A FOSTER carer who set up a support group for families has been described as an "amazing woman" by Prime Minister David Cameron.

He has named Maria Catterick from Stockton the latest winner of his Big Society award for her dedicated and selfless support to young people.

Over the past nine years she has single-handedly taken in and cared for 26 children which has led to her launching the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) Network which provides advice and campaigns for awareness of the condition caused by pregnant mothers who drink alcohol.

“I am very humbled by this award and I feel a bitoverwhelmed. I see lots of people in my town doing extraordinary things, often in a voluntary capacity,” said Miss Catterick, 43.

“I would love to get a diagnostic clinic in the North as it is so difficult to get a diagnosis. The North-East has significantly high health and alcohol issues.

"FASD does not only show itself in babyhood, there are adults and children with it too. We want to help stop families feeling so isolated.”

FASD is a series of preventable birth defects caused entirely by a woman drinking alcohol at any time during her pregnancy, often even before she knows that she is pregnant. Often the condition goes undiagnosed, or is misdiagnosed, for example as autism or ADHD.

With about 70 per cent of children with FASD going through the foster care and adoption systems, Miss Catterick has helped educate groups of teachers, social workers and other professionals about the needs of children and adults with FASD.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Maria is an amazing woman. She has shown tremendous generosity of spirit and dedication to all of those children that she has looked after.

“She has also had a wider impact on the community, raising awareness of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, a serious condition which unfortunately is becoming increasingly common.

“Maria embodies the spirit of the big society in showing how one person’s altruism can have a much wider positive impact on the whole Stockton area.”

For details about the FASD Network visit fasdnetwork.org