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Letterbox for birth relatives

What is the information exchange?

This is a service that promotes the exchange of information between the families of children who are adopted or fostered in permanent families and their birth families. Once the scheme is agreed, information is exchanged between the two parties, and can continue until the child reaches 18 years old.

Send your letters, cards or photographs to The Letterbox Exchange, The Adoption Support Service, Hackney Service Centre, 1 Hillman Street, London E8 1DY.

Who can use the letterbox?

The letterbox can be used by anyone who has been important in the child’s life. Birth parents and grandparents, uncles, aunts and brothers and sisters can be part of the exchange. There may also be other people in the child’s life who are not relatives and wish to have letterbox contact.

When does the exchange of information start?

Before a child is placed permanently, the child’s social worker and the family placement social worker will complete a letterbox agreement with each party in an exchange. The frequency of exchanges will be agreed and signed by all, who will then have a copy of the agreement. Once the dates of the exchange have been agreed, the letterbox is set up and you can begin the exchange of information.

What can be exchanged and when?

The information that can be exchanged by ordinary letter post can consist of letters, cards, photographs and pictures. Gifts cannot be exchanged via the letterbox.

Each person who is involved in the letterbox will have a copy of the agreement. The arrangement will state the time and month information can be exchanged, and each party will have details of the address to send the information to. At the time of exchange, please send all information unsealed to the letterbox address.

Who can I speak to about the letterbox?

As a birth parent or relative, there may be times after an adoption has taken place when you need some help with your feelings. You may want to discuss your concerns or ask for help in writing a letter. Or you might want to speak to someone in private about the exchange, and the feelings of loss that are felt when information is exchanged.

An adoption support worker will be available to discuss the letterbox contact or any issue connected with adoption support. You can contact the adoption support worker by phone, letter, or meet in person.

What should I write about?

This is one question that is frequently asked by birth relatives. Writing a letter to a child who has become part of a new family can be very difficult. Children who have become part of a new family may find it difficult to hear news of their birth relatives. Birth relatives often receive news of the child with very mixed emotions.

You may want help to write your news or you may like advice on what to write.
The suggestions that follow will help you to think of some areas in your life which would be of interest to a child.

The information that a child might want to know about you could include:

  • your interests
  • hobbies
  • favourite food
  • television programmes
  • books and films
  • your social life when you go out

Also, any changes in your life since the child was placed, including any significant people such as friends or a new partner. It is important to update the adoptive family if you have married or had a new baby.

It would also be helpful to include information about any special talents that you have, or had as a child, for example a sport, creative talent or special interest in a school subject. Holidays and trips abroad are always good topics to include in your information.

What happens to the information that is sent in?

All information needs to be sent unsealed. The reason for this is to let the adoption support worker read and copy the information. This happens to allow any concerns about the information to be managed as soon as possible. Or if the information is likely to cause distress, this can be dealt with sensitively.

Information is also copied to make sure that, if the post were undelivered or lost, there is a copy on the file that can be re-sent.

What happens if I am unable to send information or I wish to change the arrangement?

It is always best to speak to the adoption support worker as soon as possible if you have any concerns, comments or questions about your exchange.

We appreciate that your circumstances might change and you may wish to talk about the letterbox, and potential changes. It is important that everyone involved in the letterbox arrangement is prepared to be flexible. If there are changes that are requested or problems at the time of the exchange, they will be discussed with all the people involved in the exchange, and dealt with in a sensitive and understanding manner.

It is important that you let us know if there is a problem –¬†however small you think it might be, we’ll do all we can to help.

For more information call the Letterbox adoption support workers on 020 8356 6264.

Page updated on: 9 July 2019

Adoption Services


The Laycock Centre
Laycock Street
N1 1TH

Opening times

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