Contact with birth family

When a child is adopted, we come to an agreed arrangement with their birth relatives and their adopters for allowing the child and their birth family to keep in touch.

This arrangement is called Letterbox. It allows the child and their birth family to exchange letters, cards and photographs without knowing each other’s personal details (last names, addresses, telephone numbers). There’s no charge for using Letterbox and it’s completely confidential.

You can't use Letterbox for sending money or presents.

To use the Letterbox service, you have to send the information you want to exchange to:

Letterbox Scheme
Barnsley Adoption Team
PO Box 679
S70 9JE

Why use Letterbox?

Letterbox can be beneficial to everyone involved in adoption; birth parents, adoptive parents, and especially children who’ve been adopted.

Exchanging information through Letterbox:

  • helps children grow up knowing who they are and where they came from
  • helps adoptive parents understand the child’s background so that they’re able to answer any questions the child might have about their birth family
  • reassures birth parents that their child is doing fine with their new family.

Who can use Letterbox?

Any of the child’s birth family – parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles – who remain important to them, can use Letterbox to keep in touch.

If the child has been looked after by other carers, they too can use the arrangement if it’s beneficial to the child.

The Letterbox scheme is most effective when the child is involved from the very beginning, but It’s up to the adoptive parents to decide whether or not to show information to the child or to involve them in writing to the birth relatives.

How often can I use Letterbox?

This can vary but generally you can exchange one letter a year, with a photograph, and sometimes cards to mark birthdays and/or Christmas or other significant religious festivals.

When is Letterbox set up?

At the time the child is matched with their adoptive parents, or even before, the birth parents, prospective adopters and the child will have come to an agreement about arrangements for contact following the adoption which best meet everyone’s needs, particularly the child’s.

Once the child has been formally matched with an adoptive family, the adoptive and birth families will complete a written agreement with their social workers.

This will describe the frequency and type of contact that will take place after the adoption, including the details of any Letterbox contact such as:

  • how often it will take place
  • whether the exchange will be two-way with both the adoptive parents and birth relatives sending information, or one-way with only the adoptive parents sending information

How does Letterbox work?

We’ll open whatever you send to the Letterbox co-ordinator to check that it doesn’t contain any identifying details.

We’ll also take a copy of it to keep on the child’s file in case they want to see it once they reach 18. If the information is suitable, the Letterbox co-ordinator will pass it on to the relevant person; if they have any concerns about anything you’ve written, they will contact you to discuss this.

Please tell us if you change your address so that we can stay in touch with you.