The Georgia Division of Family and Children Services and the Consulate General of Mexico in Atlanta have signed a new agreement to improve communication and cooperation in cases involving minors with Mexican nationality or heritage.
The memorandum of understanding is the result of two years of talks aimed at improving their working relationship with the goal of more speedily handling cases.
It also will serve as a template for the future agreements the division hopes to sign with other consulates.
Under the agreement, DFCS is obliged to check immediately with the consulate to ascertain whether a child in custody is a Mexican national or related to someone from Mexico. Involving the consulate is in line with the division’s obligations and the consulate’s duties under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
But notification is also a practical matter, DFCS officials said in announcing the agreement.
“This collaboration will help us locate parents, relatives and other important adults in a child’s life so that they can be involved when permanency options are considered,” DFCS Interim Director Tom Rawlings said in a news release. (“Permanency options” are just what they sound like — the resolution of a case by finding permanent of a child placement with a parent, guardian or adoptive family, whether here or back in Mexico.)
“Moreover, DFCS and the consulate are committed to working together on educational and community involvement efforts centered on the safety and well-being of Mexican families and children,” Mr. Rawlings said.
For its part, the consulate will provide documents like medical records, birth certificates passports and other identification and will help find and notify parents or other relatives — either here or in Mexico. The consulate also commits to facilitating home studies in the event that returning the child to Mexico is in his or her best interest.
Consular representatives will also be allowed to interview minors in DFCS custody except when prohibited by law, and DFCS will encourage local authorities to notify the consulate when minors are subject to legal proceedings.
International family law attorney Michael Manely told Global Atlanta that the agreement will help safeguard children by making DFCS mindful of their origins, and speedy resolution is key given that the number of kids taken into custody greatly outpaces the number of available foster homes.
“The interpersonal connection, established before it is required, will move the process forward tremendously when the time comes and the action is required. Mandatory meetings three times a year will help keep this memorandum a living document,” said Mr. Manely, whose firm is a sponsor of Global Atlanta.
Mr. Manely, who just handled a case involving two Mexican minors, added that the Vienna convention “has teeth” and that it behooves all involved — from juvenile courts to DFCS — t0 prioritize compliance.
Mexican Consul General Javier Diaz de Leon said the pact “represents an important step forward into creating and formalizing mechanisms of collaboration between both our agencies. We trust that many Mexican children and families will benefit from this ongoing partnership and hope that consulates from other countries soon get involved in similar fashion.”
View the full MOU below, and use the buttons at bottom to scroll through the pages.Mexico-MOU