Book Review: Can I Let you Go by Cathy Glass

I just finished reading Cathy’s latest memoir. I read it in two days! Cathy’s books are like that. In Can I Let You Go, Cathy is faced with a first for her: fostering a young adult with a disability. 24 year old Faye has learning difficulties, what we in the US call developmental delay or intelectual disability. She is extremely kind and gentle and very loving towards anyone she meets. Intelectually and in life skills she functions as a young child would. This makes her very vulnerable and unable to live alone.
So she lives with her elderly grandparents. They have raised Faye all her life. Her learning disabilities are a part of fetal alcohol syndrome. It is a shock to everyone when she becomes pregnant. No one knows how this could happen as she’s never let out alone only going to an adult day center and riding stables.
Adult social services had been on the scene since it was discovered Faye was pregnant. The care plan was for Faye to have her baby and have it put up for adoption. As time went by, her grandparents were unable to do things like make sure Faye got to her Dr. apointments and generally felt they needed help. So Faye was brought into care. There were very few adult carers around. When Cathy was asked she initially did some research on the subject and found out that sadly not a lot is out there. So of course she would be happy to do what she could to help as always.
On meeting Faye it’s clear the challenges this little family has already been through. The grandparents are severely mobility disabled. The grandfather using a walking cane and grandmother using a walker. And they’re in an upstairs apartment. It would take them forever and would be painful to walk anywhere.
Faye is emedieately affectionately welcoming hugging Cathy on meeting her. The plan for Faye was for Cathy to be sure she ate healthy, went to her Dr.s apointments was as prepared as posible for the birth and adoption. And then would return to live with her grandparents. Faye is excited about this saying it’s like going on holiday!
Faye moves in with Snuggles, her favorite stuffed animal by her side. Adrian, Paula and Lucy, all young adults are taken right away by Faye’s innoscience, simple way of seeing the world, sense of humor and gentleness. It’s clear Faye has a good routine especially at night. She loves watching TV especially the soaps. She watches a lot of tv and Cathy does try to interest her in other things like puzzles or books.
More worrying than the TV is when Cathy quickly discovers just how in denial Faye is about her pregnancy and baby. She even becomes quite agitated on hearing the word baby related to her. Cathy calls Becky Faye’s really good social worker. Becky arranges to come by and talk. It’s quickly revealed that Faye didn’t want to upset her grandparents by talking about the pregnancy. When reassured that Cathy and Becky wouldn’t be upset she became more comfortable talking about it.
It is after their next Dr. apointment Faye suddenly starts talking about wanting to keep her baby. She is quite emotional about it. Cathy is deeply touched and sad that this could never be the case. She gently but firmly explains to her all the things a baby needs to have constantly done for them. There would be no breaks for TV or sleeping as long as she does or playing or seeing horses. Faye remains resolute. So Becky looks into the social services position. And discovers that though Faye is a disabled adult, she has the right to be asesed around parenting her baby and it should not be taken away soley on grounds of her disability. Which is good on paper. But if you say that and then don’t have the huge amount and depth of services to back it up, you’re basically saying this child is going to be taken away on the grounds that this parent has learning needs there are absolutely no practical services for. Sorry had to add that editorial comment.
So finding really no refferences on how to go about teaching someone with learning difficulties about parenting Cathy and her family throw themselves head on into the task. Cathy writes out careful step by step instructions. In a format similar to the one the day center uses to teach adults. And this takes a very very long time for Faye to grasp as it’s all totally new to her. Up to this point no one had ever said anything to Faye about parenting as they didn’t feel it would come into play.
So now they only had like seven weeks to have her learn as much as posible. Some days Faye would remember and be able to do more and others not. She wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything on an “off day” where it seemed she was really struggling to do basic things. Her
grandparents said this happens sometimes with no known cause. Their remedy was for Faye to just chillax on the couch watching tv. Cathy isn’t impressed particularly worrying about what will happen to the baby on Faye’s off days. But she didn’t press the point. Faye was better the next day and then they kept going.
A good side to all this is Faye’s independence. She was very proud of herself as she tried to learn these skills and confident she could do it. She even stood up to her Grandmother in a rather cute childish way, but for her it was huge.
Everyone in her life tried to show optomisim and praise while in the back of their minds very concerned for the outcome.
In this time frame Cathy has also formed solid relationships with Faye’s grandparents. Even taking them to Faye’s mom’s grave. So when Faye goes into labor Cathy and Wilma are there at the hospital and become even closer. Cathy has even more of an
apreciation for what this strong intelligent woman has had to go through losing one daughter and then having to face the consequences of that daughter’s behavior on her granddaughter.
Faye has a beautiful healthy baby boy. Everyone is so relieved and looking forward to Faye going to a mother and baby unit where she’ll get more instruction and support and then be asesed. Everyone isn’t looking any further than that.
Sadly it becomes clear after a couple of days something is wrong. Faye won’t even look at her baby. She confides thy and her grandmother that she knows she can’t do it. She can’t parent him the way he needs. She comes to a heartbreaking realization about her limitations and how it wouldn’t work for her or her son or her grandparents. That it would be too much and the best thing would be for him to be adopted.
Though on the surface this might sound frustrating (wasn’t this what should have happened all along,) it certainly isn’t. We all have to go down our own paths in life and experience our own choices and consequences. That goes for anyone with any disability. Faye had every right to want to keep her baby. To be supported in learning the skills to do so. In my oppinion she shouldn’t have had to give up her baby. There should have been the services and support where Faye could live with a long term carer and be supported in looking after herself and him. She could have been able to be close to her grandparents but also have her family.
That’s my take on it. Others I’m sure have other opinions. I am just very angry on her behalf that here was this human need she had to raise her own child, but there wasn’t the support out there for her. By support I mean programs specific to her needs. I don’t feel putting her in a mother and baby unit with others without learning
disabilities is right either. I wish there was a place where she could have been with other mothers in her own situation. This would give true peer support and boosted her confidence even more.
That none of this is available is a serious gap in the care system and marginalizes those with disabilities even more.
Cathy and her family, Becky, and her grandparents did everything above and beyond for Faye to try to make her wishes happen. No one blamed Faye for her decission or how things played out. Faye can’t think in abstracts very well. So maybe she had to come face to face with her precious baby to see how fragile and vlunerable he was to realize that in the circumstances she was in it just couldn’t happen. Faye returned to live with her grandparents who finally got a first floor apartment. It’s again sad that the whole family needs support. But that probably goes into the lacking services for the elderly. I loved the book. I love how Cathy if she sees a problem will put her intire heart into solving it, pulling on any internal and external resources she can. It just infuriates and depresses me to see the external resources so lacking for those with a variety of disabilitys. But even worse when looking at disabled parents just wanting to raise a family. I plan to do more research into this and even e-mail Cathy.


One thought on “Book Review: Can I Let you Go by Cathy Glass

  1. the book was amazing. so very sad. I cried so hard reading it. it was heartbreaking when she had to give up her baby. that chapter where she handed the baby over is where I cried the hardest. I think its cathys best book yet. xxx

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