book review: Mummy Told me Not to Tell by Cathy Glass

I just finished reading another awesome Cathy Glass book.

In this memoir Cathy and her family are caring for Reece who is seven years old. He has six siblings all that have been taken into care at various times, starting with the oldest 18 years ago! Why the social services would just allow this woman to keep her kids I don’t know.

The last two children the Mom Tracy had Rece, and Suzie were taken into care after Suzie disclosed possible sexual abuse at school.

Suzie was doing well in her new home but Rece was very difficult to settle. He had major hyperactivity, bit, swore, physically attacked and had the needs of a three year old. To make matters worse Tracy was constantly calling and showing up at the social services offices abusing staff verbally and physically and having to be removed. She’d been banned from all the contact centers!

She, and social services in general, wanted this to be Rece’s last move as he’d gone through a number of carers in just a few months.

When Rece arrived he had almost no attention span. His mother in some perverse sense of humor gave him the nickname Sharky because he bites! Cathy and her family were horrified. For the first few days he spent most of his time zooming around acting like a shark, shouting at the top of his lungs, and having no idea how to basically just not be on hyper drive all the time.

He was also wasn’t able to clean himself after going to the bathroom as was discovered the first day. It was said he had soiling accidents but none happened at Cathy’s he did wet the bed when stressed at one point. But Cathy matter factly taught him that skill. He also couldn’t dress or undress himself, wash himself and other basic life skills.

It was a fact that Rece and all of his siblings, except Lisa who lived with an aunt had learning difficulties. However that didn’t mean he couldn’t learn and Cathy set expectations for him as she would any child just approached things differently.

The only times he seemed calm were when watching TV, being read to or eating. So in the beginning there was a lot of reading going on. Cathy wisely limited screen time, and did take TV away if he was being rude.

The second day at Cathy’s he showed sexual behavior. It was suspected there had been a pedofile in the home, and that Rece’s Dad Scott had sexually abused Suzie, but they didn’t know for sure about actual sexual abuse. They knew that he had watched “adult videos.”

Cathy made sure that Rece did not see any contact between him and her or the girls as sexual. She had to have several talks with him about “private parts.” This became an issue at home and at school.

At the end of the first week Cathy met Tracy and the siblings. It was extremely chaotic. There was Sharon, basically a clone of Tracy in physical appearance and demeanor living in a care home. Brad, Sean, and then Suzie and Rece. Absolutely everyone shouted and was physically aggressive as a matter of every day life. She had no trouble understanding where Rece’s hyperactivity came from.

The first few contacts were so hard on everyone with Tracy verbally abusing Cathy in the parking lot. All the children running around totally unregulated and not getting home til nine thirty or ten at night!

Jill her social worker got an escort in place so Cathy didn’t have to deal with that abuse and that smoothed things out for Rece.

A huge issue for Rece was that he had not been in school for months. At first Cathy thought it was due to all the moves, five carers in four months. They had trouble getting Rece’s social worker in touch as he seemed to be on leave and then took his time getting in touch. From the beginning it was clear Jamie operated on slow laid back mode around everything. He was a gentle man, but extremely laid back and took his time, claiming it was “a complicated case.” He wasn’t rude or purposefully neglectful he truly thought he was doing ok but just wasn’t putting in the effort. This made it very hard as Cathy couldn’t be on the same page with him around getting a school quickly.

Of course it came down to Tracy threatening to take social services to court about no school. When the judge ordered he be in school he was placed in a local school in the area. Cathy didn’t have the parental rights to choose the school, or switch schools. She had been waiting for Rece’s statement of special needs and didn’t read it until coming to the school and meeting the principal who was none too thrilled.

She couldn’t believe what she read. Basically it said that Rece was unteachable and created chaos for both children and adults including physical and verbal abuse. And that his skills were vfar behind that of a seven year old. Had Cathy not had Rece for a couple months and seen how settled he could be, and how he did want to learn (she had been teaching him at home some) she would have been very concerned about taking him. The school did receive funding for a TA full time.

Rece was over the top excited about school. The first day Cathy had to stay there the whole morning to be sure nothing happened. And things seemed ok.

Unfortunately a very unhealthy pattern emerged. It appeared that Rece though totally regulated at home, felt somehow emotionally unsafe or needed to test the boundaries at school. Perhaps he unconsciously equated school with life at his mom’s. Or sensed that these people weren’t confident around his needs and were afraid of him. In any case he threw everything from sexual touching to destroying property, physically attacking other children running around the school and anything else you can think of at this school.

The principle and staff were beside themselves. What was worse was due to Rece’s disability if theconsequence wasn’t emediate he totally forgot what he’d done. Genuinely. He was very sad and remorseful about his actions loved school and wanted to do well.

By this time Wendy the Guardian Ad Litum visited. She was very disappointed in Jamie’s slow approach as he was supposed to be visiting every month or so and fighting for Rece. Cathy was so happy and relieved to have Wendy’s support as she had felt all this time that she was the only one in his corner.

Meetings were held. The Principal was very against Rece in his school and kept asking when he’d be leaving Cathy’s or if he could go to a special school. It was determined by a psychologist that Rece did not need a special school. And that they had all the funding they would need. They did split up the day with two TAS instead of one which helped some. They tried putting behavior management stratagies but this did little.

Finally one day Rece seemed to mentally connect something around school to being with his mom and once he and Cathy had this conversation his behavior changed almost overnight.

Another thing that really worried Cathy and her family was that Rece was completely shut down about anything to do with home. When asked even the simpliest question he’d say “ don’t know.” A couple times he talked about “bad secrets” and seemed very happy to be home from contact but Cathy was very worried about the toll these unresolved thoughts feelings and traumatic experiences were having on him.

Rece’s story does have a good ending. One where he’s able to have a solid family. The mom Tracy kept having kids, though they got taken away right away.

I loved the story. Cathy’s persistence is a huge asset to her ability to do this work. Whether it’s working with a child’s behavior fighting with a neglectful or inadequate social worker, or advocating at school she will not be turned away when caring for a child. She is the kind of foster parent anyone would wish to have. It’s really a shame too that Tracy had such a volatile relationship with social services. Cathy learned some horrifying information that showed the abuse deeply embedded in the family. However sadly Tracy never made the choice to reach out for help. And so likely would be mentally ill for the rest of her life.

I wonder how Rece grew up and if the possible traumatic issues not disclosed either in care or with his family caught up with him.

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