It’s early September when a five year old boy, Ethan, is brought to Casey in the middle of the night after the sudden death of his young mother after an overdose.
It’s a particularly tragic case, because the boy’s maternal grandparents are unwilling to take him in; they’ve been estranged from their late daughter since she cut off contact with them two years ago. And with the grandfather having just come out of hospital after having his foot amputated they feel unable to care for him anyway.
It's not all bad news, however. Christine tells Casey this is only to be a short placement, as the grandparents have at least agreed to be formally assessed, with a view to perhaps fostering him long term. There is also a father in the picture. He sees Ethan regularly, but from prison, where he still has a year left to serve.
Casey and Mike agree to take Ethan and within days Casey realises just how troubled the boy is. Lost and bewildered, he regularly wakes screaming for his mum in the night, and seems more like a toddler than a five year old. But at least there is a family support worker to take him to see his grandmother twice weekly and a social worker to drive him to visit his dad in prison every other Sunday - something he’s a been doing for just over a year.
Over the next few weeks, things settle into a busy and stressful rhythm, as Casey and Mike try to contain the explosive behaviours of this out-of-control, angry child. On one occasion, in nursery, and for seemingly no reason, he takes two of the class goldfish out of their tank and crushes them both in his hands. Why Casey asks him why, he can only tell her that he ‘gets thunder and lightning’ in his tummy.
It’s no surprise that the child is so hurt and bewildered. Because a week after this Christine Bolton is able to give Casey a lot more information about what happened to Ethan’s mum, after finally getting the facts from his distressed grandmother. It’s an all too familiar story, of a young single mother, estranged from both her parents and her baby’s father, sucked into the embrace of increasingly hard drugs – an embrace that would lead to her death.
It’s the saddest case of family breakdown Casey’s heard in a long time, but it will turn out there is another shocking twist to this tragic tale. Because during a session with his regular play therapist a couple of weeks later, Ethan recognises someone in one of the many family photographs Casey has dotted around the house. It turns out that Ethan’s father, currently in prison, is someone she knows. And knows well…
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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