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.
Cathy, an experienced foster carer, is pressured into taking Jodie as a new placement. Jodie's challenging behaviour has seen off five carers in four months but Cathy decides to take her on to protect her from being placed in an institution.
Jodie arrives, and her first act is to soil herself, and then wipe it on her face, grinning wickedly. Jodie meets Cathy's teenage children, and greets them with a sharp kick to the shins. That night, Cathy finds Jodie covered in blood, having cut her own wrist, and smeared the blood over her face.
As Jodie begins to trust Cathy her behaviour improves. Over time, with childish honesty, she reveals details of her abuse at the hands of her parents and others. It becomes clear that Jodie's parents were involved in a sickening paedophile ring, with neighbours and Social Services not seeing what should have been obvious signs.
It’s clear that Josie needs psychiatric therapy, but instead Social Services take Jodie away from her, and place her in a residential unit. Although the paedophile ring is investigated and brought to justice, Jodie’s future is still up in the air. Cathy promises that she will stand by her no matter what – her love for the abandoned Jodie is unbreakable.
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.
While Danny’s parents have everything they could wish for in material terms, they are unable to care for their only child. This is where Cathy comes in. On a cold dark evening Danny finds a place in her home where he can be himself; away from his parents’ impatience and frustration. Often in his own little world, six-year-old Danny finds it difficult to communicate, finding solace in his best friend and confidant George – his rabbit.
Cathy quickly becomes aware of his obsessively meticulous behaviour in addition to his love of patterns, he sees them everywhere and creates them at any opportunity – in his play and also with his food. She realises that patience is the key to looking after Danny as well as her well-tried strategies for managing children’s behaviour.
With his father refusing to cooperate, it becomes increasingly likely that Danny will be living with Cathy permanently until she gets an opportunity to speak her piece.
The latest title from the author of Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller Damaged.
Reece is the last of six siblings to be fostered. Having been in care for four months his aggressive and disruptive behaviour has seen him passed from carer to carer. Although only 7, he has been excluded from school, and bites people so often that his mother calls him 'Sharky'.
Cathy wants to find the answers for Reece’s distressing behaviour, but he has been sworn to secrecy by his mother, and will not tell them anything. As the social worker prepares for the final hearing, he finds five different files on Reece’s family, and is incredulous that he had not been removed from them as a baby. When the darkest of family secrets is revealed to Cathy, Reece’s behaviour suddenly starts to make sense, and together they can begin to rebuild his life.
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.
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 asked to foster little Alex, aged 7, her immediate reaction is: Why can’t he stay with his present carers for the last month? He’s already had many moves since coming into care as a toddler and he’ll only be with her a short while before he goes to live with his permanent adoptive family. But the present carers are expecting a baby and the foster mother isn’t coping, so Alex goes to live with Cathy.
He settles easily and is very much looking forward to having a forever family of his own. The introductions and move to his adoptive family go well. But Alex is only with them for a week when problems begin. What happens next is both shocking and upsetting, and calls into question the whole adoption process.