Book Review: Girl Alone by Cathy Glass


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II just finished reading another one of cathy’s emotional and true life memoirs.
Cathy faces a very big challenge with the placement of 13 year old Joss. Joss has been out of her home for six months and since that time has lived with an aunt and two carers. She has extremely challenging behavior. Including extreme hostility, swearing, coming home at all hours of the night drinking and smoking cigarettes and pot. What seems to have brought this on is truly devastating. When Joss was seven and her little brother Kevin three or four, the family came home and found her father hanging in the garage. He killed himself thirty minutes before their mom brought them home from school.
While Linda did do greif counseling for several years Joss reffused to talk. Linda met someone she really thought was a good kind man Eric. They met a year or two ago. I think it was a year. Since then things went downhill majorly for Joss. Linda thought it was expected at first. Feeling like Eric was replacing her father especially when they got married. She started having nightmares along with her growing behavioral issues. Yet there was no reasoning with her or geting her to realize that she did need help.
Things came to a head about six months before with extreme fighting in the house. The family just could not take it. The aunt tried and by that time social services had gottin involved to keep her in her home. that did not work.
Knowing that Joss had gone through two carers plus a relative made Cathy a bit anxious. Knowing this would be a very tough case. Though many children Cathy fostered were younger she had a fair bit of experiences with teens. And her formula of nurturing, structure, routine and expectations for good behavior never failed.
As the months went on she had her doubts. Joss would not respond to empathy. At least not long term. She’s soften and show vulnerability during a conversation and then put the mask of anger back on and isolate. She did not respond to reasoning or firmness. It just made her even worse. What was truly sad was when she came home from her nighttime street activities, she was vissibly more distressed than when she left sometimes tearful.
Matters were made worse by Amelia a very inexperienced social worker. Now this really bothers me. You would think social workers have to follow guidelines on certain interventions they do. Like behavior contracts and how they advise caregivers. I mean people are the experts on their own lives. But a social worker or any outside professional is there specifically to give an compassionate objective perspective.
Unfortunately she did not bring this. Cathy and Jill, often commented deeply frustrated, that they wondered whether she had any realistic perspective on working with childreen or teenagers. She seemed of the oppinion that Joss should agree to everything before it happens. And basically not to be too firm with her, read not rock the boat, or things will get worse. Basically her advice was tiptoe around Joss and beok with whatever she does.
With someone with serious behavioral issues social services and the people in the person’s life draw up a contract. Clearly outlining expectations. Then everyone is on the same page. Unfortunately they spent a frustrating meeting with Amelia doing the above. So that the contract became almost laughable. Saying that Joss could be out til ten thirty all week except two random days.
So that did nothing. Then Cathy found out Joss was lying about where she was going and who with. That she was late for school almost every day. Eventually Cathy tracked Joss down to a very ghetto apartment which was like drinking and drug city. With a man in his forties supposedly ok with everything. There she found Joss with her friend and two older men. They were seventeen and she was only 13. Cathy was horrified.
But Amelia believe it or not said not to criticize Joss’s friends. I would have screamed my head off at her by this point!
Things drag on. Cathy sympathizes with Linda. The little communication she and Joss have when she sees her little brother Keven is hostile and Linda is drained by it. It genuinely seems like she’s doing her best.
Cathy tries in spite of Joss’s antics to make and keep her connected to the family. The dynamics can be tense with Lucy and Paula as they’re both of a similar age. Still Joss would soften during family activities a little only to revert back into her shell.
Things break into an incredibly shocking tormoil one weekend. Joss comes home emotionally broken and physically atacked. She was raped by one of the men at the apartment. Cathy and Linda and everyone else is truly horified and feels they failed Joss. Even though they had done everything they could under very difficult circumstances. Amelia was pulled up short by it as well.
After a very long night doing a rape exam and police statement Linda shows up at the house confident that Joss has lied about being raped! She said she spoke with Eric and he said it was just like her to do that. As she’s said things that weren’t true about him just to spite him/ try and end things with their relationship. While that might have been Cathy and her family and Jill are shocked her own mother could one minute be greiving with Joss and the next against her.
No one expects the shocking twist that follows. Which is at the core of all of Joss’s behavior which had been the only way to survive the pain and shame of being so hurt and then not being believed.
This breaks Linda down even more and you see her own mental illness geting more pronounced. Joss goes through a huge change. She leans on Cathy and her family more for comfort and relies on the routine to feel safe. Meanwhileother family members previously not on the scene for some time come forward which adds a new and wonderful dynamic to the situation.
As the last chapter says the ending is bitter sweet. With a lot still left unfinished as one would expect. But with Joss healing, her family healing and more whole than they have been since her father comitted suicide.
This is such a famelear and tragic story for so many teenagers trauma often leads to acting out or acting in behaviors. Which leads to more trauma vulnerability to abuse or other major issues. It takes an extremely trustworthy emotionally thick skinned and nurturing person or people to try their hardest to get to the botom of everything through all the layers and twists. Cathy Jill, therapists Joss and the family saw, and Joss’s grandparents were such people.
Cathy said clearly how in many many cases grandparents don’t have any rights. Not even to see their kids for contact as the parents woud when the child is in care. In this situation had the grandparents not only stepped forward, but hung in there and propelled Joss and the family to solid ground things would have been even worse for all involved.
So many layers to this story! So well told and so many angles for discussion.


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