Monday, April 12, 2010

Institutional Family Development in Morelos, Mexico

By Brittany Naida
St. Thomas University

We have been learning much about the social programs available to vulnerable people living throughout the state of Morelos. A representative from the DIF organization (
Desarollo Institucional de la Familia = Institutional Family Development), came to share with us the programs and resources available through the agency. She explained to us that DIF works with all people regardless of their social class. One of the programs within the organization is social assistance, which makes up about 90% of their work.

This program provides resources for people with disabilities, food support for families, school breakfasts, and overall support for the vulnerable. Knowledge regarding nutrition can be insufficient for many underprivileged people, so representatives from DIF often travel to various communities to provide food baskets as well as information about a balanced and healthy diet.

One major difference from the United States that I saw in this area of their work was that there is no financial limit to who can receive service. Assistance is given based on the needs of the family. This more personal approach was interesting to me because the needs of a family are not always parallel to their financial situation, so in this way more people can be given resources for what they really need.

Another major aspect of the programs within DIF is the shelters available, especially for children.DIF has a temporary shelter for children ages 0-11 years at their location right outside of Cuernavaca that we were able to visit. For us social work students, it was very difficult at times to see so many children, some even with major disabilities, without a home or a family. But after learning about how the organization works, I could see that the children were treated well and all of their immediate needs were met.

Photo taken from the National DIF website:

When we visited the room which housed about ten infants, some of whom had disabilities or disfigurements, the workers there explained to us that each child needs to receive the same amount of attention and care, no matter what they look like. I found this comforting as these children could easily be neglected without this equality.

Since there are not many orphanages such as these in the United States, this organization raised many questions in my mind regarding child welfare. In the U.S., children removed or abandoned from their homes are placed into foster care rather than group homes, but if this was the case in Mexico, there may not be enough families to be able to take in the children.

Would it be better to erase group homes in Mexico and attempt to move towards a foster care/adoption focused system, or would this cause more problems for these children?


  1. I think both systems should be used. A family for a child is always best, but if one is not available, I think the next best thing is to live with other children in the same situation, because they can relate to each other.

    -Deidre Smith

  2. I think that both systems can have there place in the service field. The question lies in the availablity of foster families in rual areas of Mexico. Would there be enough support to care for these children outside of the current group system? In more populated areas of Mexico Foster systems may be better sustainable for children in need.

  3. Thanks for the explanation of what DIF is doing now -- it's interesting to compare to my visit in 1993-1994; services are similar in the more generous and inclusive embrace of welfare, and also unfortunately in the lack of a fully developed foster care system. Children are likely to do much better in home-based family care than in even the best group home or institutional care. But being with caring adults is better than living on the streets or homeless, of course.

    Hope we get a chance to talk more about this tomorrow!


  4. I agree with Deidre on this. I think that the group homes should still be kept running because each child in the home will receive the attention they deserve along with needs being met as the author says, but I also think that children should grow up in a home setting if it can be certain a healthy one is available. I'm just thinking about the United States' system where children are sometimes placed in homes where they don't get the care they need or are neglected yet again.

  5. I like that each family is given resources based upon their needs. I feel that universal treatment is not always efficient and sometimes counterproductive. I too feel that there should be both foster homes and orphanages. Perhaps they could take a similar approach to this situation and place the child in the type of care that works best for them. In the end though, a home environment is very important in raising a child.

    -Ashley Watson

  6. This is such an interesting issue to bring up. I agree with what Ashley said for the most part. I believe that families should be given the resources they need based on need, not just financial income. I do not know where I stand on the foster care/group home issue yet. I believe that a foster home can be a great thing for a child because they have individual attention and care while a group home would not offer that. Brittany is right though that there would not be enough families for every child that would need to be in foster care. I think that both would be needed. Children should have their needs met no matter what.

    Elizabeth Patten-swk280

  7. I almost feel that keeping the kids in a group home is better because then they are ensured to be treated equally, no matter what kind of disability or disfiguration they may have. If they are sent to foster care, who knows how they could be treated, especially considering that the system is underdeveloped in Mexico and there likely would not be as many strict rules and oversights as they have in the United States.
    Jessie K. SWK 316

  8. I think that it is a very interesting idea and I would be interested to see how our system would handle having group houses instead of foster homes. I think that it is very sad when a child is placed into a foster home that is not a healthy enviornment, so I think that group homes would be a good place to make sure that these children are having their needs meet. The downside is that the group home only houses children until the age of 11. Thank you for sharing.
    Brianna Klatt

  9. Rachel

    I had the privilege of hearing Araceli Vallejo talk about the ins and outs of the DIF program in Morelos and across Mexico. I as well as Brittany found it extremely interesting at the amount of assets and support the DIF foundation has available to its clients. The similarities and differences between Mexico and the United States brought about many questions for me that have gone unanswered. Like Brittany I wonder which method of child welfare is actually better and more affective. One might say group homes help facilitate unity and sharing, however it lacks the aspect of “family”. But, this concept of family in and of itself is a controversial subject, because the word family can mean so many things. The construct of family is changing and with it comes change in what is best for a child. I also believe culture has lots to do with the type of child welfare system works best of a country. I loved learning about the collaboration-taking place between the particular DIF organizations within each Municipality around Mexico. I believe both group homes and foster care/ adoption facilities can be used in both cultures. However as Araceli Vallejo presented DIF to the class it seemed adoption to be a less likely occurrence here in Mexico. I am also somewhat skeptical of foster care like homes in Mexico because of the frequent appearance of large families and the strong bonds within these families. Unfortunately it seems less likely for a foster home like situation to be successful in Mexico, and if it was the children would most likely stay in foster care until they were of age to be legally on their own.

  10. Wow, I never knew that there was such a wonderful program. I think having programs like this is essential for the basic needs of individuals and both systems should be used if one does not work out.

    Maikou Vang

  11. Deidre brings a great up a great point hidden point. Governments not all the time use both group homes and foster care systems. It usually seems like one or the other. In regards to your question, I think it really depends on the situation that is being brought to the table. Sometimes group homes might be more affective and other times foster care can also be a benefit. What it comes down to is what is in the best interest of the child, sometimes establishing friends and groups is more affective to the child. While other times there might be children who need the guidance of a parental figure. It really all depends.

  12. It is really interesting to learn about the services in other countries and see how they compare to our own. It would be really interesting to see the results of this system and the impact it has on people's lives.