Team GB’s golden teen hopes her story will inspire new foster carers

Team GBs golden girl Caren Callaghan, 15, says her foster carers provided a platform for skating success.
Team GBs golden girl Caren Callaghan, 15, says her foster carers provided a platform for skating success.

A Bassetlaw teen who tasted Olympic glory last summer is hoping her story of success will encourage more people to take in foster children.

Caren Callaghan has been helping Nottinghamshire County Council’s campaign to recruit more carers during Foster Care Fortnight, May 16-29.

Caren, 15, first came to live with Christine and Steve Birchnall when she was ten.

She said: “I remember going inside the house and just sitting there in complete and utter silence, just looking around. I wasn’t physically able to comprehend what was going on. It was like a dream.

“It was really strange at first, I went from being an only child to living in a house full of people. But I’ve really bonded with them and we spend loads of time together. Now it’s just like one big family.”

When Caren was first placed with the Birchnalls she had never even worn a pair of inline skates, but last year she helped Team GB to victory in inline hockey at the Junior Olympics in California.

She was first inspired to try the sport when she watched Christine and Steve’s son Jordan play.

Caren said: “I asked if I could have a go at skating and then I built up to asking if I could give training a go. I’ve now been to quite a few international tournaments.

“If it wasn’t for coming down and watching Jordan play, I don’t think I would have started. And because I spend so much time with my team abroad, you don’t just become friends, you become part of that family too.”

Christine and Steve have four older birth children with Jordan the youngest at 18. The couple have been fostering for 10 years and, as well as Caren, they also foster an 11-year-old.

Christine said: “I very much believe parenting is about nurturing and providing a loving, stable family. It’s not about who gives birth to someone. I had a very positive experience of being adopted.”

“Fostering is incredibly rewarding. Every change and every little step that these children make gives you such a sense of achievement. We’re so proud of what Caren has achieved. Fostering is all about giving a child a chance to be the best they can be.”

Caren and the Birchnalls tell the whole story in a video filmed for the campaign at www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/fostering or call 0300 5008080 for more details.

There are currently 207 children waiting for a foster home in Nottinghamshire.