Saturday, August 27, 2011

Family Finding Success in Mexico Using Internet Severely Limited Compared to U.S.

The Internet is not the best resource when doing family finding in Mexico. Family finding is about the identification and location of a biological parent, grandparent and other adult family members when a child is entering foster care. It's very important that these family members are notified so they can participate to help ensure the well-being of the child and, if necessary, provide a permanent, loving home.

Now one of the tools that state agencies, non-profits and attorneys use to do family finding is the Internet. Let's face it. Everyone in the U.S. is online. People are sharing stories on Facebook or tweeting about their weekends and what they had for lunch. Meanwhile kids and their grandparents are sharing photos and videos on YouTube and Flickr. All of this information is open to the public. If that isn't enough, many documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses are just a few clicks away as long as you bring your plastic.

In fact, the guide "Making 'Relative Search' Happen" published by ChildFocus states, "Internet resources are a fast-growing part of the [family finding] search toolkit. The more details about possible relatives that have been obtained from personal contacts and other databases, the more effective internet searches are likely to be."

Now even though the Internet is a powerful tool that in part allows agencies and attorneys to successfully do family finding in the U.S., this doesn't mean the same results can be expected when doing family finding in Mexico. In fact, when it comes to Mexico, the number of people that can be found using the Internet is almost the complete opposite from the U.S. Whereas up to 80% of relatives can be identified using the Internet and online databases from companies such as LexisNexis and U.S. Search, less than 20% of personal information about people living in Mexico can be found online.

So why is this? One reason is the lack of information on people living in Mexico. For instance, years ago Telmex, the national phone company, had a website where you could search for people listed in the Mexico white pages. Now this didn’t by any means include all 110 million residents, but it did provide access to a significant portion of the population. However, this site has been gone for years.

Now there is no central website for Mexico where Child Welfare agencies and non-profits can do family finding. The same is true of online databases. There is no equivalent to online database companies such as U.S. Search or LexisNexis for Mexico. One of the key problems is the majority of information from legal documents such as birth certificates and marriage licenses haven't yet been digitized. It's been estimated that only about 15% of all information on Mexican residents is available online. The majority of personal information is still only in print and in file cabinets, boxes in some storage closet or in government warehouses.

The Internet is a powerful tool to do family finding. However, when it comes to Mexico the likelihood of finding information about a parent or family member is much lower compared to the U.S. It's important to remember that Mexico is not the U.S. and what works there doesn't automatically work in Mexico.

The solution is that state agencies and non-profits must look for additional resources to help them do family finding so they can identify and locate more parents and adult family members in Mexico of children entering U.S. foster care. Only then will more foster children be able to connect and form important bonds with their blood family and learn about where they come from. These same relatives may choose to care for the child. When this happens, one more boy or girl will now have permanency with a loving family while reducing the financial burden on state welfare agencies. That’s a win-win worth striving for.


Richard Villasana

Richard Villasana
The Mexico Guru
Find Families In Mexico

Proud to be listed on the Child Welfare website.

PS. For more tips and advice about family finding in Mexico, follow us on Facebook at Family Finding MX. Click here if your agency or organization has a case requiring family finding services to identify and locate biological family members in Mexico.
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