The letter is a good opportunity for the social worker to include personal anecdotes and comments about the child, from their own experience or/and from the experiences of other important people in the child’s life . This personal touch can help the child to understand that they were important and valued. A Later Life Letter is written by the child’s social worker to a child who is being adopted, with the aim of helping the child understand their past, increase their self-esteem and strengthen their resilience. The letter is given to prospective adopters at the latest within 10 working days of the adoption ceremony and is intended to be read by/to the child, at an appropriate time in the future. If not already written, a draft of the letter should be presented at the pre order meeting.
Our expectation would be that the child sees the letter around the ages of years, but the final decision on timing is at the discretion of the adoptive parents. In very difficult situations (e.g. incest, mental health problems, abuse) it may be better to write 2 letters. The second one for when the child is in mid-teens, and better able to understand about their history.The letter is in addition to the child’s Life Story Book and should never be a substitute for the book – see Life Story Books Guidance. The main difference between the Later Life Letter and the Life Story Book lies in the depth of the detail being shared with the child.
Final visits with birth parents or other birth family members mention who was involved, where the visit/s took place, what happened, positive comments made and any gifts given. The letter should also include, wherever possible the birth parent’s attitude for adoption and their hope for the child’s future. You should also specify the date the Adoption Order was granted, the name of the court, and the names and office bases of all the social workers and family placement/adoption social workers involved prior to and after the placement.
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Thus, more detailed and sensitive information should be included in the Later Life letter as the letter will be shared with the child at a later age when they are emotionally able to understand and deal with the information. The Later Life Letter gives the child an explanation of why he/she was adopted and the reasons and actions that led up to this decision being made. This should include, whenever possible, the people involved in this decision, and the facts at that time. You must be aware of the pain and anger that may have been around then, and this needs to be reflected in the letter. The child needs to know what happened to their brothers and sisters, who care for them, and if relevant, why there is no contact.
Later Life Letters are written by the child’s social worker in conjunction with the adopters’ social worker and are given to prospective adopters before the Adoption Order is made. The expectation is that the letter will be given to the child at an appropriate time after the Adoption Order is made. The timing of the passing of the letter to the child will be considered at the placement planning stage and at subsequent Adoption Reviews.
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