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When I first started writing my fostering memoirs in 2007 it broke new ground. No one before had written about the often hidden and sometimes secretive world of fostering and the social services. My reason for writing was partly cathartic and also I wanted to raise awareness. I’d previously written articles and short stories on issues that had moved me or about which I felt passionately.

True-life stories

This was taken to a new level in Damaged, where I told the shocking story of Jodie, eight, the most abused and disturbed child I had ever looked after. Because of Jodie’s behaviour, her high level of needs, and the dreadful things she disclosed, I lived and breathed Jodie for the year she was with me and for some years after. I couldn’t get Jodie or what she had been through out of my mind. I was not only overwhelmed by the appalling abuse she’d suffered at the hands of the very people who should have protected her,  but I was also incensed by the system that had let her down and had allowed the abuse to go undetected for so long.

Since then other foster carers, social workers, and those working in child protection, including at least one serving police officer, are writing their memoirs, as well as many survivors of abuse. But what makes these true-life stories of interest to so many? The answers can be found in the thousands of often very emotional comments posted on my website.

The public want to know what is going on in our society, and want something done to right the wrong:

  • "I was appalled, shocked, and incensed…Thank you for bringing this to our attention."
  • "Thank you for opening my eyes to all the bad things that go on behind closed doors."
  • "I haven’t spoken out before, but after reading your book, I intend to."
  • "People were spurred into action – I’ve always wanted to work with disadvantaged children, and now I will."

One social worker wrote:

I am aware the system does not always look after all the children in the way that it should. I am returning to my fostering team on Monday and will be recommending your books to all of them.

The books are therapeutic

  • "My husband did some reverse psychology. He hoped that by reading your amazing books, it would help me realise that I am not a failure, and that I am a good parent. It has worked!"
  • "I thank god for my own loving family…"
  • "Reading your books puts my problems in perspective."

True life stories help survivors of abuse:

  • "I too was sexually, physically and emotionally abused by my father, however he managed to fool social services. Now I can finally put that to rest…"
  • "Reading this book has made me want to speak up about the abuse I suffered."
  • "This book touched my heart. As a survivor of incest, the similarities between Jodie and me were too close for comfort, but it gave me permission to allow the child in me to voice her sadness and I am now seeing a therapist. Thank you for the gift of the words from this book. I am truly grateful…I have a tear again in my eye as I write to you."

I had a tear in my eye too. But ultimately if as a result of reading or publishing these true life stories one child is saved from abuse or an adult can start to recover and move on then it must be the best success story ever.

Cathy x (