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Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Dani's Story by Diane and Bernie Lierow with Kay West

Dani's Story

Neglected beyond belief, rescued by love...Dani was so severely neglected by her birth mother that she grew up knowing only squalor. She never went to school or the doctor, and rarely glimpsed sunlight. Desperately malnourished, she couldn't talk and had never been toilet-trained. The social worker who took her into care had never heard of a case so horrific. The doctors believed Dani would never recover from such a terrible start in life. Then she met the Lierows - a unique, blended family who were seeking to adopt a child. Despite being warned that she was way beyond hope of a normal life, they were instantly drawn to her and sensed a bright light behind her pale complexion. When they finally adopted her, they showered Dani with so much affection and encouragement that she came to life for the first time. Proving all the experts wrong, Dani would go on to open up and express herself in a way that no-one could have expected. Dani's remarkable and heartwarming story is a testament of the power of kindness to overcome even the most seemingly insurmountable challenges.

I do not normally read true life, child neglect or real life stories however when I was asked to review this book, after looking at the website Dani's Story I was intrigued and had to know more. So much so, that I read the book in two sittings, I was engrossed.

Diane and Bernie Lierow had both had previous marriages, each bringing their own children to their marriage and also had William after they married, however as their own children grew up and left home, Diane especially thought they had room in their home and hearts for another child and Diane began to look into fostering and adoption.

A visit to a Heart Gallery one weekend, where children who are seeking adoption all are in a room where prospective parents are able to meet them and register an interest in further meetings etc. However, Diane and Bernie were not drawn to any of the children in the room, but to a photograph behind an information desk. When Diane asked one of the staff about her, Diane found the staff trying to put them off Danielle, telling her that raising Danielle would be a lifelong struggle. However both Diane and Bernie were determined that she was the child they wanted to adopt.

Danielle had been removed from her mother's home when she was seven year old, and was still in nappies, had no communication skills and her physical, emotional and mental development was that of a six month old. She had been neglected from a very young age and lived in a very bare apartment on a filthy mattress. Doctors had said that her best outlook for life was a place in a full-time nursing facility.

However, Bernie and Diane were determined that Danielle would live with them and worked with her social worker to begin the process of adoption. There were many obstacles in the way, the main one being Danielle's mother refusing to give up her appeal to have Danielle returned to her. However, Diane and Bernie persevered and the book follows the trials and all their experiences in life with Dani and the considerable improvement to her physical, emotional and mental development since her relationship with Diane and Bernie.

I found this book to be very humbling. Society and the Social Services of USA completely let Dani down - there were a number of calls by members of the public about Dani and their concerns for her, visits were made but no one saw how Dani was suffering. The mother had an excuse for any concerns and told lies to get rid of the professionals and by the time the professionals had to remove Dani, so much damage had been done. Diane and Bernie had so much determination and for that I would love to meet them and shake their hand, the support and care both themselves and their family and friends have given Dani has given her a much better quality of life and it really proves that sometimes all a child needs is some one to one attention, love and sense of belonging.

The book will also be a great source book for my next Open University degree course as the course is about Child Development and Psychology and there is lots within the book about the effect of families and care on a child. I really learnt alot while reading this book and I would urge others to read it too. There are times within the book that I had tears in my eyes but it is really about Dani's achievements and positives in her life now and the hard work that Diane and Bernie, and their young son, William, have undertaken to provide the best possible life for Dani.

I would recommend this as a beautiful book to read, it is not all gloom and sadness, but a book to celebrate Dani's achievements and to give hope to children who have suffered neglect in their early years, the world needs more Diane and Bernie Lierow's to offer similar chances to those children the same opportunities.

Thank you to Penguin for sending me this book to review.

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