It’s spring, a couple of weeks into the Covid Pandemic, and Casey and Mike are busy adjusting to the ‘new normal’ when a call comes from EDT (the Emergency Duty team) in the small hours of the night. Will they take in a six year old girl who’s been rescued from a house fire?
That they’ve been called at all immediately alerts Casey to it being a particularly harrowing situation; perhaps her immediate family have all died, or are being hospitalised with terrible injuries, and there are clearly no extended family for the child to go to, or she would have done, surely? But all EDT can confirm is that the mother has been taken to hospital and that the next door neighbour knows of no family whatsoever. The only other thing that’s been gleaned from him was that he thought mum had mental health issues.
Despite the trauma she’s suffered, when she arrives with a social worker at four am, little Amelie is behaving very oddly. She seems excited rather than traumatised, laughing and jumping about excitedly, and chattering away like a much younger child. Is this some kind of shock reaction? If so, it’s one Casey has never seen before. And the social worker confirms that she’s been like this since he arrived to take care of her.
Amelie is still fast asleep in bed when Casey’s supervising social worker, Christine Bolton. calls close to midday the next morning, having gone down without fuss. ‘Not even questions like who are you? Where am I? What’s happened to my mummy?’ Casey tells Christine. Which has struck her, given the child’s strange demeanour, as very odd. Christine, however, is able to shed at least some light on the situation. It seems that though the family have been under the radar in terms of social services, her medical history has not. Amelie’s mother suffers from bipolar disorder, and had become convinced that the FBI had bugged the house, and were spying on them. Anxious not to be found, she decided to destroy all trace of her and Amelie, and to do so by setting fire to the house. Thankfully the woman’s screams for ‘agents’ to show themselves had woken Amelie, who got up and automatically led her near-naked mother out into the garden. Neighbours had then alerted the fire brigade and police, and the mother was sectioned later that night. At the moment, Christine explains, it’s for twenty eight days, but given the severity of her psychiatric problems, it’s highly likely to be for longer, so they will have Amelie for an indefinite period.
This is fine for the Watsons - Mike’s off work for an equally indefinite period himself, just like much of the population of the UK. They are also down for emergency respite care whenever it’s needed, and see no problem taking care of this strange, and now very much alone, little girl.
But with no family, and no home, what’s likely to become of Amelie? There’s lots of chatter everywhere about Covid protocols, and what’s going to be the ‘new normal’. Is ‘effectively orphaned’ going to be hers?
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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