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with her two young brothers for three weeks when she is abruptly moved to Cathy’s. When Donna arrives she is silent, withdrawn and walks with her shoulders hunched forward and her head down.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 receives a call about a terminally ill widower terrified of leaving his son all alone in the world, she is wracked with sadness and indecision. Can she risk exposing her own young children to a little boy on the brink of bereavement?
Eight year old Michael is part of a family of two, but with his beloved father given only months to live and his mother having died when he was a toddler, he could soon become an orphan. Will Cathy’s own young family be able to handle a child in mourning? To Cathy’s surprise, her children insist that this boy deserves to be as happy as they are, prompting Cathy to welcome Michael into her home.
A cheerful and carefree new member of the family, Michael devotedly prays every night, believing that when the time is right, angels will come and take his Daddy to be with his Mummy in heaven. However, incredibly, in the weeks that pass, the bond between Cathy’s family, Michael and his kind and loving father Patrick grows. Even more promising, Patrick is looking healthier than he’s done in weeks.
But just as they are settling into a routine of blissful normality, an unexpected and disastrous event shatters the happy group, shaking Cathy to the core. Cathy can only hope that her family and Michael’s admirable faith will keep him strong enough to rebuild his life.
From high school to a world beyond the four walls that were his prison for so many years, The Privilege of Youth bravely and compassionately charts this crucial turning point in Dave Pelzer’s life and will inspire a whole new generation of readers.