It’s a bright day in May when Casey’s supervising social worker gets in touch to ask if she and Mike will provide a week’s respite care for a fourteen year old girl, currently being fostered by Jan Howard, a carer Casey knows well.
‘She’s basically unwanted,’ Christine says. ‘Such a sad story. Been passed around various family members for half her life before she came into care. Oh, and by the way,’ she finishes, ‘she’s been sexually active since she was eleven. So, fair warning.’
Nothing much shocks Casey, so when the girl arrives, fully made up, and looking nearer eighteen than fourteen, its sadness for her troubled past that she mostly feels. Elise is also respectful, nice to be around, and no trouble to look after, so Casey is shocked when, two days before she’s due to be returned to Jan, the girl appears in the kitchen with congealed bloody cuts down her arms. ‘I’ll kill myself if I have to go back there,’ she sobs. ‘She’s a weirdo! She walks in on me while I shower, and keeps appearing in my room!’
Casey is horrified. She knows Jan well, and this allegation doesn’t sound right. And when she calls Christine, she is naturally shocked too. [LB1]
Things then become complicated: Jan is cleared of any wrongdoing but she refuses to have Elise back. It turns out this is just the latest in a long line of allegations (Elise’s file turns out to be full of them) accusing people – mostly men and boys – of sexual impropriety, plus Jan is weary of trying to keen the girl safe and out of more trouble.
Casey agrees to continue with the placement, though with big reservations. Why does Elise constantly make these allegations? And as each day passes, and Elise brings the drama Jan forecast, it becomes clear that they must keep their guard up. Particularly Tyler, who reports being constantly ‘ambushed’ by Elise, who often appears on the landing just as he comes out of his bedroom, wearing nothing but extremely skimpy underwear. ‘It’s like she’s lying in wait for me,’ he adds. ‘I genuinely dare not be in the house alone with her.’
Then, when a collection of Elise’s belongings arrives from her grandmother’s, including adult underwear, sex toys, and some very disturbing photos, Casey realises that unravelling this girl’s psyche is an urgent priority, before her allegations get really close to home…
, Though, disturbingly, The girl arrives the following day, and looks more sixteen than fourteen. Blonde and blue eyed, she seems confident and polite to a fault, with the sort of smile that can light up a room.
But Casey knows first impressions are often inaccurate, and Elise’s file seems to endorse that. It seems she’s rarely stayed in one place for long: new school after new school, losing friends, moving on. And, disturbingly, many instances of Elise making claims about violence and sexual abuse.
Nothing has ever been followed up, however, and Elise initially is no trouble at all. But this turns out to be the calm before a storm;
Casey Watson has been a specialist foster carer for six years. During this time she has welcomed 14 difficult to place children into her home. Casey has spent the majority of her adult life working with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This includes two years running behavioural units in schools.Casey combines fostering with writing, usually late at night when the rest of the household are sleeping. Casey’s own son has Asperger’s Syndrome but is high functioning.
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