Why is family contact important in adoption?
“Contact, where safe, appropriate and properly managed, can be valuable for an adoptive child, their new family and their birth family, including siblings and other relatives.” Children and Families Act 2014: A failure of implementation. Dec 2022
Your child may have strong memories and feelings about their family and past, and your child may be curious about their birth family. Therefore, they will benefit from knowing about their family and understanding their journey of how they came to live with you. Family contact, whether direct or Letterbox contact, may bring strong feelings, this is a normal response to an emotional event. However, openness around family contact and sharing age-appropriate information with children can be beneficial in helping you to understand and support your child with their feelings.
Where it is possible to have direct contact with family members it can help support and strengthen your family ties through your acceptance and support of your child. You may of course be worried for your child, concerned about how you will manage the family contact and unsure about the effect of meeting the birth family; on your family relationships. These feelings and concerns are understandable.
Make conversations about your child’s birth family and about the journey of how they came to live with you, part of normal conversation. We encourage you to use the child’s life-story book, and other stories about adoption to allow them to explore their feelings and thoughts, and to address any questions or concerns. Keep talking about family contact. This will help to make sure that the child feels able to talk to you about any difficulties they may have.
Your child’s family contact needs may change over time especially as they enter adolescence, so it is important to keep an open mind. It is normal for teenagers to challenge their parent’s decisions and it is essential for the development of independent thought. For adopted children adolescence can also bring uncertainty about who they are and who they could have been. Family contact can help to dispel myths they may have about their birth family. This may also be a time to consider managed but more flexible relationships with wider family members.
What is right for your child when they are first adopted, may not meet their needs as a teenager. They may try to find relatives on social media or relatives may approach them online. You are unlikely to be able to stop any possibility of family contact but you can help your child to use social media safely, and you can show a willingness to talk about their birth family which will help to ensure they talk to you and seek advice.
We recommend you visit www.twogoodmums.co.uk which shares the inspirational story of how birth mum Laura and adoptive mum Peggy work together to support their two children. More information about family contact in adoption is available here.