I was invited by TLC Book Tours to review Cathy Glass's newest book, Another Forgotten Child, a true story which centers around foster care.
First, some background on Cathy Glass and a brief synopsis of the story: Cathy Glass (her pen name) is a foster parent- or "foster carer" as they are called in her native U.K., who has cared for over 100 children. The book Another Forgotten Child documents Glass's time spent caring for Aimee, a severely neglected and abused eight-year-old girl who was removed (not soon enough, unfortunately) from her drug-addicted mother's care. Aimee's mother, Susan, had five other children, all by different fathers, who were permanently removed from Susan's care previous to Aimee being placed into foster care. The baffling and upsetting part of this account is that despite the fact that Aimee was listed on the Child Protection Register at birth, she somehow slipped through the cracks of the child welfare system- hence the title of the book: Another Forgotten Child.
When Aimee first comes to stay with Cathy she has been so badly neglected, [and eventually we discover that she has been abused as well]- that she has never had a bath because there was no hot water in her mother's flat for bathing or showering. The cupboards in Aimee's flat are always bare and about the only furniture is a urine-stained mattress on the living room floor. Aimee's hair is ridden with lice and her teeth are rotted out from eating biscuits (cookies) for every meal. In addition, because of her severe neglect she does not even know how to dress herself, is intrigued by a seat belt the first time she rides in a car, and she looks at eating utensils as if they are foreign objects. Have any other foster parents ever felt like they were living with a foreign exchange student or a child from a different planet because the children in their care have been so neglected they don't know what the "norm" is? On a personal note, when Glass mentioned not being able to dress oneself (or throwing a fit when asked to do so) or not being familiar with forks and spoons I was reminded of a few of our older placements.
Needless to say, Aimee naturally struggles with new hygiene routines of having her hair washed, bathing regularly, changing into clean clothes every day and brushing her teeth. She is also very resistant to the structure and rules her new foster mother puts in place because she must eat well- balanced meals (as opposed to cookies), she can't watch TV all day and must go to school- not just for a couple of hours a day as she is accustomed to doing- but during the whole school day.
In addition to the neglect she's suffered Aimee eventually (and fortunately quite quickly thanks to concern and gentle prodding on Cathy's part) trusts Cathy enough to disclose some abuse she's suffered. As Cathy learns more of Aimee's background she is saddened and surprised- though not necessarily shocked given the circumstances- at how much knowedge Aimee has acquired about street drugs and sex as a result of accompanying her mother to different "drug dens" and witnessing her mother sell her body to support her heroin addiction and being exposed to pornography from some of her mother's boyfriends and acquaintances, among other experiences no child should be subjected to.
Aside from the physical and sexual abuse which Aimee discloses to Cathy, the most stress-inducing parts of Another Forgotten Child for me to read about were the adversarial interactions and relationship between Cathy and Aimee's biological mother, Susan. I was amazed at Cathy's ability to keep her composure and remain relatively calm amidst numerous complaints, harrassments, and false allegations heaped upon her by Susan. I was also touched by the interaction Cathy and Aimee's mother, Susan, had in one of the later chapters of the book because they were meeting more as casual acquaintances rather than "foster provider" verses "bio parent" which can sometimes, but not always, be an awkward relationship if there is resentment or judgment on either side.
Now for the good news amidst all the horrors and frustration of Aimee's story: Aimee does NOT get returned to her mother's care which is a great relief in her case as returning to live with her mother would invariably subject her to further neglect and abuse and perhaps a lifetime of poverty, drug-addiction, or even prostitution. She does end up with a forever family (although not with Cathy) and I was pleasantly surprised to see whose care she was transitioned into. Now you'll have to read the book to find out how this true story ends!
Now for more of my personal opinion of the book:
I had vaguely heard the name Cathy Glass before I read this book, but as I started reading Another Forgotten Child my immediate reaction was "For someone who has been fostering for seven years now, WHY have I not read any of her books sooner?!" As a foster parent, I could relate to much of what Cathy went through (though perhaps not quite to the same extent) and I found this book to be not only a disturbing yet touching story- very comparable to what I have felt when I've read any of Torey Hayden's books. In addition, I was also reminded of some caregiving tips & strategies from Glass's experiences as a foster care provider so this book served as a valuable tool in that respect. Cathy Glass's books should be recommended reading for all foster parents!
I appreciated Cathy's easy to read narrative style because she is, after all, just sharing her experiences with others. However, others may find Glass's writing rather dry. But it must be remembered that this book is more or less of a journal documenting her experiences (like my blog) rather than an intriguing novel.
As for the general public, I think this story, as hard as it is to read, brings awareness to the crucial issues of child abuse and neglect, dishes out some very necessary constructive criticism about children falling through the cracks of the child welfare system, and it contains some very touching human interest elements such as the resiliency of children and what a difference a little kindness and direction can make in one child's life. Another Forgotten Child is an obvious pick for anyone with an interest in child welfare or the social services.
Bottom Line: I highly recommend this poignant and sobering book to others and feel that it should be required reading for foster parents or anyone with an interest in fostering or the child welfare system.
Thank you, TLC Tours, for providing me with a free copy of Another Forgotten Child and for inviting me to take part in this tour.