Silenced by Rosie Lewis

A family with a dark secret.
A child who refuses to speak.
Rosie must help her before it’s too late.

Nine-year-old Caitlin has a secret, but she cannot tell anyone about it. When her mother is sectioned under the Mental Health Act she and her three siblings have to go and live with her grandmother Julie and grandad Ryan.

Caitlin finds her new living conditions challenging: cat poo on the carpet, rubbish everywhere and the constant stare of her grandad – she retreats more and more into herself.

When foster carer Rosie Lewis meets Caitlin she knows something is deeply wrong with this little girl, who is withdrawn, afraid and refuses to speak. Rosie decides to take her in, but Caitlin’s silence continues, and Rosie knows she must act.

Why is Caitlin so afraid to speak?
Could it be that the family has a dark secret?
One that is so shocking it can no longer be hidden?

Rosie Lewis is an amazing woman, undertaking one of the hardest jobs in the world as a foster carer. I have so much respect for her as I know how difficult it must be. The children she comes into contact with need a certain type of person to be there for them and I love reading how Rosie puts her boundaries and strategies in place for these children the minute they enter her home. But as you would expect from the blurb, Silenced is a heartbreaking story so you may need a few tissues beside you when you start reading it!

When a young mother of four children has to go into hospital, the children’s grandparents step up to take care of them. All the children are struggling with the upheaval but nine year old Caitlin becomes so withdrawn that she stops speaking completely. By the time Rosie becomes involved, things have reached crisis point for them all and Rosie has been asked to step in to give Julie and Ryan some respite. And I could see why! Bartley is addicted to his phone and prone to violent outbursts, Ethan has ADHD traits and struggles with regulating his emotions and toddler Louis has tantrums far beyond those expected for his age. But it’s Caitlin who sets alarm bells ringing for Rosie. Why is she so terrified? And can Rosie get the children the help they need when she seems to be fighting against the very system set in place, desperate to be listened to…

There has been a lot of vitriolic outbursts against social workers at the moment-recent cases in the press fan the flames of these attacks as a reaction to some horrific crimes that have committed against children. But people working in social care are often completely exhausted from the amount of cases they are assigned so it’s not surprising that sometimes things get missed. Rosie herself works alongside social workers to put the children in her care first whilst also trying to keep families together if possible. In some cases that is of course not going to happen as a child’s safety is always paramount and here Rosie has to take her time, using her experience and gentle but firm skills, to find out what has happened in this family to cause such shocking revelations.

I love seeing how Rosie copes not just with the foster children she takes in but also with her own family too. We get an insight into her personal life and it was so interesting to see how she handles it when both sides of her life entangle-as of course it always will! As a foster carer, the support of your own family and friends is imperative and that is shown here when the children first enter Rosie’s household and develop relationships with her own children too. I recognised many of the strategies Rosie used as I also use them within my role at school and I love how she also raises awareness of hidden disabilities such as PDA and ADHD whilst also mentioning the sunflower lanyard-a true lifesaver if you don’t already know about it!

You would have to have a heart of stone not to be emotionally affected by the pain passed down through the family dynamics here. I have to say that I was gripped throughout as I really worried about the situation these children found themselves in. And I found many of their interviews with the adults involved completely heartbreaking. But Rosie writes so beautifully that what comes across isn’t voyeuristic or overly dramatic, it’s just an empathetic account of her journey with these children. This is a book that anyone thinking of fostering must read-although to be honest we must ALL play our part in safeguarding our children. So I think EVERYONE needs to read Silenced because one day a chance remark may start YOUR alarm bells ringing.

Rosie Lewis is a full-time foster carer. She has been working in this field for over a decade. Before that, she worked in the special units team in the police force. Based in northern England, Rosie writes under a pseudonym to protect the identities of the children she looks after

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I am a Norfolk girl living in leafy Cheshire with my grumpy Scotsman. A mum and nana who lives for my family but who is also addicted to reading (and Marmite!) I will read almost anything but my preferred genres to review are psychological thrillers, crime procedural novels or women's fiction. My kindle is my life but I also have a substantial bookshelf in my cosy reading room where I can go to escape the stresses of family life with plenty of tea and chocolate. I am a member of netgalley and bookbridg. I review on Amazon, where I'm a Top 500 reviewer, and Goodreads. You can always find me over on Twitter @jocatrobertson for any review requests.