Contact with their birth family, usually via yearly written updates, is extremely important for an adopted child. It helps them understand their identity and is a link to their birth family if they want to find out more.
During our preparation course, we spent a lot of time learning about contact and how important it is to keep it up. The social workers were very keen to impress upon us that however hard we found it, it was in our future child’s best interests that we committed to it. I’m pretty sure that if we’d said to the matching panel we weren’t sure that we would want to keep up with indirect contact, the match to our daughter wouldn’t have been approved.
Unfortunately, what we were told prior to being approved and reality are 2 very different things. The reality is that contact is very low on the list of priorities for most busy children’s social workers.
Our daughter’s social worker left our agency just before the adoption order was granted. Another social worker was appointed so that all the local authority boxes were ticked. She knew very little about our daughter’s case though. This has meant that some of the work that should have been done for her life story book wasn’t.
I’ve chased it up with our social worker several times but 2 years down the line, it still hasn’t been done. In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t the end of the world. I know what it is that’s missing. Based on the information we have, I’m sure I’ll be able to put something together. However, it has given us an indication of the level of importance life story work and contact with our daughter’s birth family is actually given by our local authority.
An omission in the life story work is something we can address. Not organising contact at all is a whole different kettle of fish.
We struggled massively with our decision not to be considered as carers for our daughter’s little brother. I’ve written here about how we came to that decision. One of the things that helped ease my conscience about saying no was that our social worker said direct contact could be an option. That would mean our daughter could have a relationship with her brother as they grew up.
Ultimately it would be up to whoever was matched with her brother. We were confident though that direct contact was going to be considered. We trusted the local authority to promote the relationship between our daughter and her brother.
How wrong we were.
Contact wasn’t at the forefront of my mind in the months following our decision to say no to little brother. We concentrated on our daughter and strengthening the bond within our little family of three. Every now and then it did cross my mind and I wondered when we’d hear that contact was going to start. The weeks turned into months and we got on with our lives, enjoying getting to know our beautiful little girl. We knew that her brother had been placed with a family about 5 miles from where we lived. Nothing had been said about contact though.
We do our annual indirect contact every July. In April I realised we still hadn’t heard anything about contact with little brother. I had expected at the very least to receive an updated contact agreement including him in the annual contact. So, I emailed our social worker. It’s probably something that should be dealt with by the post adoption team, but our social worker is really lovely so it was a good excuse to contact her.
I can’t begin to tell you how let down I felt by her reply. She had nothing at all to do with family finding for little brother so it really isn’t her fault. Unfortunately, she was the bearer of the news that in effect, contact has completely been overlooked. Far from direct contact being on the cards, indirect contact hadn’t even been discussed with little brother’s forever family.
Writing our annual update is something that I’ve taken seriously although I’ve found it difficult to write. It is one letter which is shared with birth family and the siblings who are adopted. I’ve found it really hard getting the tone right.
Our daughter is amazing and I want to shout that from the roof tops, but I don’t want to sound like I’m rubbing it in birth mother’s face. I can’t imagine what she feels reading about a child she gave birth to but won’t be able to see grow up. My hope is that the tone of the letter lets her know she’s doing great, but doesn’t make her feel like I’m bragging.
The easiest thing would be to just forget about our daughter’s birth family and hope she never wants to find out about them. Some days I’d really like to do that. That isn’t what being an adoptive parent is about though. We have a responsibility to our daughter to have as many answers to her questions as we can. Reading this article written by an adoptee has reinforced that to me even more.
If she doesn’t have many questions, fine, but if she does, our role is to help and guide her as much as we can to find the answers. Reading letters we’ve sent about her and received about her siblings is crucial. However hard it is, contact it is something I’m committed to do throughout our daughter’s childhood. I feel very sad and disappointed that little brother’s parents don’t feel the same.
Clearly, the local authority have messed up big time by not arranging contact. However, I do think little brother’s parents share at least some of the responsibility. They will have learned about the importance of indirect contact during their training. Why haven’t they asked for it to be set up? They know their son has 6 siblings and that 4 have been adopted. Surely they understand why it is important for him to be able to read about them when he’s old enough?
I’m annoyed with myself that I didn’t chase it up sooner. There’s no excuse for it other than we were getting on with our lives and I trusted that the local authority would do what they said they would. Little brother’s family have been contacted and have said they are prepared to do an annual update. If this isn’t forthcoming soon, our social worker has said a more formal arrangement will be put in place.
I will continue to chase it up but I’m not feeling confident that anything is going to be done which is very, very sad. Our daughter had to be removed from her birth family because they couldn’t safely parent her. At the very least, she deserves to be able to read about them when she’s old enough to understand about her identity. Sadly, it looks like she isn’t going to be able to do that for her little brother.