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DCS using special program to find foster children's relatives

Posted: 10:45 PM, Apr 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-04-09 01:45:33-04

Arizona's Department of Child Safety is using a special federal program to match children in its care with relatives or people they know.

The program is called "Fostering Sustainable Connections."

Sheva Nweabi is a Family Engagement Specialist with the department but says she feels more like an investigator.

"I go out and get that information, and I try to locate those particular relatives," explained Nweabi.

Nweabi calls it "going fishing."

One of Nweabi's first success stories involves 15-year-old Jiana Mattucci.

Mattucci was 13 at the time and living in a group home.

"It was awesome because this child had never met her family and it was like a fairytale," said Nweabi.

Nweabi found Mattucci's first cousin, Teri Hardy, who lives in El Paso, Texas.

Hardy graciously agreed to take Mattucci in as her own.

"I think having her in our family, the way that it's changed, it just makes you appreciate what you have what you've been taught what you have as a family," Hardy said.

Mattucci is now 15 and thriving in her new home.

She said she's grateful for the program that matched her with her blood relatives, so she would no longer be living in a group home or floating through Foster care.

"I think the department is doing a good job with this," Mattucci said.

The program is federally funded, and Arizona is one of 25 states using it.