Jacqueline Williamson, the founder and Chief Executive of Kinship Care NI has been awarded an M.B.E for services to Carers and Children in Northern Ireland in the New Year's Honours List.
The Waterside woman set up the award winning charity in 2010 to provide help and support to kinship carers and their children.
In founding the charity, Jacqueline used her own personal experience of growing up in care and becoming a kinship carer herself.
Having been taken into care as a small child, she grew up in children’s homes. At the age of 17 Jacqueline left care only to find herself homeless and with no support.
Kinship care is an arrangement where a child who cannot be cared for by their own parents goes to live with a relative or family friend. It is estimated that around 10,000 to 12,000 children are living in this type of arrangement in Northern Ireland.
“I am delighted at receiving this award and would like to thank everyone who has helped and supported me over the years," she said.
"Never in a million years did I think I would receive such a prestigious accolade for doing a job I truly love. I work with an exceptional team of staff and volunteers who get up every morning to change the world for kinship carers and their children. This award goes a significant way towards recognising the work that we all do and the importance of keeping families together.
Over the last seven years Kinship Care NI which started out in Derry has branched out its services across Northern Ireland reaching Kinship families in Belfast, Antrim, Ballymena, Mid Ulster, Newry, Strabane and Omagh.
Several local personalities from the North West area were included on the New Year's Honours List with Malcolm Hewitt receiving an MBE for his work in cross-community relations while Donemana's Thomas Allen also received an MBE for his services to the local community.
British Empire Medals were awards to Strabane's Avril Pollock and Derry's, Elizabeth Deans for their voluntary work in the community while City of Derry RFC's President, Susan Spence, also received a BEM for her voluntary services to rugby.