San Joaquin Kids and Parent
by Katy Berry
As founder of the V.B.R. Foster Family Agency and the Fresh Beginnings drug and alcohol outpatient clinic, Dr. Valerie Sims has devoted her life to the betterment of children and families struggling with addiction, abuse, and life in the foster care system. Having done so much for those in need, it may come as a surprise that Sims began her career in the fashion industry.
“I’ve been an entrepreneur since I was 16 years old,” says Sims. “When I was in high school I wanted to be a fashion designer, so I started working at the fairs. Back in the day when Dashikis were very popular, I would make them right on the spot at the fairgrounds.
I took my sewing machine and by the time they came back from the rides their outfits were ready.” Sims went on to study fashion, working in San Francisco and opening several boutiques in Stockton. Her career as a fashion designer was successful, though her favorite part of the job was working with people, and she wanted to use those skills to benefit her community. Having a sister-in-law with Down syndrome, Sims considered caring for people with special needs but was met by scoffs. “My aunt said, ‘Valerie can’t do that, she’ll never do that. She can’t care for people.’ It was an insult to me, so I opened a care facility for the developmentally disabled.” Not only did Sims prove her aunt wrong, she kept the care center open for almost eighteen years. Sims discovered that helping others was her true calling. She went back to school, this time earning a PhD in Psychology, and in 2002 she opened the V.B.R. Foster Family Agency. There she offered counseling to families in need, and secured safe and loving foster homes for emotionally disturbed children.
Sims says that of all the challenges she encounters in her line of work, drug and alcohol abuse is the most common reason why foster children cannot reunify with their biological parents. In response, Sims has recently opened Fresh Beginnings, an outpatient clinic offering drug and alcohol programs. V.B.R. and Fresh Beginnings work in conjunction to give families the optimal help they need. Sims is extremely excited about the collaboration, though her work doesn’t stop there. She also has plans to provide transitional housing for foster kids emancipated from the system, and is especially excited for V.B.R. to receive its adoption license in the next six months.
Though her job is emotionally demanding, Sims has says she feels incredibly fulfilled. She advises anyone who sees or suspects child or domestic abuse to speak up (her office welcomes walk-ins), and hopes in the future that she will be able to do missionary work to help people all over the world.