Jenny Molloy knows only too well what it means to be a neglected child, deprived of love and left to battle through life with nothing to depend on but your own wits and determination.
As the nine-year-old child of alcoholic parents in north London, she walked into a police station with her younger brothers and asked to be taken into care. By the age of thirty, she felt ready to deal with the demons of her childhood and engaged in intensive therapy.
Now, Molloy regularly gives talks and is asked by government bodies to advise on the care and fostering of children. Her mission is to reach out to those who have been raised in care, and to the professionals who take responsibility for them, to inspire hope and to remind us that these youngsters too have abilities.
Molloy gave harrowing accounts of her own childhood experiences in the books Hackney Child and Tainted Love, co-written under her pen name Hope Daniels, but in this first title under her real name, she brings us the stories of children searching for love both in and out of the care system.
Being in care, says Molloy, did not damage her personally but the harm that a lack of love inflicts on a child is far greater than many imagine.
A lot of neglected youngsters, she tells us, are angry – one of the key reasons why they often don’t get the help they need – but their anger is usually used to hide fear, a fear born of loneliness, isolation and vulnerability.
Neglected, a grim account of blighted young lives, reveals what can happen when children are deprived of love or fall in love with the wrong people, and how social workers can bring them back to an understanding of what love really means.
Molloy introduces us to some brave and inspirational children… Jemma, taken into care after her father tried to kill her, Angelika who was abandoned by her mother and ended up in a criminal gang and Emma, whose life spiralled out of control after her mother’s sudden death.
These, and many of the other stories, are the disturbing accounts of children for whom sex, drugs and alcohol filled a vacuum in their lives that should have been taken up by care and understanding.
The experiences of these youngsters make shocking reading but it is only through learning about the circumstances that led them into the depths of their personal traumas can we hope to understand and help them, and break the circle of neglect.
No matter how bad things are, Molloy tells those afflicted by neglect, there is always hope. And with hope, there is the possibility to heal and to build a new and better kind of life.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)