Book review: Breaking the Silence by Casey Watson

This weekend I finished another amazing Casey Memoir. It’s Breaking the Silence. It centers on two boys who are as different as can be with their needs for coming into care. The situation is not like any they’ve been through. at all and Casey Mike and the family have to deal with unexpected twists and turns from the start.

The first totally unexpected surprise is their link Worker John Fulashaw turning up mid afternoon with a nine year old boy named Jenson with his social worker.

John and she are extremely apologetic for this emergency placement. They say they found out thirty minutes ago that Jenson and his thirteen year old sister have been left alone for two weeks while their mother and her boyfriend went on vacation. And so it was thought they needed to be put into care right away as they’ve yet to even be able to contact the mother.

Casey and Mike quickly get over their shock and get to know Jenson. From the start he appears to be a boy who is need of boundaries and parenting. Not a typical foster child having dealt with abuse necessarily, but it’s clear he’s lived in a world where his parents can’t be bothered. He is used to not bathing, having clean clothes or getting up at an early enough hour to properly get ready for school. He also swears a lot despite Casey and Mike’s gentle reminders. John assures them that Jenson’s placement will only be for a week or so until the mom comes home.

As the days go by it’s clear there are complications. Jenson at times responds positively to the boundaries at other times is argumentative. It comes out that Carley Jenson’s older sister in fact did know where their mother was, and planned to meet at some point. Perhaps the mom was fine with her children in care to give her even more of a break. Jenson also says/ implies that his sister is her favorite and he gets blamed for everything in the family.

In the process of the social services reviewing things with the status of the family it comes out that the mother’s current boyfriend has a criminal background. Until they can do that Jenson can not return to his parents. He is furious about this and it shows in his difant behavior, fighting at school and even trying to escape school to sneak back to visit his sister in spite of social services wishes.

Casey tries to understand this troubled child but it was hard with so little information and such a chaotic placement.

Then as abruptly as with Jenson, John calls to talk about another upcoming placement. This is with a nine year old boy named Georgie. This would be a long term placement where Casey and Mike would use the behavior management program they were trained in as specialist foster carers.

Georgie is moderately autistic and has lived in a children’s home all his life. Currently the home is closing and the very caring and committed staff want to find Georgie a good home.

This child emediately strikes Casey’s heart as her son Keeron has Asberger’s. She can deeply relate to how hard it is for a child with special needs to grow up and find good solid loving support and care. She believes with her personal knowledge of autism from both her son and working with kids in a behavior unit she can really help this child.

However the overwhelming aspect is that , they still don’t know the story with Jenson and his family and what will happen. So for the first time in their fostering life Mike and Casey will have two different foster kids at the same time.

From the start things are rough. It doesn’t help that Jenson and Georgie are actually from the same school. Jenson already considers Georgie a “freak” and has bullied him in the past. So when Georgie does arrive things are tense. In getting to know him, Casey gets a crash course in the notion that like all issues everyone’s autism presents differently. Georgie is verbal but often uses movie quotes to express his feelings, or mostly from the Dr. Who show. He also loves quiz shows. He has obsessions, one of which is collecting and arranging stones.

He has extremely particularl likes and dislikes for everything from food to the color of the walls. They were going to put him in their other child’s room which is pink. But he had a huge meltdown over this it being sensorally way too much. So Mike and Jenson did a quick paint of the spare room which is beedge. .

Casey is able to have a lot of support with Georgie especially through talking with his former staff at the children’s home. She learns that putting up pictures of the people in the house what they’re going to do that day ETC hel.ps Georgie orient in what always feels like a strange and scary world. When Georgie keeps to his routines and has his needs attented to he’s actually apritty easy child to look after.

Jenson however is still a huge mystery to Casey. Particularly as he’s merciless in teasing and winding up Georgie. This gets Casey easily cross with him and quick to blame him for incidents. Something that she’s usually more objective about. Both her children and Mike, but especially Keeron call her on this. Keeron says he knows she’s overprotecting Georgie and so quick to say others are picking on him and feerce about it. From his point of view he knows what others think of him. That they think he’s crazy or weird or a freak. And in his world where things feel so different he thinks the sameo f them too sometimes. And doesn’t care what others think. But seeing his mom always so upset trying to push people to like him was the worst part for him. It takes Casey awhile to really hear this and not be defensive, But when she does it dramatically changes her attitude. She continues to give Georgie the special care he needs while at the same time trying to expand his skills by teaching him to be more verbal. With Jenson she listens more and is less quick to blame him.

As time goes on Casey learns something about Jenson’s past a horrific event he went through and was blamed for. That was the missing piece of the puzzle of why he acted how he did. Once she knew this she had a lot more understanding for him.

Once the tention broke it seemed the boys were actually bonding. This was clear when they all went on a holiday. Jenson got a huge self-esteem boost in the talent show and Georgie had his own fun but it was clear he did love it in spite of not being comfortable participating in many things.

It comes out that Jenson is now bullying kids at school for picking on Georgie which is a total turn around! Georgie is actually socially connecting with Jenson as well.

At this point abruptly the kids are moved. First Jenson

Is moved back to his mother. She promises to work with social services and get help for her family. Jenson is happy about this but Georgie is very sad and feels the loss emensely. However it is now a blessing that the two are at the same school and will continue to have that bound.

A week or so later Georgie is assigned a new social worker. Casey thinks now they’ll be able to really start the behavior program. However the social worker has other good but unexpected plans. She knows of a foster family who had great success raising an autistic child and then placing him in a supportive living program for young adults. She feels this would be a good placement for Georgie to best meet his special needs and eventually give him some independence and life skills.

While it takes Casey and Mike completely off guard they’re so happy that Georgie has this chance. Saying goodbye is painful. But they know they can always visit Georgie and keep up that bond.

It is discovered some time later that Jenson sadly could not continue to live with his mother as she was unable to parent him. However he did go on to go into care and did well there.

This placement in so many ways was a first for Casey and Mike. It followed no linear process as so many of the other placements have and tested Casey especially and her personal feelings. I think it was Casey who grew the most as a person through dealing with Georgie and Jenson.

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