Louise was born in 1967. She and her teenage mother were placed in an unmarried mother and baby hostel in St Aldates, Oxford. This was a chaotic time for the children’s social services that were placing Louise into their care system. There were unprecedented numbers of unwanted pregnancies, partly because young women were not responsibly using the new contraceptive pill that supported their lifestyle and sexual freedom. Louise’s birth mother claims that the social workers promised her that baby Louise was to be fostered by a lovely family who very much wanted to look after her. Nothing was further from the truth, Louise was knowingly parked with a family who had openly stated that they did not want her, and the rest is in the book.
Whilst Louise was looking after her ailing adoptive mother Barbara she found a photo of her fellow adopted sibling who she had not seen for 36 years. This inspired Louise to search for William and request her own files from Oxford City Council. She had no idea what was to come and how she would feel, but after meeting William in Oxford in 2012 she promised to tell the story.
It took years and many failed attempts to write her own story to understand what had happened to her. As many victims of childhood abuse will tell you, getting past the guilt and shame and the feeling that somehow you as a child caused these terrible things — simply because that was what you were told — is one of the biggest challenges to repair. Once she made sense of events and understood how the adults had failed her she was able to begin the work.
Louise was scared of writing not just because the story is painful but because she is dyslexic and missed so much school. She has struggled to write all her adult life, and even as a University Art Lecturer for over twenty years she was convinced she would be found out and sent home for having such poor literacy skills. Louise bought a copy of the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and followed its advice. She decided that she needed an agent to help her — she sent her first few chapters and a biography to a few agents, not expecting to hear from anyone. Jane Graham Maw gave Louise a call and after talking about her childhood and getting to know Louise she offered to represent her. Later when Louise and Jane were sitting in a café outside the publishers Simon & Schuster’s offices in London where Louise had just signed her contract, Louise asked Jane why she gave her a chance. Jane said “Because I believe in you and I believe in this book”. Jane introduced Louise to Corinne Sweet, a physiotherapist who helped Louise write the book. They remain good friends.
Thrown Away Child is a memoir covering Louise Allen’s abusive childhood in a foster home, how she survived — using her love of art as a sanctuary — and how she hopes to right old wrongs now by fostering children herself and campaigning for the improvement of foster care services. It is a compelling and inspirational story. This book gives a voice to the many children who grew up unhappily in care.
L C Allen © 2019
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