A COUPLE from Andover who have fostered more than 160 children over the last two decades have been recognised with an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list.

Bob and Linda Caddy, from Appleshaw, said they were “shocked and surprised” to find out they will receive a Member of the Order of the British Empire for their services to foster caring over the last 22 years.

The couple, who have three children of their own and five grandchildren, saw an advert in the Andover Advertiser from Hampshire County Council looking for foster carers, and decided to find out more.

Bob, 71, who worked in health and safety at the time, said: “We went along to a recruitment event and that’s where our journey started.”

Since then, the pair have welcomed dozens of children into their home, helping them with the transition into adulthood and giving them the skills to live independently.

Linda, who used to be a support worker in a school, said: “My mother fostered for a short time as I was growing up and I had seen very good friends who were amazing foster carers and I was involved with supporting them, so it made me think about the needs of young people and what we could offer.”

Two girls aged eight and 12 were the first children Bob and Linda looked after, and the pair said they “became part of the family”.

Linda, 65, added: “They stayed until they were 18. They are still part of the family now.”

She said it is rewarding seeing children transition into independent adults, explaining: “They come back and bring their children. To see them grow into adults, that’s an amazing feeling, to be part of their stability.”

Bob added: “It’s nice to know we make a difference.”

However, the couple said the role does not come without challenges, with Linda explaining: “The main challenge is to gain their trust because they don’t trust adults because of what’s happened to them and what they have gone through. Once we gain their trust it makes it easier.”

Bob added: “A lot have had no boundaries and can do whatever they like so it’s difficult to introduce boundaries. They don’t realise that they need the security.

“Our aim is to teach them life-skills, especially with the older ones, so they can move forward.”

On finding out they are to receive an MBE, Linda said: “It was an honour and a great shock. For us, we don’t do it for the recognition, although it’s very nice. We don’t blow our own trumpet.”

Bob added: “Every foster carer deserves one. We all do the same. Our children and grandchildren are so supportive and they have been amazing, and other foster carers. We couldn’t do it without that network of support.”