Dawn was the first girl Cathy Glass ever fostered. Sweet and seemingly well balanced girl, Dawn’s outward appearance masked a traumatic childhood so awful, that even she could not remember it.
During the first night, Cathy awoke to see Dawn looming above Cathy’s baby’s cot, her eyes staring and blank. She sleepwalks – which Cathy learns is often a manifestation in disturbed children. It becomes a regular and frightening occurrence, and Cathy is horrified to find Dawn lighting a match whilst mumbling it’s not my fault in her sleep one night.
Cathy discovers Dawn is playing truant from school, and struggling to make friends. More worryingly she finds her room empty one night, and her pillow covered in blood. Dawn has been self-harming in order to release the pain of her past.
When Dawn attempts suicide, Cathy realises that she needs more help than she can give. Dawn’s mother eventually confides in her that Dawn was sent away to live with relatives in Ireland between the ages of 5 and 9, and Cathy soon realises that the horrors Dawn was exposed to during this time have left her a very disturbed little girl.
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.
Donna had been in foster care with her two young brothers for three weeks when she is abruptly moved to Cathy’s. When Donna arrives she is silent, withdrawn and walks with her shoulders hunched forward and her head down. Donna is clearly a very haunted child and refuses to interact with Cathy’s children Adrian and Paula.
After patience and encouragement from Cathy, Donna slowly starts to talk and tells Cathy that she blames herself for her and her brothers being placed in care. The social services were aware that Donna and her brothers had been neglected by their alcoholic mother, but no one realised the extent of the abuse they were forced to suffer. The truth of the physical torment she was put through slowly emerges, and as Donna grows to trust Cathy she tells her how her mother used to make her wash herself with wire wool so that she could get rid of her skin colour as her mother was so ashamed that Donna was mixed race.
The psychological wounds caused by the bullying she received also start to resurface when Donna starts reenacting the ways she was treated at home by hitting and bullying Paula, so much so that Cathy can’t let Donna out of her sight.
As the pressure begins to mount on Cathy to help this child, things start to get worse and Donna begins behaving in erratic ways, trashing her bedroom and being regularly abusive towards Cathy’s children. Cathy begins to wonder if she can find a way to help this child or if Donna’s scars run too deep.
Eight-year-old Spencer takes himself to social services and demands to be taken into care. It’s a desperate act, a cry for help, but his parent’s reaction – good riddance – speaks volumes. Casey’s hackles are immediately up for this poor child.
Spencer is the middle child of four siblings. His parents claim all their other kids are ‘normal’ and that Spencer was born ‘vicious and evil’. Casey and her family are disgusted – kids aren’t born evil, they get damaged. Although when vigilante neighbours start to take action and their landlord threatens eviction, Casey is stretched to the limits, trying desperately to hold on to this boy who causes so much pain and destruction.
Casey is determined to try and understand what Spencer is going through and help him find the loving home he is so desperately searching for. But it’s only when Spencer’s mother gets in touch with social services for the first time that gradually everything starts to make sense.
From the age of four David Thomas was sexually abused by his alcoholic mother and subsequently physically abused by his aged stepfather. By the age of 16 he had committed multiple burglaries, assaulted a police officer with an iron bar, attempted suicide, received a criminal conviction from a juvenile court, and been expelled from school.
He left home as soon as he could and joined the fire service at 20. At the age of 27 he bought a book on memory. Within 8 months he had come fourth in the World Memory Championships and went on to develop one of the most powerful memories in history, even breaking an 18-year-old Guinness Book of Records memory record by reciting the mathematical formula Pi (3.1459) to 22,500 digits from memory.
In 1999 he was reunited with his mother after 4 years apart but tragically, a year later he found her dead at home after she had died of an alcohol induced heart attack.
David's shocking and moving story is one of abuse, alcoholism, courage, determination, forgiveness, love and how everyone can choose their own path through life irrespective of their upbringing, background or perceptions about what they think is possible. David is an incredible example of how this can happen.