The Letterbox service is a way for birth relatives and adoptive parents to share news in a confidential way.

It helps:

  • adopted children learn more about their background and benefit from knowing about changes and events in the family
  • adoptive parents to talk more openly about adoption with their child
  • the birth family get information on the child’s progress and reassures them about the child’s wellbeing

How it works

When a child is placed with their adoptive family, the adoptive family and a few members of the birth family such as parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, will be asked to sign a Letterbox agreement. The Letterbox is voluntary, not a legal agreement.

Once the adoption order is made, you can start to exchange letters. You’ll send letters to our Letterbox coordinator, who’ll read the letters before they’re sent on. We’ll remove confidential information like addresses and surnames.

Adopted children can’t use the Letterbox, but their adoptive parents can share information from the Letterbox with them. A copy of all letters is kept with the child’s adoption file. The letterbox service will end when the child turns 18 years old. They can contact an adoption support service to look at the file with or without their adoptive family.

We’ll review how the Letterbox is working for you at the end of the first year, and every three years after that. This is to see if the agreement is still in the interests of the child. If not, we can make changes to the agreement, like changing how often letters are exchanged, or whether gifts are allowed.

Sending letters

You can only send a letter in the months on your agreement. It’s important that you try to keep to the agreement, as you may cause hurt and distress to other people, including the child.

You should send your letters to:

Adoption Letterbox Team
Children’s Services (Floor 6, B-Bond)
Bristol City Council
PO Box 3399

If your address changes, let us know.

If you need help or have any problems, call us on 0117 353 4032. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm.

If we can’t send a letter on

Sometimes we can’t pass on a letter because:

  • the content may cause too much distress
  • someone who is not on the agreement sent it
  • it’s been written directly to the child
  • it includes personal information

We’ll let the sender know that we didn’t pass their letter on. We can keep the letter with the adoption file, so the child can look at it after they turn 18 years old.

Sometimes we have to return the letter to the sender, rather than keeping it with the file. We’ll explain why and can help the sender write a more appropriate letter.

What you can send

Depending on your Letterbox agreement, you can send letters, gift vouchers, greeting cards and photos.

If you’re a birth family member, you should sign letters and cards with your first name. The adoptive parents will make sure the children know who you are.

Adoptive parents usually sign letters with their first name.

When adopted children are older they may want to write a letter. This must be sent with their adoptive parents’ letter. It can’t be sent on its own.

Greeting cards

If your agreement lets you send a card, it can’t be emotional. It’s important not to confuse children with the wording, so don’t send cards which say “to son” or “to daughter”.


If you’re a birth family member and your agreement includes sending photos, you can only send photos of yourself. It may be confusing for the child if photographs have other people in them.

If you’re an adopter and your agreement includes sending photos, you can call us on 0117 353 4032 for advice on what type of photo to send. Our normal opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm.

What to write about

If you’re not sure what to write about or if something is suitable to include, you can call us on 0117 353 4032. Our opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 4.30pm.

Birth relatives

You could share:

  • what's happening in your everyday life
  • interests and hobbies
  • news about events in the family
  • news of any siblings or other relatives, especially those the child may remember

You can also include any questions you have.

There may be times when you find it hard to send news because you feel sad or angry. Remember that the child may benefit a lot from letters between you and their adoptive family.

Adoptive families

You could share:

  • information about the child’s health and development
  • progress at nursery or school
  • how the child gets on with friends and relatives
  • information about what the child looks like, their personality, interests and hobbies
  • areas the child does well in
  • the child’s daily life, such as their favourite food and TV programmes

There may be times when it isn’t easy to send information. The child may benefit a lot from letters between you and the birth family. It’s also important to reassure birth relatives that the child is well.