PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) – More than 1,000 children and teens in eastern Virginia are in need of foster parents.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that number jumps to more than 391,000 kids and teens.

A local nonprofit is hoping you’ll get involved to make a change.

Being part of a big, extended family is how Caprice White was raised.

“I grew up with foster children, I grew up as being cousins,” White said.

In 2014, as an adult, she decided to continue that mission.

“We are charged to be the champion of change,” White said.

She saw a billboard for the Up Center and made a call.

“This is a way to actively participate,” White told 10 On Your Side. “This is a way to get involved. This is a way to say ‘OK, I did my part.’ I planted the seeds in the future and I can see an outcome.”

In the past nine years, she’s helped multiple foster children.

“The same emotions you have with your own biological children is the same emotional views you have with a foster child,” White said. “They’re your children.”

She said things aren’t always easy.

“Being taken away from what they know, placed into a family that they know nothing of, and then sometimes outside of a community, they have no idea where they are,” she said.

But White said trust makes it better.

“A lot of reassurance,” White said. “A lot of trying to get familiar things. A lot of talk and communication.”

Then, she said, it all changes.

“You’re able to work through it, you’re able to watch them grow,” White said. “You’re able to right the wrong. You’re able to watch the progression.”

White fosters through the Up Center, a local nonprofit.

“We get children, or referrals for children, every day, multiple times in a day,” said Up Center Outreach Coordinator Sabrina Carr.

Carr said the need for foster parents right now is dire.

“Between July of 2022 and sometime last week, we had to turn away, our agency has had to turn away, over 500 children,” Carr said, “because there aren’t enough foster homes for them, so we’re in a crisis situation right now.”

The Up Center currently has 26 children with 26 foster families, but they need more families to get involved.

“They’re there so that the biological family can do whatever work they need to do to get their children back,” Carr said.

Carr said they’ll meet potential foster parents where they’re at, whether they are single parents, empty nesters, or an LGBTQ couple.

That said, there are some requirements.

“We want it to be stable, at a minimum,” said Carr. “For it to be a nurturing environment, we call our homes teaching environments because that’s what our families do.”

The Up Center trains foster parents a minimum of 30 hours and said they’re on call 24/7.

“The Up Center does equip you with a lot of tools in your toolbox with the training that they provide,” White said.

Even with the hours of training and sometimes difficult moments, White said its absolutely worth it.

“The children may be broken when they come to you and then you put them whole,” White said. “You put them together again, you made them whole,” White said.

More information

You can learn more about fostering with the Up Center by clicking here.