In Feature Stories

Sometimes from deep personal loss comes something beautiful and unexpected. Just ask Patty Carroll … or the more than 70 foster youth who have brightened her door over the past 18 years.

Carroll finished college later than most. She earned a degree in accounting at age 36, after having studied at Franklin University and the Central Ohio Technical College in Coshocton, where she lives. With a degree in hand, she had her eyes on heading west and starting a new life in Colorado. Her desire and her reality had different plans, and scores of teens are better off because of it.

When Carroll finished her college work, her parents were getting older. Unexpectedly, a sister died. She stuck around in Ohio to help her parents get through the untimely death and then she would transplant herself in Colorado … or so she thought.

Six months later her mother died. Next, her father had a massive heart attack. Those dreams of spreading her wings in the shadows of the Rocky Mountains dimmed as she remained firmly rooted in the Buckeye State to care for her ailing father. Her brother was contending with his own health issues and “somebody had to stay. I decided to stay.”

When her father died, Carroll discovered she had a big void in her life. “My cousin was doing foster care, and I thought that might be fun,” she said. “I started doing foster care through The Village Network, and I fell in love with it. I couldn’t see myself doing anything else.”

Carroll began fostering teens, and it has been primarily teen boys, when she was 45 years old and a single mother. She has three adult children, and she has adopted seven of the children who have come to her through the foster care process.

Over the years, Carroll has lost count of how many children have been placed in her home. “I don’t even want to guess,” she said, but she thinks it has been around 75. On average, she would have four foster children in her home at a time. She still keeps in touch with a lot of them. While she has not adopted every child in her care, she considers them all her children. One teen came to her when he was 17 years old. He ended up enlisting in the Army. While she did not adopt him, he and his family will come visit Carroll and spend a week with her.

“More than anything, it has changed how I viewed people. Sometimes our beginnings are rough, but our endings can be better.” – Patty Carrol

“He is my kid,” she said. “I love him. I love all of them.”

Because Carroll brings in teens, she has a high turnover of children. Sadly, most age out before being reunited with their families. If she has a child who doesn’t have anywhere to go, she will let them stay with her until they get on their feet, can find an apartment or enlist in the military.

“Being a foster parent, you learn a lot about yourself,” Carroll said. “More than anything, it has changed how I viewed people. Sometimes our beginnings are rough, but our endings can be better.”

And, she has been striving to make better lives for the children who have come to her through The Village Network’s foster care program.

“A lot of my kids had such a rough start to life,” she said. “One little boy came here, and he was from inner city Columbus. He thought gang life was the support he needed. When he came here, he was all about trying to get through the process and go back home. He ended up settling down and was asked to be the crew leader at a McDonald’s when he was 16 years old.”

The young man, now 24 years old, is a manager with another fast food restaurant. For some people, maybe a fast food restaurant manager is not a big deal. But, for him, it is. She would post jobs on a board at home so the kids could make some money. At 14 years old, her foster son liked making money and getting paid every week. He decided he would start working at McDonald’s, and he was able to get a work certificate at 14 years old.

“They gave him a chance,” she said. He earned Employee of the Week honors several times, and when he turned 16, he was asked to become a crew leader.

“It has been a joy,” Carroll said. “For example, I had a little girl come in. Here mother married sex offenders. She would cut her hair and tried to look like a boy so they wouldn’t come after her. I was scared her life would be like her mom’s, but it hasn’t. She works hard every day and provides a home for her two kids.”

“It brings me a lot of joy in that I had a hand in showing her how to manage her life and be a good mother. There’s a lot of joy in that. What makes it for me is to see that kid grow and blossom and be somebody they didn’t think they could be.”

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Melinda Stutler, TVN foster parent and artist, stands with a custom piece on the hallway wall of the Uhrichsville office.
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