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with her two young brothers for three weeks when she is abruptly moved to Cathy’s. When Donna arrives she is silent, withdrawn and walks with her shoulders hunched forward and her head down.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.
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.
Joe was just five years old and the horrific scene literally struck him dumb. He didn't speak for four and a half years, which meant he was unable to ask anyone for help as his life turned into a living hell.
His schizophrenic mother and two of his older brothers spent the following years beating him, raping him and locking him in the cellar at the family home. Fed on scraps that he was forced to lick from the floor, he was sometimes left naked in the dark for three days without human contact.
Unable to read or write, all Joe could do to communicate his suffering was draw pictures.
The violence and sexual abuse grew in severity as more people, including his stepfather, were invited to use him in any way they chose.
The only thing that saved Joe was the kindness of his elder brother and his only school friend, both of whom showed him that love was possible even in the darkest of situations.
At fourteen he finally found the courage to run away, hiding in a hut by a railway line, fed on scraps by some local children who found him.
Joe's is the ultimate insider's story, casting light into the darkest of hidden worlds, and a truly inspirational account of how one small boy found the strength to overcome almost impossible odds and become a remarkable man. Now that he has found his voice again, Joe speaks out against child abuse and helps support and protect other children whose lives have been blighted by it.
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.
Two weeks after saying farewell to her first foster child, Casey is asked to look after Sophia, a troubled 12-year-old with a sad past. Sophia’s actions are disturbing and provocative and, before long, Casey and her family find themselves in a dark and dangerous situation.
Two years ago Sophia’s mother had a terrible accident. Sophia has been in care ever since.
Right away, Casey feels something isn’t right. Sophia’s a well-developed girl, who looks more like 18 than 12. She only seems to have eyes and ears for men, and treats all women with contempt and disgust. And she has everyone around her jumping through hoops.
Over time, as more details begin to emerge about Sophia’s past, it becomes clear that her behaviour is a front for an early life filled with pain and suffering. But although Casey feels she is gradually breaking through to Sophia and getting her to open up about things she has never spoken about before, her violence is threatening the safety of the whole family, forcing Casey to question whether she can really handle this lost and damaged girl.
Both shocking and inspiring, this true story will shed new light on the extreme and sometimes dangerous nature of foster care.
Includes a sample chapter of Little Prisoners.