Once you’ve made the decision to search for your child’s birth mother, the next most difficult task is figuring out what the heck to write in your first letter to her. It can seem like an impossible task to sum up in a letter all of your feelings and all of the special moments of your child’s life.
Here are some things to consider when writing your letter. And a sample letter to get you started.
Keep it short (no more than one page) - keep in mind that the birth mom will be surprised and overwhelmed when your searcher first finds her and probably not in a frame of mind to absorb much detail.
Assure her your child is well - so many birth mothers harbor a lot of guilt over their decision to place their child for adoption and have doubts about that decision based on having no way of knowing what happened to the child. It is a still a common belief in Guatemala that babies placed for adoption were then sold for their organs and many birth mothers have been told over the years that their child is most likely dead. Reassuring her that the child is healthy, happy and loved is the most important thing your letter can do.
Set her expectation for ongoing contact - let her know if you would like to keep contact via letters and photos and ask if she is open and able to maintain this contact. You may also ask if she is open to a future in person meeting.
Let her know if you changed your child’s name.
Share general information about your family - many adoptive families are hesitant to share detailed contact information with the birth family and any reputable searcher will never share this information without permission. That said, the birth mother will want to know who are the members of your family and what country you live in.
Describe your child - this should be the main part of your letter. Talk about your child’s outstanding personality traits, what he likes and doesn’t like, any special talents he has, and a favorite activity or two. Birth mothers often comment on how a trait, preference or talent described in the letter is shared by another birth family member and I believe this gives them a sense of connection to the child.
Mention schooling - education is something that many birth mothers struggle to provide for their children. Knowing your child is being educated will provide comfort to the birth mother.
Ask any specific questions that you or your child have that will not be covered in the searcher interview. Most searchers have a standard interview where they will ask about who is in the family, where they live, contact information, health, living conditions and a message for the child and adoptive family. But if there is something specific you want to know, such as if the birthmother is open to an in person meeting, you can ask it in your letter. Alternatively, you can let your searcher know your question and have her add it to her interview questions which will ensure the answers gets recorded in the search report and keep your letter from feeling like an interrogation.
Ask if she has questions. Stating that you are open to answering any questions she has about your family can help her feel more on equal footing.
Have your child write his own letter if interested. If your child is old enough and interested in writing a letter to accompany yours the birth mother will welcome that letter but I would not have it replace yours as she will also want to hear from you and be reassured that the child is not undertaking the search on his own.
Ask about favorite foods, colors, pastimes, etc. I often see this in letters and it is difficult to explain why it is a hard question for most (not all but many) birth mothers to answer. It is hard for us as adoptive parents to understand a life of such limited choice that you don’t ever develop preferences. If tortillas with salt are the only thing your family can afford to eat day after day then being asked what is your favorite food can be like being asked what is your favorite form of space travel. If you have lived your entire life in a culture where men tell you everything you can and cannot do, including what type of clothing you wear, and when you can leave your house, you may just stop thinking you have any choices. The exception here is if your younger child really wants to ask something which gives her a way to connect with her birth mother. But know you may not get a definitive response.
Mention things which emphasize economic differences. I don’t think any parents do this intentionally, but I often see letters that include long lists of activities that their child participates in (swimming, karate, baseball, dance class, etc) or casual mention of a vacation to some exoctic place. A common reaction from birth mother’s is how they could never have provided such opportunities.
Finally, keep in mind that if your searcher finds the birth mother and she is open and able to have contact there will be future opportunities to share more information and learn more about the birth family.