RICHLAND, Wash. - There are an estimated 400,000 children living in foster care nationwide. In the Tri-Cities, one organization aims to connect those kids with their relatives.
For many in the foster care system it can be next to impossible to keep a family together. Two local women who grew up in foster care and were separated from their other two siblings went through that.
"Knowing that they were out there, that was hard," said Jackie Lopez.
She spent countless hours looking for her lost siblings. It was only recently they were all reunited on the Steve Harvey Show.
Now a local agency, Catholic Family and Child Service, is working to prevent situations like that in the first place. Through an effort called Family Search and Engagement they work with state social workers to find relatives that can be resources for kids in foster care. On average, they find 63 relatives for every child.
"Most of them are always willing to help in some way. If they can't support a child directly, they try to link you to other family members who will help that child in some way. They try to help us make a family tree so we know who is all out there," said Family Search and Engagement specialist and coordinator Samantha Tippery.
The program has been funded by a three year federal grant that is now nearing its end. In that time, they've worked with more than 300 children.
"We all have that feeling that we need to know who we are and we need to be connected and children grow up wanting to know that eventually. So we try to make sure the story that happened with Judy, Jackie and Luis doesn't happen to other kids," Tippery said.
"I just would like to tell people who are looking for loved ones, family and siblings... Don't lose hope. Miracles do happen. Use the search engines, use what's out there, use the organizations," Lopez said.
Catholic Family and Child Service is looking into how they can continue the Family Search and Engagement Program without the federal grant money. But they do need additional funding to keep the program running.