Our daughter has been home for 10 years. We have always had letterbox contact with her birth mother, with varying levels of success.
About two years ago our daughter started asking about her birth father. At the time of her adoption, the Local Authority (LA) did not set-up a contact agreement, neither did they see the importance of it. We didn’t push for it and these various factors mean it was not set-up.
I asked the LA to get in touch with the birth father and ask if he would like a letterbox agreement with us – it took some persuasion on our part, but eventually the LA agreed to approach our daughter’s birth father. He was thrilled to have heard from us. He genuinely thought he would never see his birth daughter again! We began writing and it was immediately clear that he was a changed man from the reports of 10 years ago. He was married with two young children. His wife knew about our daughter, but she was never spoken about, it was too shameful and sad a story for him to give voice to.
Our daughter asked if she would be able to meet her birth parents. I know for many this would be a heart-breaking moment, but I have always told her that when the time is right, we will support her to meet them. So, we started doing some therapy work, to see what our daughter wanted and expected from such a meeting. At the same time, I contacted the LA we had adopted from, to seek their input and assistance. Quite predictably they were not keen! They announced that this only happened to adopted adults and was something they had never heard of before. So, I got Adoption West involved, as we live in the region. The Post Adoption Team, have plenty of experience in this area, and they got to work and convinced the LA to approach the birth parents about a possible meeting.
In the meantime, we received an inappropriate letter from birth mum which offered the opportunity to speak to the LA further and explore where birth mum was at, in terms of emotional stability and whether suggesting a meeting was a helpful or not. The social workers talked with her on the phone – didn’t mention the possibility of direct contact, but her responses showed that she was not in the right place for this to happen. I concluded that it was not helpful for our daughter to meet with her at this present time.
The response from Birth dad though was completely different. . .
We arranged to meet in a town that our daughter was familiar with. Initially we had decided that just me and our daughter would go but in a therapy session she blurted out “but I want my real dad there too”. So, we changed our plans! We booked a bowling alley and I spoke to the manager before to explain that our surname was to be kept confidential. He reserved a table in the coffee area for if the meeting was going well and we wanted to stay after bowling. On the day we were all very nervous. We arrived first followed by the social worker. We had arranged for Peter* (birth dad) to arrive and call the social worker to let us know he was there. She (social worker) went down to meet him and brought him up to us. He was as white as a sheet! He held a football and a Pandora bag and a bunch of flowers.
Our daughter looked at him and just cried. All the nerves and emotion flooded out. Peter looked terrified, he cried. I held our daughter and indicated that we should all sit down. They sat next to each other, and she just naturally lent towards him and into his chest and they cried. The social worker cried. We all cried. The football was because she was football mad. The Pandora bag contained a bracelet to start collecting charms and the flowers were for me.
We broke the ice with some crass comment about only teenagers knowing how to work the bowling screen and set off with our game. There was laughter, tears, and lots of high fives. Our daughter learned that she gets her freaky double-jointed hands from her birth father. She has the same smile as him. There were times when he spoke to my husband alone, he told him that he had been in a deep depression for 10 years, but all of that had changed when we had started writing to him. He told our daughter about her half brother and sister. At the end of the meeting, I gave him an email (set up there and then) and asked if he would rather, we continue our ‘letterbox’ directly. He cried again.
We emailed regularly; his messages were always respectful of that fact that we are our daughters’ parents. He told his children and his wife’s family about us. They cried!
Since that first meeting, we have met his children and his wife, he has been over to where we live to see our daughter in a play, they sat around our table and ate food with us. We have been over to their house and our daughter has met her paternal grandfather – he only saw her once before when she was 3 months old. We are now planning a camping trip together.
I send him videos of our daughter horse riding and surfing, and he sends her stuff from her brother and sister. It is the most precious respectful relationship I have ever encountered. Our daughter’s relationship with us, her parents is closer than ever (except the days when she is an eye-rolling teenager!) She tells us that a hole in her heart has been filled. She calls her birth father by his first name – he is not ‘dad’ she has a dad and that is my husband. This relationship is not at all threatened by a budding relationship with Peter. She says Peter is a bit like a really close uncle.
We have not pursued meeting her birth mother. We need her birth mother to be in a place where she is not going to put any of the blame for the adoption onto the social services or our daughter. She is not in that place yet, but in time we can only hope.
Our thanks go to this family for sharing their inspiring story. If you are considering contact arrangements, please get in touch we are here to help.