MBE and me
6 minute read
Angela Frazer-Wicks is a birth mum whose youngest children were removed from her care and adopted in 2004. She is now a tireless campaigner for the voices of families to be heard within the child welfare system, and Chair of Family Rights Group. Angela received an MBE in the King’s Birthday Honours and here she explains what it means to her.
When I began this journey almost 17 years ago all I wanted was to make my children proud of me. I wanted to show them that the mum the local authority spoke of was not me. I wanted to prove that I was better than that. I needed to show them that I was using the voice I had, to try and raise awareness and hopefully bring about change for others.
It was a terrifying journey to begin with, putting myself out there, laying myself open to scrutiny, judgment, blame and shame. All the things my involvement with children’s services had made me feel. I was often the only one speaking out, a lone voice in a sea of professionals. It was hard, physically and emotionally. There were many, many times along the way where I wanted to give up, to let someone else lead the way, to take over the reins.
Thankfully the amazing support I had enabled me to navigate those difficult times and come back stronger.
Slowly, I began to see change. The voices of those with lived experience began to be included in discussions about the system. Boards, councils and organisations began to realise that our experiences make us experts, that we have so much to share and valuable contributions to make. We know what the system looks like from the inside. Whilst we may never have wanted the perspective we have, sharing it gives us a way to use it for good, helping everyone in the long run.
Over the years change was happening, slowly but steadily, in every area, except the one I wanted to see the most change in. Adoption. This was particularly noticeable by the fact birth parents’ voices were missing from every conversation, every stage of development and system design. The rest of the system saw families as part of the solution but adoption still saw us as part of the problem. Until now.
Over the last few years I have seen a seismic shift in the way we are seen, heard and included. While many birth parents and wider family members are still left with little to no support after a child is removed from their care, change is coming. There is now sector wide acknowledgement that, if we are to ever have an adoption system that works for all, we must hear the voices of everyone involved. We as birth parents have begun to step out of the shadows, shake off some of the blame and shame, and start to take centre stage. I am no longer a lone voice. I am now part of something much larger, much louder and in turn much stronger. I am part of a community that has remained hidden for much too long.
So, while the name on this medal may be mine, the recognition is for all. For every birth parent out there who feels unseen, unheard and unworthy – this is for you. Together we can bring about enormous change. I never thought I would see the day they gave a birth parent an MBE, and I most certainly never dreamed that that person would be me!
Telling my son I was getting a medal from the King for services to children and families will remain forever one of my proudest moments. All I ever wanted was to make my children proud and I have achieved that and so much more.
A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been part of my journey.
To Suzanne, for fighting for me until the very end. For doing everything in your power to help me keep my children and, when that wasn’t possible, for seeing I would need support if I were ever to survive.
To Norma, who found me at my worst all those years ago, picked me up, dusted me off and set me on my way. You were the stabilisers on my wobbly bicycle and I will be forever grateful you were there for me until I learned to balance all by myself.
To every single wonderful colleague and friend at Family Rights Group, in particular Cathy and Beverley. You helped me find safe ways to share my voice. Thank you for always being there for me, day or night. For never once doubting my ability, even when I doubted it myself. And to Bridget, for believing in me from the moment we met. I wish you were here to see this. You would have been thrilled!
To our wonderful panels and all the amazing people with lived experience I have met along the way, some of whom have become lifelong friends, thank you for believing in me, for standing alongside me in the fight for change.
To all the organisations and professionals who have included me in their work over the years, thank you for your faith and respect, and for helping me feel included and authentically involved.
To my family and friends, for listening to me rant about a system you knew little about, for helping with childcare, for picking me up when I was down and for just generally being awesome. I am blessed to have you all in my life.
To my sons, for never allowing what we went through to make you bitter or angry. For rising above it all and becoming such wonderful young men. For making me prouder than you’ll ever know.
But mostly thank you to my husband Paul, for everything you have done to support me. For taking financial responsibility for our family and allowing me to work, often for free, to bring about change. For understanding that this is something I have to do, that it is a part of who I am. I could not have done this without you.
And finally the biggest thank you has to go to my beautiful, kind, talented daughter, Elizabeth. Thank you for making me a mum again, for helping me find my way through a very difficult time, for showing me I am more than good enough. Your patience in waiting for your brothers to find us. Accepting and respecting their wishes and never once demanding more than they are prepared to give is truly inspirational and shows a maturity way beyond your years. I love you. You are amazing and this medal, my incredible journey, none of that makes me as proud as being your mum does. You healed things you had no part in breaking and I would not be who I am now if I wasn’t your mum.
“Angela Frazer-Wicks MBE” – it does have a rather nice ring to it- although I think it will be a very long time before I believe this is all actually happening and it’s not all just a crazy but wonderful dream!
Read more about Angela and her story.