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Title: Just letterbox? : a study of indirect contact in adoption
Author: Brocklesby, Edwina
Awarding Body: University of Leicester
Current Institution: University of Leicester
Date of Award: 2004
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After a quantitative analysis of 138 children, (109 placements), who were placed for adoption in one authority either during 1993/4 and 1996/7, the study developed into a qualitative study of letterbox contact after adoption. Letterbox is a form of indirect communication through an intermediary post box system between adoptive families and birth family members. The profiles of the children, their birth and adoptive families, and proposed contact plans were explored. With a mean age 6.24 years, 30% of them were foster-adopt placements. 87% were the subject of care orders, with a high incidence of abuse or neglect Within an average of 2.3 years after placement, all were adopted. The adoption panel envisaged that 18.9% of the group would have direct contact 12.9% 'no contact'. For 47 children letterboxes were set up after the adoption. The study was not set up to measure the outcome of the adoption placements, but after 4/5 years, remarkably, only 5.8% placements had disrupted. A qualitative analysis was undertaken 4/5 years post- placement of the 47 children with letterboxes. This involved 87 sets of adult interviews, and seven young people. For 33 of the children, both the birth family member and adopted parent were interviewed. Pre-placement meetings were very highly valued. 40% of birth mothers had learning disability, 38% mental health problems - inevitably they would require support for letterbox. Using grounded theory, ten classifications of letterbox functioning were developed. 21% of them were working well, 47% working but with reservations, (eg. changed to one way, confusing for the child, frustratingly superficial in content). 28% were not working - children left with sadness and regret Children valued the letters but increasingly their questions of 'why?' were unanswered. Many were confused, their early rejection reinforced by references to newborn siblings. If not functioning, the contact was less likely to move to direct contact Interviews of birth families revealed a disparity between stories, and frequent denial of responsibility. Finally, families of 90.4% of the initial group, (now aged 14.2 years), were reinterviewed ten years post placement 38% of letterboxes continued to operate but only one without complications; for the others the frustration and questions were increasing, or they had been further hurt by the rejection of birth parents ceasing communication. They had benefited from ten years of adoption stability, equipping them to cope with adversity of contact or their search for identity. Improved defining of objectives, more detailed background information, a low-key review system and pro-active professional intervention/mediation could influence letterbox outcomes. Letterboxes proved increasingly complex over time. With over half the study children living outside the authority boundaries, the Support Regulations (2003) will need adequate resourcing to meet the complex, geographically remote demands for the coherent support of all parties to letterbox.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available