Eight-year-old Aimee was on the child protection register at birth. Her five older siblings were taken into care many years ago. So no one can understand why she was left at home to suffer for so long. It seems Aimee was forgotten.
The social services are looking for a very experienced foster carer to look after Aimee and, when she reads the referral, Cathy understands why. Despite her reservations, Cathy agrees to Aimee on – there is something about her that reminds Cathy of Jodie (the subject of ‘Damaged’ and the most disturbed child Cathy has cared for), and reading the report instantly tugs at her heart strings.
When she arrives, Aimee is angry. And she has every right to be. She has spent the first eight years of her life living with her drug-dependent mother in a flat that the social worker described as ‘not fit for human habitation’. Aimee is so grateful as she snuggles into her bed at Cathy’s house on the first night that it brings Cathy to tears.
Aimee’s aggressive mother is constantly causing trouble at contact, and makes sweeping allegations against Cathy and her family in front of her daughter as well. It is a trying time for Cathy, and it makes it difficult for Aimee to settle. But as Aimee begins to trust Cathy, she starts to open up. And the more Cathy learns about Aimee’s life before she came into care, the more horrified she becomes.
It’s clear that Aimee should have been rescued much sooner and as her journey seems to be coming to a happy end, Cathy can’t help but reflect on all the other ‘forgotten children’ that are still suffering...
When Cathy is told about Melody’s terrible childhood, she is sure she’s heard it all before. But it isn’t long before she feels there is more going on than she or the social services are aware of. Although Melody is angry at having to leave her mother, as many children coming into care are, she also worries about her obsessively – far more than is usual. Amanda, Melody’s mother, is also angry and takes it out on Cathy at contact, which again is something Cathy has experienced before. Yet there is a lost and vulnerable look about Amanda, and Cathy starts to see why Melody worries about her and feels she needs looking after.
When Amanda misses contact, it is assumed she has forgotten, but nothing could have been further from the truth...
Elaine and Ian had travelled half way round the world to adopt little Anna. She couldn’t have been more wanted, loved and cherished. So why was she now in foster care and living with me? It didn’t make sense.
Until I learned what had happened. ...
Dressed only in nappies and ragged T-shirts the children were incarcerated in their cots. Their large eyes stared out blankly from emaciated faces. Some were obviously disabled, others not, but all were badly undernourished. Flies circled around the broken ceiling fans and buzzed against the grids covering the windows. The only toys were a few balls and a handful of building bricks, but no child played with them. The silence was deafening and unnatural. Not one of the thirty or so infants cried, let alone spoke.
Tayo arrives at Cathy’s with only the clothes he stands up in. He has been brought to her by the police, but he is calm, polite, and very well spoken, and not at all like the children she normally fosters. The social worker gives Cathy the forms which should contain Tayo’s history, but apart from his name and age, it is blank. Tayo has no past.
Tayo is an 'invisible' child, kidnapped from his loving father in Nigeria and brought illegally to the UK by his drink and drugs dependent prostitute mother, where he is put to work in a sweat shop in Central London. When he sustains an injury and is no longer earning, he is cast out.
When Cathy takes Tayo to school he points out a dozen different addresses where he has stayed in the last six months, often being left alone. Tayo lies, and manipulates situations to his own advantage and Cathy has to be continually on guard. Tayo’s social worker searches all computer databases but there is no record of Tayo – he has only attended school for 3 terms and has never seen a doctor. He and his mother have been evading the authorities by living ‘underground’.
With his mother recently released from prison, Tayo is desperate to live with his father in Nigeria, but no one can track him down or even prove that he exists.
This is the third book in the series.
The shock that strikes Casey and her family when Ashton and Olivia arrive is immeasurable. Two dirty, frightened little waifs stand before them, huge eyes staring around their new surroundings. Ashton – 9, Olivia – 6, have the same urchin look; hair running wild with head lice, filthy nails and skin covered in scabs. And the smell is horrific. The eldest two children of a group of five siblings, Casey had only been told they were coming two days earlier. But it was an emergency, temporary placement, and they were only due to stay a couple of weeks...
Casey is desperate to help these poor, lost children, who have been taken away from their family because they were considered at risk, but before she can even start to understand the horrific things that have happened in the past, she has to teach them the most basic of behaviours. Ashton and Olivia have no barriers and no sense of what’s right and wrong – her challenges begin with the toilet and eating habits.
The weeks roll into months and the months roll on, but bit by bit the children are starting to feel like they truly belong to a family, for the first time. With this new found security and love, gradually they start to reveal what really happened to them and their siblings at home, and slowly Casey can help them start to rebuild their young lives.
Includes a sample chapter of Too Hurt To Stay.
Alice, aged four, is snatched by her mother the day she is due to arrive at Cathy's house. Drug-dependent and mentally ill, but desperate to keep hold of her daughter, Alice's mother snatches her from her parents' house and disappears.
Cathy spends three anxious days worrying about her whereabouts before Alice is found safe, but traumatised. Alice is like a little doll, so young and vulnerable, and she immediately finds her place in the heart of Cathy's family. She talks openly about her mummy, who she dearly loves, and how happy she was living with her maternal grandparents before she was put into care. Alice has clearly been very well looked after and Cathy can't understand why she couldn't stay with her grandparents.
It emerges that Alice's grandparents are considered too old (they are in their early sixties) and that the plan is that Alice will stay with Cathy for a month before moving to live with her father and his new wife. The grandparents are distraught – Alice has never known her father, and her grandparents claim he is a violent drug dealer.
Desperate to help Alice find the happy home she deserves, Cathy's parenting skills are tested in many new ways. Finally questions are asked about Alice's father suitability, and his true colours begin to emerge.
Nearly seventy years ago, Rio started to do her bit for vulnerable children, one child at a time. While she was still in school, she thought nothing of bringing home a schoolmate who needed refuge. It was the start of opening her home and her heart to children in need. She has never stopped.
A Heart So Big is the astonishing and moving story of Rio's life and how she has tried to make a difference. She has fostered over 140 children and in 2010, in an award created especially for her, she was named Mother of the Year at the annual People of the Year Awards.
It includes stories of trauma - Rio has rescued children from the direst of circumstances and seen the price they pay for the failures of adults. And Rio has had her share of heartache along the way. But it is also a story full of humour, searing honesty and good old-fashioned fighting spirit.
Rio Hogarty's A Heart So Big is an uplifting account of an amazing and inspiring life.
'She is instinctively protective of children in need, and doesn't take "no" for an answer. She's also fearless.' The Herald
When Casey first meets Kiera, a small slight girl who’s just lashed out at a fellow pupil in assembly, she immediately senses something’s wrong. Something in Kiera’s eyes alerts Casey that this is an “old head on young shoulders”, and with Kiera’s constant tiredness and self-soothing habit of pulling her hair out, she follows her instinct and takes Kiera under her wing.
At first the answer seems simple enough; Kiera’s parents aren’t together and they don’t get on, which makes life hard for Kiera as she’s so close to her dad. But as the weeks roll on, Casey begins to understand that there’s something much darker going on behind closed doors. And when she finally learns the truth, she’s terrified she won’t be able to save Kiera from it.