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More than 700 kids in Virginia wait to be adopted; not enough foster families

Close up compassionate young foster parent holding hands of little kid girl, giving psychological help, supporting at home. Sincere different generations family sharing secrets or making peace.

By: Gabriel Thomas
Posted at 9:14 PM, Jan 09, 2023 and last updated 3:45 PM, Jan 11, 2023

NORFOLK Va. — According to the Children’s Home Society of Virginia, more than 700 children in the commonwealth are waiting to be adopted.

An organization by the name of ‘The Up Center’ wants to change that.

The Up Center in downtown Norfolk aspires to make sure that every child here in Virginia has a forever home. They are offering classes and even workshops to teach people how to be reliable foster parents.

Sharon Reams, the director of youth services at The Up Center, said due to the lack of foster care homes available, children have nowhere to go.

“We’re having children sleep in DSS offices and hospital lobbies because there are no foster care homes for them to go to,” she said. “Sometimes they are even sent out of state because there are not enough foster parents in the state of Virginia.”

The organization offers in-person and online classes to teach people how to become foster families.

During the 6-weeks course, the group covers many different topics to get the foster parents ready.

“We go over all different types of topics like childhood development, brain development, how trauma impacts a child, and really how to work part of a team,” said Carr.

One thing they highlight the most during training is how to recognize trauma.

“All kids that are in foster care have experienced some kind of trauma and do not look at the behaviors to look past the behaviors, and think of it as you know ‘what happened to you’ versus ‘what’s wrong with you’?” said Reams.

The trainers also look ahead and discuss plans for the child after they age out of the system at 18 years old.

“We even work in tandem with the local social services to connect them with different organizations to make sure that if and when they do age out that they are prepared both with life skills and career skills,” said Carr.

Carr said although she sees the trauma some of these kids go through, she’s grateful she can be the bridge that connects children to their new homes.

“To get to do what I do and I like to consider myself a connector connecting these kids to families I absolutely love it,” she said.

There are a variety of reasons why children end up in foster care. Outreach coordinator Sabrina Carr said the goal is to make a decision that is best for the child.

“Sometimes parents just need sort of some time to work on themselves and while they’re doing, they need someone to fill in the gap for their families,” said Carr.

The organization is also Bank of America’s newest recipient of the Neighborhood Builders Award. With the grant, they plan to pour back into the community with an emphasis on mental health.

According to the Virginia Department of Social Services, there are more than 5,000 foster youth in state care in Virginia, more than 700 are waiting to be adopted and 10% of children are returned to their birth families.

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