Kate and the Kid: Anne Rothman –Hicks and Kenneth Hicks
Parents are supposed to protect, nurture and care for their children. But, many don’t. Kate learns the true meaning of love when after losing her job, her boyfriend, coming home drunk, forgetting her keys and leaving her possessions at Roger’s apartment and meets Jenny. Six-year-old Jenny is angry, scared, tough and makes faces at Kate every time she sees her hanging out of the window of Sally’s apartment. But, when Kate finds herself a guest in Sally’s apartment because she’s locked out an unusual and unexpected bond and friendship develops and something in her changes. Linda, Jenny’s mother left her with Sally because she needed time alone to think. Calling once in a while and not really caring much for what was happening to her daughter Sally became her primary caregiver. But, when Sally decides a night of fun is in order what happens next will change it all. Kate and Jenny enjoy some fun having a cookout until Jenny sees someone in the park and she and Kate have to run. Fears set aside they forget the man in the park until he shows up the next day claiming to be Jenny’s dad. Drug dealer, sleazy, frightening and hardnosed he boldly tells Kate that he will take charge of this precious little girl hoping to find her mother too. Bruises quite revealing on this child, a doll she calls Jenny as she wants to be called Miranda, allows readers to know that this child has been a victim of much more abuse than has been revealed. When Jenny is forced to leave with this man Kate becomes determined to change things around.
Kate has within herself a sense of what’s right and although her friend Sally claims that Linda as the situation under control and she should not interfere something tells her she can’t and won’t let it go. Jenny is tough, scared and wants someone to love her but who can she trust? Finding herself walking and thinking things through Roger sees her and things fall back into place for them both. Understanding where she is coming from but fearful of what kind of a man the person claiming to be Jenny’s father is, he makes her promise to think about moving in with him and leaving this situation behind. But, Kate is strong willed and caring and finds herself at what is supposed to be Linda’s apartment and as the scene unfolds the truth about so many things and Jenny’s parentage is about to unfold. The man claiming her father appeared to have taken an overdose when in reality he was forced to use some powerful drugs. Finding Jenny, taking her out of the situation she thinks carefully but does call 911.
But, not everything is what is seems and with the help of a friend of her mother she learns more about Jenny’s birth, who is not on the certificate and from Sally why Linda for a while will not be part of her daughter’s life. Jenny is the victim of more than just neglect and child abuse both physical and emotional as you hear Sally’s way of dealing with her, calling her names and alienating her even further. As Kate formulates in her own mind how she might try to save this child from protective services and herself she agrees to take her out for a day but every step of the way Jenny tests her patience. Loyalty, love, friendship, caring and trust are tested, destroyed and rekindled as authors Anne Rothman- Hicks and Kenneth Hicks tell a story that could be ripped right out of the headlines, part of a CSI episode or even a case study from ACS report by a school guidance counselor.
Kate is determined and will not anything or anyone deter her from trying to learn more about Jenny’s mother and the reasons why she keeps leaving her with Sally. Frustrated and angry she often finds herself in situations that are dangerous. Enlisting the help of Gail a friend of her mother she learns more about Jenny’s father, the fact that the courts are trying to terminate her mother’s parental rights and that the end result just might be CPS taking over and a foster home. As an educator I have to root for Kate and hope she wins her battle to keep Jenny with her. Linda, her mother proves to be unstable and the authors depict her as volatile, abusive, unreliable, on drugs, drinks too much but something within Kate feels that Linda does care in her own way for Jenny. Afraid, yet daring Jenny and Kate find their way to the park and as any 7 year old who thinks she is invincible she climbs a railing and falls hitting her head and bruising parts of her body. Ambulance called and taken to the hospital the scenes that are described are right out of any news article that reporters love to write about when parents are abusive, a child’s rights need to be protected and hospital personnel claim to be doing their job. The intake nurse, the social worker, the doctors and the entire staff seem very clinical and as Kate answers the questions she begins to sound off herself. Whether nerves or guilt because she feels she was at fault for Jenny’s injuries, the hospital refuses to believe her story and things go downhill until Roger comes back into the picture. With the help of this understanding and amazing lawyer she hopes to get the support she needs to keep Jenny with her but not before Linda sets her up, causes grave danger to Kate and what happens next will send chills down your spine and make you wonder why anyone would allow Linda near any child.
As the parties enter the courtroom and the charges to terminate Linda’s parental rights are at stake, Kate, Roger and Jenny face an uphill battle hoping that someone will listen and care about Jenny.
From Sally, to Mrs. Morley the babysitter, to Linda and Roger will who really cares about Jenny? Make a circle around her look at the faces within this ring: Just Jenny’s. On the outer ring holding hands around her is: Sally, Rico, Anthony, Linda, Kate, Mrs. Morley, CPS lawyer, the judge, the social worker, the nurses, the doctor and Roger: Jenny extends her hands: Whose will she touch? Child abuse of any kind is cruel, inhumane and wrong. Dealing with CPS, ACS and many social workers while with the Public Schools in NYC, I realize that what the authors have described might be fiction in this story but a reality for many children in real life. All of those that are supposed to protect the innocent need to really look long, deep and hard and find the courage to care, understand and focus on not the paperwork, not just placing a child with any family but making decisions that will help the child grow in a positive way.
An ending so dramatic and the final decision you just won’t believe as Jenny’s fate is sealed in the courts while Kate, Roger and many others hold their breath for the judge’s decision. This is one book that all educators, supervisors, social workers, intake officers, police officers and nurses should read to understand why we need to protect our young.
Fran Lewis: reviewer