A FOSTER carer hailed as a “hero” by one of the hundreds of children she has cared for over 36-years has been awarded an MBE.
Lorraine Long, of Tingley, was homeless aged 11 and endured a traumatic childhood which made her determined to help as many troubled children as she could.
Grandmother-of-two Mrs Long, 59, started fostering aged 21 and has cared for up to 600 children from periods as short as overnight stays to as long as 11-years.
Prince William awarded Mrs Long her MBE during a ceremony at Buckingham Palace yesterday.
Mrs Long, who fosters with her husband Philip, 68, said: “I was nervous but it all went well.
“This award highlights all of the good work that foster carers do.”
Sean Dirrane, 31, had little education and was a troubled 11-year-old when he went into Mrs Long’s care.
He left her care aged 18 to study for a sports science degree at the former Leeds Metropolitan University and now runs his own company.
His business, Cosmos Engagement, supports universities with Government initiatives to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds progress to university.
Mr Dirrane, of Rawdon, wrote in support of Mrs Long’s MBE nomination: “Lorraine showed love where I had lost hope.
“She was consistent when I had always experienced inconsistency, she was warm and approachable when I had always been fearful of adults.”
A woman who was cared for by Mrs Long from the age of 14, wrote “This lady, more than any I have ever encountered, deserves to be recognised for the love she shares daily.
“She’s an absolute hero and a beautiful soul.”
The woman, who works as a mental health support worker, added: “The support and kindness she showed me was phenomenal.
“She was patient and calm with me. She offered guidance and support when I needed it and showed me love which I had never fully received and it was an unconditional love that I hadn’t experienced before.”
Mrs Long’s mother Elizabeth committed suicide aged 32 in the mid 1960s when Mrs Long was just five-years-old.
Mrs Long said her late father subjected her to physical abuse and she ran away from home aged 11.
She said: “I had a really bad childhood and had to fend for myself. I brought myself up. I went from house to house and lived on the streets.
“Fostering was just something that I wanted to do.
“There was nobody there for me when I was growing up and I just thought if I could be there for others then they will have a chance in life.
“I didn’t realise just how much of an impact I have had on the children. I just do what I do.
“Kids are misunderstood in a lot of ways. If you just take time to speak to them and understand what they are going through then they really can come good.”
Mr Dirrane, said “She is just and absolutely incredible woman.
“I don’t think I would have had the opportunity and the belief to achieve everything I have done if Lorraine hadn’t taken me in as a child.”
Mr Dirrane, who still visits his former foster home regularly, added: “I don’t see Lorraine and Phil as foster parents. I see them as a family.”
Mrs Long, who works as a contract manager for cleaning company Premier Support Services, travelled to London with 15 family and friends, including grandchildren Mollie, 12 and Lexie aged eight, and four foster children.
Philip Long, a retired human resources director, said the couple are currently caring for three long-term foster children and one short term.
Mr Long, who put his wife forward for the MBE, said: “It doesn’t matter if they have been here for a day or ten years, she treats them all the same.
“She doesn’t want them to be seen as looked-after children, she considers them members of the family.
“If the kids are poorly she is up in the middle of the night caring for them.
“I think what she has done is incredible.
“She gets frustrated at times because things don’t always go her way but she never gives in.
“It’s that resilience and fight and desire to make these kids valuable members of society, that’s what we try to do.
“We don’t want these kids to returning to the same situation they have come from because they have had challenging backgrounds.
“For us, education is a massive thing, we have had four children who have gone on to study at university.”
Coun Lisa Mulherin, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children and families said: “I am delighted to hear that Lorraine is receiving this very well-deserved, prestigious honour and would like to extend my warmest congratulations to her and her family.
“Throughout her long career, Lorraine and her husband, Phil have played a vital role of providing essential care and support to some of our most vulnerable young people - nurturing them to help ensure that they fulfil their potential.
“I am in awe of Lorraine’s outstanding commitment to children and young people, and the recognition of her remarkable service is very welcome.
“We are incredibly proud of her achievements and are lucky to have her as one of our valued foster carers here in Leeds.”