A GRANDMOTHER-OF-SEVEN who has looked after a family who escaped North Korea is calling on others to help children in need.

Joan Connelly, 70, became involved with the family when she was working for Blackburn with Darwen Council's resettlement service in 2009.

The mum-of-four of Blackburn Road, Darwen, was just a few weeks away from retirement when she noticed the family home appeared to be unoccupied.

She eventually discovered the mum had gone to South Korea to be with her son who didn't want to leave and had left her 14-year-old daughter home alone.

The Darwen Vale High School student became Mrs Connelly's first foster child and lived with her for five years before moving to South Korea after she completed her studies at Blackburn College.

The council is marking Foster Care Fortnight by appealing for more people to sign up as carers in the borough.

Mrs Connelly said: "I had resettled people from all over the place including from Zimbabwe and Iran.

"It took a while to get everything sorted for the family from North Korea back then and in total it was around 10 months until they had been given the right to remain.

"When I was heading towards retirement I wanted to make sure they were ok and I became concerned when the mum stopped answer my calls.

"I went to the house and thought it was odd that nothing seemed to have changed from the outside in a while.

"I found out that the daughter had been left home along by the mum who had left the country.

"I took her to live with me on a temporary basis but then the council fast tracked me through the process and I became her foster carer."

Since then Mrs Connelly has looked after around a dozen youngsters and has no plans to stop yet.

She has been supporting Foster Care Fortnight alongside the council.

Mrs Connelly said: "I absolutely love it and it's about giving something back.

"All of these children just want stability and there might be challenges along the way but there is a lot of support to help you through them.

"If anybody was thinking about becoming a foster carer I would say go ahead and do it.

"It's not too different than bringing up your own children.

"There might be problems but the council and social workers are a great support.

"It can make such a difference to people's lives."

Visit: www.letsfoster.co.uk or call 0800 3286919 for more information.