Rachael's story

Rachael Maskell has been the MP for York Central since 2015. Rachael chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adoption and Permanence, and has shared with us a little about her role.

There’s a quote attributed to Bishop Desmond Tutu, an inspiring bishop and theologian, anti-apartheid activist and champion of human rights, who passed away in December 2021. “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in.”

The truth is that when it comes to mending what is broken in our society, both roles are indispensable. We will always need people ‘downstream’ treating the symptoms of systemic injustice. But if we want to see true change, then we also need people who can investigate and address the root of the issues. If we don’t, then we see cycles emerge and stories repeated.

I first became aware of some of the issues around the care system as a result of individuals and families from my constituency getting in touch with me to share the challenges they were facing. On one day I would hear from a parent whose birth children were on the edge of care, and then on another day meet adoptive parents who were desperately needing more support than they were able to access. I was hearing the story from both sides, and I continue to today, and it became clearer and clearer that the system as it stands holds challenges for almost everybody. It motivated me to consider: how can we transform things from the way they are today into something that works for everybody?

It was that question that led me to reach out to Home for Good and establish the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Adoption and Permanence, after realising that there wasn’t yet a group working on these issues when there absolutely needed to be. We wanted to look in greater depth at some of the stories we were hearing and the issues being brought to our attention to see what was working well and what needed to be done better.

Since its inception in February 2019, the group has conducted two main inquiries and has also hosted several roundtable discussions. We have examined the impact and future of the Adoption Support Fund, the findings of which are summarised in our Investing in Families report (July 2019). Last year, we conducted an inquiry on how to improve stability for adopted children and their families, feeding these findings into the independent Review of Children’s Social Care. The findings and recommendations are summarised in our Strengthening Families report, published in September 2021. In all we do, our goal remains the same: to amplify the voices and experiences of children and families engaged in adoption and other forms of permanence in order to promote the development of effective policy and practice.

I’ll never forget working with a constituent who was herself a care-leaver. Her own child had been taken into care, and that was an experience that didn’t just bring its own trauma but echoed the loss that she had been through as a child, too. When she became pregnant a second time, she was determined not to see the story repeated and so did absolutely everything that was asked of her; she changed elements of her lifestyle, she went on courses, she did all that she could. My team and I walked with her through this journey; sometimes being an MP is the most heart-rending job.

This young woman represents thousands of young adults who need support, encouragement and love to help them navigate adulthood, perhaps parenthood as well, and the challenges and obstacles both might present. Her story illustrated to me the impact that loss and separation can have not just on the individual, but on generations to come; it was the picture of a cycle that needs to be broken.

The well-known African proverb says ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’ I’m not sure many of us quite realise the extent of the potential this quote holds. We all have a part we can play to support children, teenagers and adults to thrive in our communities and to break the cycles that many find themselves caught in.

It takes those who are close – adoptive parents, kinship and foster carers, supported lodgings hosts who commit and care, friends and communities who show welcome and belonging and professionals like social workers or those in healthcare who provide support and work for solutions while showing empathy and understanding.

It also takes those who are further away, in positions of power and influence, who can bring about change within systems and structures. The APPG for Adoption and Permanence is trying to do just this, gathering together Members from both the House of Lords and the House of Commons who are committed to seeing this happen.

And it takes those who can bridge the gap between the two – people, perhaps like you, who can listen, learn, campaign and advocate; who can amplify the voices on the ground and suggest new routes and ideas.

It takes a village to raise a child. It takes people both downstream at the bank of the river and upstream at the source to make a difference. It takes working together to break the cycle.

Author:
Rachael Maskell


Date published:
January 2022


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