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Mexico: Social agencies in Mexico City for abused, neglected and homeless children, including services offered and state protection available to abused children

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 October 1998
Citation / Document Symbol MEX30190.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Mexico: Social agencies in Mexico City for abused, neglected and homeless children, including services offered and state protection available to abused children, 1 October 1998, MEX30190.E, available at: [accessed 1 June 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


The information that follows was provided by the Department of Juridical Assistance of the national office of the Integrated Family Development (Desarrollo Integral Familiar) program in Mexico City during a 6 October 1998 telephone interview. The DIF is a federal agency of Mexico that coordinates a number of programs at the municipal and state level to assist vulnerable social groups, including abused women and children.

The capital city of Mexico, in both its State of Mexico and Federal District (DF) areas, has numerous shelter homes and other facilities to assist abused or homeless children. The shelter homes (albergues) are distributed throughout the districts of the capital; they provide for shelter, food, clothing, education and any other basic needs of homeless or abused children.

The DIF works with municipal and state governments to run these shelter homes, as well as the many private agencies that assist abused and homeless children in the capital. A priority for the DIF is to attempt to find relatives of children without parents and/or a home in the hope of securing their support, since the family (or extended family) is considered to be an important line of defense to a child's well being. However, attempts to connect a homeless child with relatives does not preclude their lodging and assistance at shelter homes.

Although many street children get involved in petty crime, homeless children who continue to actively engage in criminal activities usually are not  housed in the shelter homes; there are detention and rehabilitation centres for minors that look after children with criminal behaviour problems.

The DIF responds to complaints of child abuse through its national and municipal offices. Social workers investigate complaints; the agency exercises its legal authority to take children from abusive homes, taking abused children to shelter homes, and proceeding with prosecution or other legal measures when necessary. The DIF and other institutions also run facilities and programs that assist women and families with problems of abuse.

An example of the services provided at the municipal level is provided by the government of Naucalpan, a district of the capital city in the State of Mexico (Gobierno de Naucalpan 15 Dec. 1997).  In 1997 the district's DIF and its municipal government provided: more than 80,000 free medical services and more than 24,000 free dental services, 135 public medical assistance campaigns in neighbourhoods which included services by doctors and dentists, 43,840 legal counselling sessions to families, and conferences at 62 schools (ibid.). 662 allegations of child abuse were investigated; 224 of them were confirmed to be founded, and 29 children were received by the municipal shelter home (ibid.).

In addition to various food assistance programs, the DIF and municipal government of Naucalpan refurbished the Street Club (Club de la Calle), where an average of 20 children receive assistance every month; the Children's Development Centres served 2,792 pre-school children; expansion of services was being carried out at 10 Children's Centres (Estancias Infantiles) and 40 others were refurbished (ibid.). In addition to the above, there are education and development programs for children and other age groups in varying degrees of need (ibid.).

The Juridical Assistance Department of the Naucalpan DIF office stated during a 5 October 1998 telephone interview that the municipality has a number of services for abused and homeless children including, among others, a shelter home, investigation and legal services, education, food and medical assistance.

The government of the City of Mexico in the Federal District, whose jurisdiction covers part of the capital city, works in cooperation with the DIF and various other agencies to provide social assistance to children and the general population, as well as  specific assistance to street children, who are regarded by the government as a highly vulnerable group (grupo de alta vulnerabilidad) (Ciudad de Mexico 1998). Other agencies involved in this work include the Social Development offices at the various districts of the Federal District, the Social Security Institute of the DF and of the federal government, and various other state and federal institutions such as PRODDF, SEDECO, SEDUVI, LOCATEL, SECOFI, STPS, SEDESOL, SEP, SSA, ISSSTE, SEGOB and PGR (full names not provided) (ibid.).

In addition to ongoing programs, the new DF government established during its first year in office seven family violence units which provide mostly legal assistance, eight integrated development centres which provide a variety of services to women of all ages including child care, and a shelter for abused women that provided assistance to 138 minors in its first few months of operation (Ciudad de Mexico 17 Sept. 1998). The new government also developed a city-wide program for intra-family violence, which included in its first months services to 14 groups of teenage mothers; recreational programs were provided to children through social action centres (centros de accion social), children's centres, shelter homes and a variety of other public facilities (ibid.).

Among published sources consulted by the Research Directorate, a 12 May 1997 article from The Christian Science Monitor reports that at least 30 private groups have been working with street children in Mexico City, adding that private groups "concentrate on sheltering and giving a second chance to street children who want to turn their lives around." The article cites as an example the case of  Casa Alianza, "a shelter and alternative home for street children" housing some 150 minors.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


The Christian Science Monitor [Boston, Mass.]. 12 May 1997. Howard LaFranchi. Ïn Mexico City, The 'Big Top'Shifts Spotlight to Street Kids." (Mexico NewsPak [Austin, Tex.] 19 May-1 June 1997, Vol. 5, No. 8, pp. 9-10)

Gobierno de la Ciudad de Mexico. 17 September 1998. "1er Informe de Actividades del Jefe de Gobierno de la Ciudd de Mexico; Discurso del Ing. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano." [Internet] [Accessed 5 Oct. 1998]

_____. 1998. "Politicas para grupos de alta vulnerabilidad (GAV)." [Internet] [Accessed 5 Oct. 1998]

Gobierno Municipal de Naucalpan, Mexico. 15 December 1997. "DIF Municipal." [Internet] [Accessed 2 Oct. 1998]

Programa Nacional de Desarrollo Integral Familiar (DIF), Mexico City. 6 October 1998. Telephone interview with juridial assistance department.

Programa Municipal de Desarrollo Integral Familiar (DIF), Naucalpan. 5 October 1998. Telephone interview with juridical assistance department.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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