Life Story Book and should never be a substitute for the book - see Life Story Books Guidance.

You have all the information you need. Think of yourself as an adopted person, what information would you want, what questions would you ask your birth parents?

3. What Information Should be Included?

Birth parents - as much information as possible should be included. Information should also be given about the extended family (i.e. grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles). Sometimes information on the birth father is limited. Whatever is available should be provided. If the identity of the birth father is not confirmed by him, only non-identifying information about him should be included.

Try and give a descriptive picture of the birth parents. This should include details about their first names, ages, physical characteristics, their personality, academic and employment history, health, their interests and skills. Also with whom they were living at the time of placement. If the child has brothers and sisters, similar information should be given. Are they adopted? If they live with birth parents, explain why. The child needs to know what happened to their brothers and sisters, who cares for them, and if relevant, why there is no contact. Be careful to give only first names for all birth relatives and do not use addresses or other identifying information.

Information needs to be given about the child's birth, time, day, date etc., which hospital, who was present, what happened next? Who cared for the child after his/her birth?

Include comments by the social worker on any contact between the child and his or her birth parents and any information about any events that relate to the child around this time. Do not include the child's original first name and surnames.

Talk to the adopters about the letter(s). When telling the story, try to be positive as well as negative. You need to acknowledge that possible negative issues around the events leading up to a child's birth and subsequent placement are not necessarily the adopters' views of the situation. The adopters have to tell this story, and there needs to be a balance of views. We rely on the adopters passing on this information, so involve them. Ask if you can talk about their hopes, fears and feelings at the time of the introductory meetings and placements. Can you include the reason why they wanted to adopt?

Give details of how any agreed contact was decided - whether it is "face to face" or Letter Box. The child needs to know that birth parents and other relatives want to hear about their progress, and that the adoptive parents agreed to the contact arrangements prior to placement.

In the letters the birth parents should be called by their first names, and the adopters described as "your parents".