TRI-CITIES, WA - With more than 1000 foster children in Eastern Washington, local orphan advocates say there is a growing need for foster parents in the region.
But while opening your home to a child or teenager may sound difficult, have you ever imagined what it's like on the other side?
"Joe" is a 14-year-old foster child in the Tri-Cities. We've changed his name and his voice to protect his identity incase his birth parents try to find him.
Most children stay in foster care for less than two years... but Joe has been in different foster homes for nearly six.
"It's hard like, moving around all the time," he said.
Joe rarely sees or talks to his other siblings, but he says they're all better off in state care. He says he wants what's best for them, and tells his social worker if there's ever a problem. But even she can't always make things right.
"She's nice," Joe said, "except that when we're in court, she just brings up bad things. I never get to hear anything good. I think they're just trying to put off until I'm 18."
Joe's foster mom, Brooke Lamberson, volunteers with the Heart for the Fatherless Ministry. It's a local non-profit organization that helps orphans in the Tri-Cities.
She and her husband also started the program "Beautiful Baggage," that gives foster kids a suitcase, toiletries, a stuffed animal and a bible; things they need when the state moves them.
"There's not enough foster homes for teens," Lamberson said, "and so they'll just send them to Seattle or wherever. Which means they're changing not only schools, but they're changing complete locations."
The Lambersons have kids of their own, but became foster parents a year ago.
"It's a roller coaster for sure, yeah, it's totally a roller coaster, but I wouldn't change a thing," she said.
To become a foster parent, it takes 36 hours of classes, interviews, home inspections, background checks and a lot of paperwork. And foster parents never know when the kids are going to show up. They could get a call in the middle of the night, and be out the door moments later to go pick them up.
But what matters, is the impact a foster parent can make on the child's life.
"A lot of people say that," Lamberson said, "but they're making a huge impact on yours. I can't imagine not having the kids that we have in here with our 'tummy' kids. Having them blended together is just the coolest thing."
"It's just nice here," Joe says, "I'm doing good in school, making friends. I'll probably just go to college and if my siblings ever need help I can come back over here and help them."
This Friday and Saturday, November 8th and 9th, Heart for the Fatherless will hold its annual Orphan Conference.
Friday night and all day Saturday, you can learn about becoming a foster parent and caring for foster children.
It's free for the first 200 people, after that, directors ask you make a small donation. Daycare and lunch will be available.
You do need to pre-register for the event, so if you're interested, click here.