A lot of kids count their Halloween candy. In a house full of siblings, parents, and other potential candy-stealers, keeping close count of one’s candy is one of the best ways to know if one’s stash is being depleted while away. But one mom says she made her daughters count all their Halloween candy, and she had a very good reason for being so adamant about their candy being theirs.

Amy Beth Gardner wrote on the Love What Matters Facebook page that her daughters were five and nine years old when they came to live with Gardner and her husband through foster care. Halloween was coming, and Gardner was excited about getting to enjoy the holiday as a new family. Every time she mentioned Halloween, though, the girls both looked frightened and uneasy.

Not sure what was going on, Gardner asked the girls if they’d ever celebrated Halloween before. They said yes, and it was awful.

The girls had been given candy for Halloween, and then an adult took it from them and ate it all while they watched. When the girls started to cry, the adult made them eat the empty brown paper wrappers that their peanut butter cups had been sitting in.

“When the girls began to cry, the adult handed them the brown paper wrappers that had been holding the chocolate peanut butter cups and forced them to eat the empty wrappers — a cruel way to give the girls a literal taste of what they were missing out on that Halloween evening,” Gardner wrote.

That’s horrible. The girls associated Halloween with emotional abuse and betrayal. Gardner knew she’d have to be careful with the holiday.

While they were trick-or-treating, she noticed the girls secretly counting their candy as they went from house to house. So when they got back home, Gardner gave them plastic bags and markers and told them to count every piece. The girls put their candy into the bags and labeled them with their names and the amount of candy they had. Any time they ate a piece, Gardner would help them update their total. That way they would know for sure that Gardner and her husband were not secretly eating their Halloween candy.

“For weeks after Halloween, despite our assurances that we would not eat their candy, the girls asked if they could recount the pieces before going to bed,” Gardner wrote. “I would sit and count their candy with them night after night, earning their trust one lollipop at a time.”