CAFIS Contact Service
The CAFIS Contact Service lets birth relatives, adoptive parents and their children keep in touch through Barnardo's Connecting Adoptive Families Independent Service (CAFIS).
Contact can be:
- a letter and photo exchange
- emails (including photos) either via CAFIS or with CAFIS copied in
- adult to adult meetings on Zoom
- adult to adult meetings in person
- contact with siblings
- contact with birth parents, other birth relatives or another significant person
- other agreed contact.
The type of contact may change over time to make sure that it meets the child’s developing needs.
Benefits of contact
It's natural for children to be curious about their birth family as they grow up. Adoptive parents are given information about the child’s birth family when they are first adopted, but this quickly becomes out of date and often leaves unanswered questions which can lead to anxiety for both adults and children.
Contact can help children:
- understand their history
- develop a secure sense of identity
- feel accepted in their adopted family
- feel comfortable about their past
- make an informed decision about tracing their birth family later on in life.
It is important for parents to talk to their child about their birth family, and not just when contact is due. Children are fiercely loyal, so they will not ask questions about the birth family if they think it may upset their parents. In these situations, children or young people often search for information on social media and their findings are rarely positive.
For adopted parents
Contact helps adoptive parents understand and share their child’s background with them and answer any questions they may have. Understanding their child's birth relatives can also help them better understand their child's needs.
For birth relatives
Birth relatives will always remember and think about their children. They benefit greatly from the assurance that their child is safe and well. Contact can be a good way of sending them regular updates to let them know that their child is safe and happy.
How the contact service works
Before the child is legally adopted, the social worker will discuss with the adoptive family and the birth family, what sort of contact would best suit the child's interests. The social worker will then set out a written contact agreement which will include:
- how often contact will take place
- whether contact will be face-to-face or via Zoom (and any specific requirements)
- what time of year contact will take place
- what can be included with a letter or email exchange (for example photographs, cards, a letter)
- who contact will be with.
Once the contract is agreed, a referral will then be made to the CAFIS Contact Service who will work with you to understand the agreement and what's expected of you. This may include sending information to CAFIS at the agreed time or making an appointment to discuss the face-to-face contact arrangements. CAFIS will also tell you what you can expect from them, for example, if you are exchanging letters via CAFIS, they will let you know when the letters arrive.
All contact cases are reviewed after the first year and 2 yearly therefore after, this is to make sure that the contact is right for your child’s age and development, making changes as needed. Cases can also be reviewed at your request.
Letter and email contact via CAFIS
For letter and email contact, CAFIS will copy everything you have sent. They will be kept on the child’s file in case anything happens to the originals and when the child is 18 they can see all of the information that has been exchanged if they want to.
If CAFIS are concerned about anything that is sent in or anything that is written a project worker will discuss this with you.
The contact is then forwarded to the relevant people.
Contact when the adopted person reaches 18
Contact via CAFIS normally comes to an end when the adopted person reaches the age of 18 years.
For direct contact, CAFIS will work with you during the first 2 years to make sure that contact can continue without their support, however, If support is still needed it will continue.
If you were adopted and you're almost 18, find out about your rights and the options open to you.