A foster carer’s son is following in his mum’s footsteps after becoming Durham’s first newly approved carer in 2018.

Paint supervisor Andrew Dinsley saw what an incredible effect foster carers can have on a young person’s life, watching mum Dorothy look after 15 children, including his most recent foster brother, who stayed with the family for 11 years.

Now, with wife Lindsey, a care assistant, the 47-year-old is looking forward to welcoming children into their home.

“I have seen the benefits of fostering first hand,” said Andrew, who works for Tor Coatings in Birtley. “My mum is a foster carer and I saw many children whose lives have dramatically changed thanks to foster care.

“That is one of the main things that has encouraged us to get involved, we really want to make a difference.”

After thinking about it for a number of years the couple initially enquired about fostering with the council in March 2017 and submitted their application to begin the formal process of becoming carers in August.

“I wish we had done it earlier,” said Andrew who, just five months after applying, hopes to soon welcome a sibling group into his terraced house on a quiet street in the village of Chilton, near Bishop Auckland.

“We’re just normal people but we have the room and the time to offer but hopefully we can make a difference to a child or brothers and sisters – We can’t wait to be able to do that.”

Andrew’s mum Dorothy, also from Chilton, said: “I am really really proud of Andrew and Lindsey. They are both fantastic with kids and I know that whoever comes to live with them will have a lovely home life.

“The fact that Andrew is following in my footsteps is fantastic and I look forward to seeing them become a family.”

Durham County Council currently has more than 775 children in its care but, like all areas of the country, does not have enough foster carers – particularly for teenagers and sibling groups – to help look after them.

Andrew said: “My advice to anyone thinking of exploring the idea of fostering would be to get in touch with the team, have that chat and ask all the questions you’re thinking about.”

Helen Fergusson, Durham County Council’s head of looked after children, said: “Our foster carers tell us that nothing gives the same feeling of love and warmth as fostering and by working with us you could make an enormous difference to a child’s life.

“We know that there are many myths that surround fostering and so we would encourage people to find out the facts before they rule themselves out.

“You don’t need any special qualifications – just a genuine interest in caring for young people, patience, understanding and a sense of humour – and we can offer you training and specialised support along the way.”

As part of the fostering process, Andrew and Lindsey received extensive training and support, including opportunities to meet existing foster carers and others on the same journey.

“The preparation session was incredibly useful and well presented,” said 42-year-old Dale Care carer Lindsay. “Of course we were nervous but so was everyone else there.

“We met other couples in the same position as us and we’ve now become friends, which has been a great help as we have someone we can chat to about our experience and can share this process with.”

Anyone who is interested in fostering can find out more by visiting www.durham.gov.uk/fostering or coming along to an informal drop-in information session, the next of which takes place at Durham County Hall this Saturday, 27th January, from 10am to 1.30pm.

Fostering information events also take place from 4.30pm to 6.30pm on Wednesday 21st February, at the Fostering and Adoption Resource Centre in Langley Moor (DH7 8ET); and from 11am to 1pm on Friday February 9, at Durham Town Hall.