It’s Time to Deliver on letterbox contact

The letterbox contact system between adopted children and their birth families is outdated,
complicated and prioritises administration over building relationships. It is a system that is
not delivering. The latest report from national charity Pause explores families’ experiences of
letterbox contact, published last September, reveals the failures of the system and argues it’s
time to deliver on letterbox contact.

Letterbox contact is an indirect form of contact where adoptive and birth families exchange
letters, often once a year, usually through an adoption agency or social services. It is the usual
form of post-adoption contact in most of the UK and has remained so for 40 years. The
changing nature of communication and legislation during this time has led to little change in the

Since Pause’s Time to Deliver campaign was launched in September, over 200 people have
emailed their MP calling for changes to the letterbox contact system. The campaign is based on
Pause’s Time to Deliver report, which includes views from birth mothers, adoptive families and
professionals who support them, finds that:

• Over half of professionals who support birth parents and responded to Pause’s online
survey thought the quality of letterbox contact in their area was average, poor or very
poor (52% combined). Surely, we want a family time system that is more than that?
• Nearly three quarters of adoptive families and women who work with Pause who
responded to the online survey (70% and 69% respectively) stated their letterbox
contact had never been reviewed.
• The system is complicated and full of uncertainty – 60% of women who work with Pause
and responded to the survey said that they were not sure what they can write in their

Jules Hillier, CEO of Pause, says:

“We know that good quality contact arrangements between children and their
birth families can be vital to children’s wellbeing. However, for children who
have been adopted, and for their birth families the current letterbox system all
too often fails in this aim. The system is badly administered, lacking support
and communication and is beset by confusion, delays and poor organisation.

This only serves to frustrate and disappoint birth parents and adoptive
families. That must change – that’s why we’re saying it’s time to deliver on
letterbox contact and to put an end to the misery caused by the current

’Olivia’ (not her real name) is a woman who is on the Pause Programme and has letterbox
contact with her children, who have been adopted. She said:

“Since I have started working with Pause, most women I have spoken to seem
to have the same problem and that is our letterbox contact. This might mean
nothing to some people but to us, it’s everything. It’s the only time we get to
find out about our children and for them to hear from us.”

Pause makes the following recommendations for change to make letterbox contact fit for
1. Increased support for birth parents and adoptive families post-adoption, to enable them
to take part in letterbox contact;
2. Regular reviews of letterbox contact arrangements;
3. Investigation of alternative, digital post-adoption contact systems;
4. A designated letterbox coordinator or team for all local areas;
5. Improved communication and understanding about letterbox contact.