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High Court Judge backs calls for rethink on adoption contact

High Court Judge Lord Justice McFarlane has backed recent calls for a more flexible approach to contact with birth parents following adoption.

Giving the keynote address at the annual conference of social work organisation Nagalro, the veteran judge referred in approving terms to a recent study commissioned by the British Association of Social Workers. The resulting report, entitled The role of the social worker in adoption – ethics and human rights, claimed:

“A significant rethink of approaches to ‘contact’ and connection between adopted children and their families is needed…..The lack or cessation of direct contact can ‘store up trouble’ especially for birth families and adopted people.”

Lord Justice McFarlane discussed the issue of so-called ‘letterbox’ contact, in which birth parents are only allowed to write to their children post-adoption, a poorly supported and tenuous arrangement that frequently breaks down according to the report.

He said:

“I would encourage all those involved in adoption planning and decision making to focus more on the issue of contact and to ask, in each case, whether …letterbox contact is in fact the best for the individual child in the years that lie ahead for her, or whether a more flexible and open arrangement, developed with confidence and over time, may provide more beneficial support as the young person moves on towards adolescence and then adulthood.”

Read the full speech here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Michele Simmons says:

    Will there be anywhere parents can write in from past or past/current experience re Judge McFarlane proposes research and which contact details would need to be used to send a brief summary.

  2. Dr. Manhattan. says:

    A very Logical development. Children should always have the opportunity to keep in contact with their birth parents and extended family. the letter idea is simply not good enough and in my opinion a Violation of Human Rights not to mention down right Cruel.

  3. Andrew says:

    My concern is that the supply of adoptive parents will dry up unless they know that they and only they are going to be the parents during minority.

    • Wiinston Smith says:

      that would be a very good thing as it would bring Forced Adoption to a stop.
      This has been suggested before between 1976 (the year of the first adoption act) and1980 ( act which provide for parent contact) because of the objection to Forced Adoption.

      It failed because the receiving families refused t o allow any meaningful contact with the children.

      So we have come full circle

  4. ck says:

    This can not be a court decision, do people want these courts in their life for a lifetime? I think not,
    absolutely outrageous, next will be enforceable by Law? Never

  5. sarah gunn says:

    This is needed it is the childrens rights that are important,

  6. Shazia says:

    I am a birth mother who is having a lot of issues with my so called ‘letterbox contact’. My child was forcefully, unlawfully taken from me. It is causing me long-term suffering. I don’t know why I believed the contact would go smooth, it hasn’t, it doesn’t. It isn’t a mutual contract, it’s a ‘not legally binding one-way contract’ because no one cares about the birth parents and what it does to them.
    For 5 years, the adoptive father refused to respond to my letters. On the 6th year I wrote a personal letter asking for his reasons why he won’t write. Let’s just say, this man is keeping an unnecessary personal grudge against me and is using this as a means to not have proper contact. This contact isnt even about him, its about the child and his life, his emotions and other needs. Sometimes I can’t fathom how my baby was taken from me only to be placed with someone so childish. He refuses to tell me information I would like to know and I still have not heard from my child who is with him. I have no idea how to cope another 10 years in such a sad, unstable way. I didn’t do anything wrong for my baby to be taken in the first place and now someone out there has him and those parents don’t want to share with me the milestones of each age. Is it wrong to ask?
    Then you go to as many professionals as you can to get help but not one of them will help you because ‘its not legally binding’. Not even the mailbox team who should review the contact. No one gives a toss. You start feeling suicidal and invisible, you know you don’t matter. You want to give up but then you also want to fight but nobody cares. I iust thought I’d share because it says 2018 above, its now 2022, nothing ever changes but whoever this man is that has my child, I hope he reads this and knows that he has pushed this mother over the edge so much so I will do whatever it takes to see my boy again. He may be theirs by paper but he’s mine by blood. I hope there’s someone out there who will help a mother live again, just tired of suffering/surviving. I can’t work, i can barely eat, constantly depressed and just no motivation to live like I used to. I want to see real changes and I hope someone will help me do that.

    • Sally Shakespeare says:

      Hi Shazia. I’m sorry you are going through such a difficult time. I’ve passed your message on to our Client Care team who may be able to offer you some advice. Best wishes

  7. Craig says:

    I too am in a similar situation to Shazia. I would greatly appreciate some advice on this matter.

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