Letterbox contact: ‘Don’t my birth children have a right to know I’m dying?’
A young woman whose children were adopted wants them to know that she has a terminal illness. But the rules don’t permit direct contact, writes Georgina Hewes, so she cannot be sure they have been told.
In 2017, Hanna was told she had six months to live.
“When I got the news, I got straight on the phone to Social Services. I just needed to know my children were OK,” she says.
At that point, 11 years after her children had been taken from her, Hanna had had no news of them for seven years.
As a teenage mum who’d been in and out of care and had no support network to speak of, Social Services had deemed Hanna unable to care for her children.
Hanna describes the moment she watched her 14-month-old twins driven away to their new family as “the worst day of my life”. She was 16, and had spent more than a year fighting to keep them, while living in a mother and baby foster placement.
“Mum used to beat me up until I was black and blue. I think they worried that history would repeat itself,” she says.
Like most birth parents in the UK, Hanna was granted “letterbox contact” when her children were adopted – an agreement meaning she could exchange letters with her children and their adopters until the children reached 18.
In her case, the judge extended the typical once or twice a year letterbox to three times a year, specifying that Hanna should also be allowed to send her children birthday and Christmas cards as well as receive photos from the adopters.
But making arrangements is one thing – maintaining them is something else altogether.