Up Center Suffolk helps bring support to Foster Families

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, November 22, 2022

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The UP Center has been providing help to foster families for more than 140 years in Suffolk and the Hampton Roads community.

Despite its longevity, Fosters and Adoption Program Outreach Coordinator Sabrina Carr they have an ongoing need for families who will foster children in the community.

“I would hope that we have more, specifically in the Suffolk area, more individuals and families to step up and become foster parents,” she said. “What a lot of people don’t know … our agency alone has had to turn away at least 50 children, because we didn’t have a home for them. And that breaks our heart to do that.”

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Carr said they want people to learn that it’s not difficult to take the first step to foster a child.

People often wonder if they need to have a lot of money, if they can foster if they’re single or an empty-nester.

“What if I’m an empty nester, What if I’m a bus driver, a teacher?’ You can be all those things,” she said. “Even if it’s just fact finding and finding out if fostering is for you or for your family, but just to take that step. And if it’s not for you, spreading the word.”

The Up Center said the organization has the training and resources to match children with a suitable family.

“We work with the Department of Social Services. We’re a community partner with them, so we’re not in competition,” Carr said.

She explained that social services will reach out to them if they have a child or a sibling that’s in need of a foster home that perhaps they can’t place in their own program.

“They will reach out to us to see if we have a suitable family,” Carr said. “We provide all different types of support for our foster families as well as for the kiddos that’s in our program, and sort of how you can become a foster parent.”

Carr also explained the process of making sure they fully know their families and their capacity to be a foster parent.

“We do a very thorough, up-front, deep dive digging into our families,” she said. “We know all about our families. Obviously on the service, we know where they live and where they work, but really trying to find out what is their capacity … find out what type of behaviors they’re able to handle and things like that.”

She said their matching process does a really good job “because we’re able to dig deep and get to know our families very well. And also as a team, we correctly communicate on a very regular basis about our families.”

Carr said if there’s a call that comes in with a specific need, they likely are able to rattle off the name of two or three of our families that may be a suitable fit for that child.

“One of the biggest misperceptions though is that families get to meet these children before they come to their home, and that’s not necessarily true,” Carr said.

She said he understands this can give them an uneasy feeling, but its important as part of the process for the child.

“Just putting yourself in the shoes of that child, they’ve been already removed from their own home, perhaps they’ve been removed from their school, and so we want to make sure that we’re providing as much consistency as possible,” she said. “And we do not make a practice of bouncing them from home to home to home.

Carr said this is why it’s critical for them to get to know their families in a very, very deep way.

She went on to explain the mental health services that the UP center provides.

“Specifically for our foster children, we work in tandem with Social Services to make sure that these kids are getting sort of, whole person assistance,” Carr said.

“Obviously, they have experienced some level of trauma,” she said. “Even if they’re not aware of that trauma, then being removed from their home is traumatic within themself.”

Carr said they make sure that they get age appropriate therapy in mental health services, whether it be play therapy for the little ones or talk therapy for the older ones. This is important because they want to make sure the children are working through whatever trauma they have faced, not just getting over it.

“The ultimate goal is for them to return back home to their family,” she said. “So when they do, we want to make sure that they have sort of dealt with and talked through whatever those traumatic issues are.”

Carr said the foster care and adoptions program is actually housed in the downtown Norfolk office, but serves all over the Hampton Roads area, including some parts of Hampton and Newport News.

“So as a whole for our agency, we provide 20-plus programs and help individuals children, families, the community,” she said. “
“We have our foster care adoptions program. We have our youth mentoring program. We also do some mental health services and things like that.”