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Use Social Media to Find More Family Members

The Play

Search popular social media sites like Facebook for known family members, such as a youth’s parents or older siblings. From there, you can peruse public messages, photos, and/or friend lists to identify additional connections, and message them.

Private information should not be shared through social media messages. Just as a worker would leave a generic voicemail when trying to identify kin, social media contacts should not include private information, and should instead encourage contacting the worker directly for follow-up.

Who Can Do This?: Anyone
Cost: Free
Timeframe: Immediate
Difficulty: Easy

The Problem It Solves

Every child welfare system can do more to find more family members for youth in care, whether to serve as placements or simply as more supportive adults. People-finding tools like credit searches have limited databases. For example, you have to have a credit history to appear in most of them.

How To Do This

  • Management may have to meet with IT to have certain social media sites unblocked from the network.
  • Decide if a central team will conduct social media family finding activities, or if all workers will be granted access. There are pros and cons to both approaches.
  • Publish a policy to guide social media use for family finding. (The Child Welfare Playbook will have an example policy available here in January 2021.)
  • Workers should never use their personal accounts for family finding. Use official shared work accounts, and/or second accounts used only for work.
  • Workers should not update profiles, post public messages, or “friend” other accounts when using official work accounts for family finding. For example, if a public child welfare account were to “friend” a possible family member, that would publicly reveal that the family member is having an interaction with child welfare.

Outcomes Data

  • New Mexico increased initial kinship placements from 3% to 40% in one year by shifting to practices that included using social media to identify kin.

Who’s Doing This?

  • Ohio
  • Virginia has a dedicated family finding team that uses social media
  • Rhode Island’s dedicated family finding team
  • Washington State is updating its policies to allow more workers to use social media
  • New Mexico encourages workers to create second, separate social media accounts under their name that they use exclusively for work
  • Some counties in Ohio and California

Real-World Examples

  • Virginia’s central family-finding social media accounts are called “Virginia Family Finding 1” (and 2, and 3) to protect worker privacy.
  • Rhode Island’s family finding team uses “DCYF” in place of worker last names on social media to protect worker privacy.
  • Michigan has social media sites listed on their Diligent Search checklist