Every Child Has a Family: Tools to Search for Connections for the Children You Serve

In Collaborative Family Engagement (CFE), the best-case scenario is to start with family engagement: completing tools like the Three Houses and Mobility Mapping with children and families to find out who we can engage for support. But what happens if that well runs dry?

Every child has a family, so we don’t give up—we take things to the next level and search!

There are a variety of tools CASA volunteers, caseworkers and others can use to search for family members and fictive kin of the children and families they serve. We’re diving into a few of them today.

Case Mining: Start here. The child’s case file contains a wealth of information on family and connections and often has information that is not known by all professionals working on the case. It is imperative to read through the file, especially considering historical involvement, worker change and the vast amount of information that could be lying in wait in the file, ready to be discovered.

Seneca Search: A Seneca Search is an online tool that searches various databases and produces a summarized report of information for the person that was searched in a timely and thorough way. Seneca Searches are best conducted on an adult from each side of the youth’s family. The goal of the search is to find names, addresses and contact information for adults connected to the person searched, and therefore, potentially, the child. Often, a Seneca Search is done on a parent or grandparent, but can be run on any adult over the age of 18 (the older the better). You want to find people who share multiple addresses across time with the subject, because that indicates they may be more likely to be family members or otherwise connected to the child. Talk to your supervisor for more information, or contact Texas CASA’s CFE team at cfeteam@texascasa.org.

Searching for Family in Mexico: Family members worldwide love their family, and location and proximity to a child should not be a determining factor for the level of love, connection and relationship that the child and family member might have. Texas CASA has a partnership with the Mexican Consulates of Texas, and their assistance on everything from information, to searching, to completing home studies can be requested. Texas CASA will also work with the organization Find Families in Mexico to complete a search for kin or fictive kin believed to be in Mexico. Talk to your supervisor for more information, or contact Texas CASA’s CFE team.

Internet Searching: Texas CASA holds accounts to multiple websites—White Pages, Ancestry.com, Connect Our Kids and more—that can be used to search for family information. The sites contain obituaries, death records, census records, contact information and more. Contact Texas CASA’s CFE team or your supervisor for login information.

Social Media: It may seem obvious, but social media is another powerful search tool. Many times you can find valuable information about family and fictive kin via Facebook or other social media and networking websites. However, it’s important that you adhere to your organization’s social media policies, as well as protect the confidentiality of the child you’re serving. Make sure to check with your supervisor about how to approach searching for and messaging potential family members on social media, and wait to share identifying information of the child until the relationship is confirmed. When in doubt, always check with your supervisor—but don’t hesitate to try new approaches!

Remember: in CFE, we only search when necessary. If you do need to search, keep track of your work and avoid duplication. You don’t want to message the same person in too close of a time period or contact someone again who has asked you not to contact them.

Through concerted and focused searching for family members, CASA volunteers can often locate kin who deeply care about the children we serve and want to be involved in their lives—a priceless gift.

For more information on these tools and more, check out the CFE Manual and the CFE Pocket Guide.