Former CANW foster carers John and Elaine Carroll from Tottington in Bury are to receive a medal from the Pope to acknowledge the 40 years they’ve spent looking after children.
The couple, who have looked after more than 25 children over the last 40 years and adopted three more are to be recognised for their hard work and dedication when they receive the Benemerenti Medal for services to the Catholic Church. The Carrolls will be presented with the medal at their church, St Hilda’s in Tottington, by Father Chris McGrane, who alerted the Vatican to their work via a bishop. The couple, who say teamwork and the support and training given to them by CANW has been the key to their success as foster parents, say they’re surprised but pleased to receive the award.
“It’s a special medal, but we don’t feel like we deserve it really,” said John. “Fostering is something we’ve really enjoyed doing and it’s been very rewarding, so we’re being given the award for something that we really wanted to do!”
The Carrolls decided to foster after learning they were unable to have children of their own, and whilst most parents have nine months to prepare for the arrival of their first child, the pair had just 3 days’ notice to get ready for baby Paula, the 3 month old girl who would go on to be their first adopted daughter. John and Elaine went on to foster 4 year old Sheena and 18 month old John-Paul, who they also adopted. But far from deciding three was enough, the pair continued to foster dozens more children and young people, including many who’d come from challenging circumstances.
“Lots of the children we’ve looked after came to us because things didn’t work out with their previous foster families,” says John. “But we’ve always had a rule that we draw a line under things so anyone who stays with us has fresh start, although we’ve always listened if the children want to talk about their experiences.”
The kind-hearted couple even tracked down one boy who was taken from their house to a secure unit after getting involved with the police, just so they could return his belongings.
The Carrolls say team work is the key to their success as foster parents, but that the support and training they’ve been given by CANW has helped them through some troubled times.
“Fostering is a challenge,” admits John, “but the support we’ve had from our social worker and the training we’ve been given really has helped us to cope with some difficult times.”
John, who recently gave away the couple’s long term foster daughter Karina when she married earlier in the month, says he and Elaine hope to be joined by their adopted family for the medal ceremony on Thursday. Although now retired due to ill health after Elaine suffered a stroke in 2015, the couple are keen to encourage others to consider fostering. “The important thing is letting the child know you’re always there for them,” says John. “Don’t look at the problems, look at the end result. When that child comes to you and give you a hug, that’s the result you’re after.”
For more information about becoming a #fostercarer contact CANW on 0800 634 5300