A South Tyneside woman who has dedicated her life to making a difference to children’s lives has no plans to retire after clocking up 40 years as a foster carer.
Liz McCulla, from Jarrow, is the borough’s longest-serving foster carer, having started after seeing an advert on television in 1975.
The best part is seeing children making progress, watching them grow in confidence and being themselvesLiz McCulla
The 65-year-old has since cared for 45 children, from newborns to teenagers, for time periods ranging from a matter of weeks to several years.
To mark the 40-year anniversary, she was presented with an engraved award, flowers and a certficate.
Liz said: “(The television advert) got me thinking how I could make a difference to a child’s life.
“Every child brings different challenges, but the key is to find the best pathway to help them.
“The best part is seeing children making progress, watching them grow in confidence and being themselves.”
The mother-of-four looked after a foster child on a long-term basis at the start of her fostering career, but then waited until her twin boys were aged eight before taking in more.
Her own children are still regularly in touch with some of those they grew up with.
Liz added: “I really couldn’t have done this without the support of my boys. They had to share both their home and their mam all their life.”
One girl she looked after is now married, and named her baby after Liz, who she is still in regular contact.
South Tyneside Council is looking for more foster carers, and Liz, who was South Tyneside’s foster carer of the year in 2008, said: “My advice to anyone thinking about fostering is to think long and hard.
“It’s a huge commitment to take on the care of other people’s children, you need to give 100% and you need to be strong and deal with the pain when they move on.
“Having said that, I have loved being a foster carer and don’t think I could have done anything else.
“Fostering is my passion, I do it because I love it and get so much out of it. If kids come back and want to keep in touch, then that’s the reward.”
Since becoming a foster carer, Liz has received training and worked towards qualifications in childcare.
She added: “The support and training from the council is fantastic.
“There is an excellent support network, awards evenings and nights out. You feel very valued as a foster carer in South Tyneside.”
Coun Joan Atkinson, lead member for children, young people and families, added: “Liz is an outstanding ambassador for our fostering service.
“We have been extraordinarily lucky to have such a selfless and dedicated foster carer for all these years, and I’m delighted that she has no plans to retire any time soon!”
To find out more about fostering, visit www.southtyneside.info/fostering.