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Using Facebook to connect foster care children with relatives - Nebraska

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on Fri, 01/25/2013 - 14:18
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Using Facebook to connect foster care children with relatives
Facebook has opened up a new world of experiments for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

The state is using the social networking site as a tool in finding the relatives of children in foster care.

News 5's Dara Newson shows us how it's had an impact on lives.

"When it's your own relatives the chances that you say I'm sorry can't do this anymore seem to go down," said Debi Schriner.

Foster children are often moved from one unfamiliar home to another.

"Often times if they have to go into stranger care they get moved into a different community," Schriner explained.

Schriner is the resource developer with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

Her mission is to reconnect wards of the state with their families.

"Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Second Cousins, whatever it takes," Schriner said.

Schriner began working with Facebook, identifying families in photos.

"Sometimes it's a case manager actually getting a hold of me and saying, she says she has an Aunt Sara, but I don't have much information," Schriner added.

Since establishing this site on Facebook, relatives of about 80 families have been searched.

"Sometimes I'm sending messages to Dads that the case manager doesn't have an address for and saying, hey please call this case manager. Sometimes I'm doing a whole search between our narratives and what I can find on Facebook and connecting the dots of okay this is Aunt Martha or this is Uncle Bill," Schriner said.

Currently there are 5,539 wards of the state and nearly 3,800 are living with non-relatives.

"If we can get relatives, at least it's a familiar face and people that already know them and know their needs," Schriner added.

The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services says there is a great need for foster parents willing to take in teenagers.

by Dara Newson