Valerie Delgado, Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE) Lead with CASA of Galveston County, recently reached out to us with two stories from her work on the ground that we can’t help but share.
Javier* came into foster care as a teenager. All signs had been pointing to Javier successfully reunifying with his mother, so it came as a surprise when she suddenly reversed her direction and signed the papers relinquishing her parental rights.
Javier’s father had died a few years back, and Javier had little to no contact with his paternal side of the family. CPS asked Javier’s mother for any information she could share about his father, and she stated that he had passed away about five years ago in Galveston County. CPS had his name down as Matthew Lopez*, but their Diligent Search (caseworkers’ required due diligence to locate parents and relatives) found nothing for him.
CFE Lead Valerie Delgado conducted a meticulous Google search: she placed parentheses around the father’s name “Matthew Lopez” and searched by: “Galveston Obituary 2014,” “Galveston Obituary 2015,” “Galveston Obituary 2016,” and so on. Using this method, an obituary popped up that matched the father’s date of birth and family members—but the man’s name was listed as Mateo Lopez*.
CPS had been working with a slightly different name which is likely why they could not find him. Using Mateo Lopez’s information, Delgado then completed the CFE paternal family search and shared those results with the CASA volunteer and supervisor, CPS and the legal team.
Javier’s CASA volunteer sent a letter to his paternal grandmother, Mateo Lopez’s mother, inviting her to be involved in Javier’s life. She called the volunteer almost immediately, confirmed her son’s and grandson’s information, and stated that she wanted to know more about Javier and have a relationship with him.
“There had been no contact, and the grandmother immediately responded!” Delgado said. “She cares, and she also wanted to connect Javier to his half-brother!”
A toddler name Daisy* was removed from home and placed with her maternal grandparents, but no one involved in the case had much information about the paternal side of Daisy’s family. CPS had the name and date of birth of an alleged father, but had not been able to locate any more information for him—except that he was older than Daisy’s mother and was located in another city.
Valerie Delgado conducted a CFE paternal search. She found a possible match using the father’s name, but the person she found had a different date of birth. She reviewed the available facts, returned to the search on a different day, and had a breakthrough using a deeper search on Ancestry.com. She refined the search results to include the date of birth listed in the affidavit, and was able to find three generations of family! She used those search results and family members to run other searches on additional websites (Whitepages, Connect Our Kids and Facebook) that confirmed it was the correct paternal family that she had been looking for. She was then able to provide those results to the CASA, CPS and legal team.
“It’s incredible to witness the breakthroughs that implementing CFE can have in the life of a child and their family,” Delgado said. “The CFE tools just breathe new life into a case!”
Both Javier and Daisy’s cases are ongoing, and there’s still lots of work to be done—but now, these children and their families will navigate their cases with the help of new connections and new possibilities.
Family finding and engagement is more important right now than it’s ever been, Delgado said. With remote technology taking the forefront, distance just can’t be used as a reason why families don’t connect anymore. That, and getting a letter in the mail like the one Javier’s grandmother received can be even more meaningful during such a physically isolating time.
“More than ever, getting snail mail is a treat! Perhaps, receiving a letter in the mail saying that a child you may know, and may love, needs you… it’s very powerful,” she said. “We owe it to every child to find any healthy and loving adult that is out there for them.”
Stories like these illustrate how Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), our family finding and engagement partnership with the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS), is making a difference in the lives of children and families all across Texas.
Navigating the child welfare system in this way is a complex business, and the searching and detective work that CFE entails can be tedious at times, and even frustrating. But it’s worth it, because every day, it results in more connections and support for the children and families we serve.
*Names changed for privacy.