Phoebe, an autistic nine-year-old girl, is taken into police protection after a chance comment to one of her teachers alerts the authorities that all might not be what it seems in her comfortable, middle-class home. Experienced foster carer Rosie accepts the youngster as an emergency placement knowing that her autism will represent a challenge – not only for her but also for the rest of the family.
But after several shocking incidents of self-harming, Pica and threats to kill, it soon becomes apparent that Phoebe’s autism may be the least of her problems.
Locked for nine years in a secret world of severe abuse, as Phoebe opens up about her horrific past, her foster carer begins to suspect that Phoebe may not be suffering from autism at all.
Rosie collects the children from their out-of-hours foster carer on New Year’s Day and instantly recognises Archie from a domestic violence workshop she helped with. Rosie remembers that when asked what he enjoyed most about the course, Archie said: ‘the biscuits’.
Social workers are concerned that Archie and Bobbi have been neglected. As Rosie gets to know the children, she begins to suspect that something far more disturbing lies in their past.
Archie, jovial and polite, bats away Rosie’s attempts to talk to him about anything serious with witty one-liners and sophisticated distractions. Bobbi reacts violently, lashing out and throwing herself around. Rosie has never seen a child as young a Bobbi behaving so viciously, but it is Archie she is most concerned about as the weeks go by.
After a worrying incident at school, Archie tearfully discloses the truth – a shocking secret that has left him and his sister traumatised. Horrified at what she learns, Rosie is determined to help the young siblings find a forever-home that will provide them with the love and care they deserve.
Baby Sarah is born to a crack-addicted mother on a freezing cold night in December. Rosie is woken a few short hours later, at 1am, and taken to the maternity unit by police escort to collect the infant and take her to a place of safety.
But it soon becomes clear that Sarah is suffering from severe withdrawal symptoms. Knowing that separation is inevitable, Rosie tries to maintain a professional distance but that’s easier said than done.
When the young teenage girl runs away from home and is discovered hiding on the city streets by the police, it is clear that all is not as it should be.
Taught to believe that Westerners should not be trusted, when Zadie is initially delivered into the experienced hands of foster carer Rosie she is polite and well-behaved, but understandably suspicious of the family around her. Through Rosie’s support and understanding, gradually Zadie begins to settle into her new surroundings, but loyalty to her relatives, and fear of bringing shame on those around her, prevents her from confessing the horrifying truth about her troubled past.
When the shocking truth finally emerges, Rosie and her family can hardly believe that Zadie had managed to keep the shocking secrets to herself for so long.
Ellen, a 28-year-old office worker is so shocked by the sudden birth of her baby that she abandons the newborn in hospital. Foster carer Rosie Lewis begins visiting baby Hope in hospital, then a week later she is released into her care.
At first Rosie struggles to understand how any mother could abandon a small baby, but when Ellen begins daily visits with Hope, Rosie sees a young woman traumatised by a dark secret. Rosie wants to help the young woman and the baby in her care and must fight to bring them together.