Book Review: Torn by Rosie Lewis
I finished Rosie Lewis latest fostering Memoir Torn. It’s a amazing but long read and so I was able to read it over about a week or so while the internet on this old computer kept coming in and out mostly out.
It tells the Story of Taylor (ten), Reece, (six), and Bailey, toddler and their time with her. The initial complaint to social services was that Rece reported a large bruise on his thigh and said his mom did it. Incredibly, the family had been on the at risk register for years, meaning that social services theoretically had been doing checks and otherwise providing interventions. There were many incidents of domestic violence where polece were called by friends and neighbors. The parents would need psychiatric evaluations and parenting courses. For the moment they were in voluntary care as the mother agreed to it but that could change.
Rosie was horrified by the story but sadly it was similar to many she knew of in the two years she’d been fostering. The social worker, Maisee had an extremely laid back manner. Talked and moved extremely slowly. Was so “child centered” that it was like she didn’t believe in discipline or consequences at all. Which would make Rosie’s job a lot harder in the future.
Rosie had been expecting two boys as it happened. So she was surprised to meet Taylor in inappropriate clothes for any child, with words like sexy or babe on them. Her long hair thrown into a ponytail and the attitude and disrespect of a teenager not a teen year old.
Because regulations called for children of different sexes in separate rooms they had to move Rosie’s bed into the dining room for Taylor to have her own room.
Needless to say it was a tense first night with Rosie having to dodge increasingly personal andangry remarks from Taylor, and having to try and calm Reece’s rising generalized anxiety.
Though he was almost six he wore diapers to bed due to nighttime wetting. Reece needed lots of reassurance, routine and affection to calm his anxiety. He also bonded quickly with Rosie’s biological son Jamie. Taylor made it a point to be as rude and unlikeable as posible. Her daughter Emily was a calm and pritty much content person and was intimidated by Taylor at first. She had nothing but mean things to say to everyone most especially Rosie. No matter what Rosie did, being firm, using humor, ignoring nothing seemed to work. Worst of all she found herself shaking and feeling totally at a loss at every confrontation.
This was her second year in fostering and so she didn’t have the experience and confidence to face such a challenging child in that Taylor did everything to isolate and push any boundaries as well as brush aside any atempt to connect.
Her worst problems were with phone and computer use. Taylor hadn’t told Rosie she had a cell phone. So Rosie was very surprised before the children’s review that Rosie’s mother had been geting complaints from Taylor. About this time Rosie was really feeling the strain so an anounced visit from an extremely personable wise american supervising social worker was well timed. She reinforced putting strictu boundaries on screen time, was totally nonjudgmental and sympathetic to Rosie’s feelings which she feared expressing to any professional for fear they’d say she couldn’t do her job if she couldn’t keep a ten year old under control.
Taylor also used myspace even though it had an age requirement of 14. She was constantly either on the computer or the phone if not specifically given things to do. Which then was another battle as any interaction with Rosie in it always ended in her ruening it by playing up.
A real annoyance was what Rosie called Taylor’s “sit ins.” She would simply refuse to go home after school. She would sit in her classroom for up to three hours. Just refuse to move. I as a reader was shocked at the adults inability to stop this problem. The supervising social worker mentioned when she heard about it that in the us they could just grab her by the hand and physically force her out but not in england. I’m not sure if this is true. At one point Rosie did forego giving Taylor a treat when others had one and that seemed to pull Taylor up short.
Rosie was really connecting with Reece and in a safe place his anxiety was going down. His bedwetting stopped. Still in a rutt with Taylor things with the family got worse as after the little brother Bailey was found horribly abused he too moved in.
Taylor’s antagonstic violent attitude was tempered by the clear affection she showed for both her brothers especially Bailey and of animals. Knowing the issues Taylor had faced, her father as such a bully, and discovering her mother’s position as a victem she was better able to understand Taylor’s roller coaster moods.
There were moments of connection that gave her hope. At one point she was able to have one session with a very good psychologist. Again it was a place where she could state her emotions and thoughts and not be judged. She got reassurance and confidence from geting stratigies from a professional who truly empathized.
The story goes through several totally unexpected twists and turns. As does Rosie and Taylor’s relationship. The ending is surprising, hopeful, but not overly so. This family had a long road ahead of them after leaving Rosie’s. But Taylor in particular did manage to leave with more self-worth than she came in with, finally able to bond with someone who was able to take the hurtful remarks and actions without giving up. The family will always stay in Rosie’s heart as all her kids do. I think this case gave her a lot of confidence in connecting with an imposible child and the importance of geting solid
professional support when available, trusting her own intuition and listening deeply to the children and even parents when they feel able to confide in her. It was only at a very revealing meeting with Maisee and the mother, that she learned the depth of the abuse in the family and it made it clear how much Taylor needed someone to stick it out with her.
I think this is a great read as usual for anyone who enjoys these kinds of books. Like I said the ending is realistic and the negatives of the placement, and knowing the hard times ahead for the family, aren’t glossed over. I think it’s good for foster or adoptive parents raising traumatized children. Rosie never knew until much later in the book where a lot of Taylor’s behavior came from. I think so many foster and adoptive parents do feel alone in dealing with a child who won’t settle to anything in terms of bonding. This story shows that struggle and the work it takes to overcome it, even a little. I love this author and the narrator brought all the characters alive with distinctive voices and personality traits.
I would highly recommend this book. Available on kindle, audible, and in paperback.
Book Review: Torn by Rosie Lewis