One of my passions is reading books about personal experiences of mental illness or overcoming trauma. It’s just so amazing to me to see someone is real distress and the paths they take to try and get through it and how they’ve changed even in small ways by the end.
This is most heartfelt when reading books about kids who have been dealt really horrific blows in their young lives. As their brains are still developing they don’t have the cognitive and emotional resources to process even everyday life events that might seem like nothing to an adult nevermind something that is horrible like child abuse. I’m most moved to witness stories of those who are privileged to work with kids using their professional skills and big hearts to try and make a difference.
One of my favorite authors is Cathy Glass. She lives in Engladn and is a foster parent. She’s been in the field for over twenty years. I’ll be reviewing many of her books on this blog. All books are on Kindle and many are on audible. She’s commited to making her books accessible. Her books will also be requested to appear on bookshare.
A book I recently read of hers is called Another Forgotten DChild. It’s about an eight year old girl named Amy who comes into care due to severe neglect. Her mother Susan is addicted to Heroin, alcohol, and parties often. She’s had six other children and all were put into care years ago except Amy. Which is a mystery to everyone close to her from the beginning. Amy arrives at Cathy’s with a severe case of head lice, filthy worn out clothes, and what Cathy describes as a “feral appearance/ manner.”
As Cathy gets to knowAmy on her first night she discovers that this child at eight years doesn’t know basic life skills such as how to dress herself, take a bath or g brush her teeth. She insists on having cookies at meals. She’s never had healthy food or sat at a table. The first few days are about showing Amy these important everyday life skills and experiences.
In addition to her physical neglect emotionally things are far worse. Amy is extremely defiant, not listening to a word Cathy says insisting she won’t follow any direction and that her mom’s way of life was better. She insists on watchinginappropriate adult programs, wanting sweets all the time, and doing just what she wants. Cathy uses a solid parenting approach with these children. From the beginning she lays out clear boundaries and routine. She makes it clear what her expectations are and gently will give the child consequences for inappropriate behavior that are usually about losing priviliges like TV time. She also uses a technique called the closed choice. Which means giving the child choices around how a needed activity is done so they feel in some control and don’t realize they’re agreeing to what you’re asking. For example from the beginning and all throughout her stay Amy hated having her hair washed as this was never done at home. Cathy would say do you want to wash your hear before or after breakfast and she’d have to choose not realizing she just agreed to wash her hair!
Aside from emotionally rehabilitating Amy Cathy has to deal with Susan Amy’s biological mother. Susan has had years of experience manipulating social workers and making ridiculous alligations in order to get her kids moved from foster homes in hopes they’ll be returned to her. In England the foster carer is responsible for escorting the child to a contact center where they’ll see their parents as determined by the court order. Three times a week Cathy is verbally abused by Amy in the public area of the building and even followed out to her car. This also happens on the nights without personal contact where Amy calls her mom. Incredibly Susan dramatically uses the positive things Cathy is doing for Amy, healthy food, routeen, ETC and makes it sound like it’s abuse! This would be funny except it’s so not, and wears Cathy down more and more. Worst is an allegation she makes towards her older son. This forces Cathy to ask for a change so she doesn’t need to deal with the constant abuse.
The story moves along at a good pace giving a wide overview of the ins and outs of the time Amy is with Cathy and all the positive changes. It’s realistic in that all Amy’s previous behaviors don’t disappear overnight and reinforcement is constant. However the joys are in the small victories like Amy making friends at school, actually being able to catch up in her learning and having a first real Christmas.
Sadly too as Amy gains trust in Cathy she starts to disclose fragments of severe abuse done by her mom’s drug addicted friends/ men. Unfortunately Amy wasn’t able emotionally/ mentally at the time to complete a police interview but later does go into therapy.
The end of the story is touching with many totally unexpected twists.
In the audible version the narrator has a real talent for getting the personality of Cathy just right as well as those of her children and others making the story come alive.
Below are links to Cathy’s website with the book page and the audible page as well. Would love to hear comments!
Tags [foster care, Cathy Glass