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15000 Confidentiality and Integrity of Records

15100 Disclosure and Release of Case Information

APS January 2022

APS case information is confidential. APS discloses case information only when necessary to exercise the authority and responsibility of DFPS, as specified in the Human Resources Code (HRC), Title 2, Chapter 48.

The APS case record includes items such as the following:

  • The intake.
  • The case review.
  • Other documentation, such as medical and financial records.

All records, reports, and working papers related to a case are confidential and are exempt from release to the public according to Texas Government Code Chapter 552.

APS follows specific guidelines when disclosing case-related information. When APS shares information about a client, APS must inform the recipient that the information is confidential.

APS may provide case-related information or findings using encrypted email, when possible.

Staff members who have questions about whether to disclose confidential information discuss them with the regional attorney.

See:

Human Resources Code §48.101

15111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record

15121 Case Information to the Reporter and Collaterals

15122 Case Information to Others to Help Clients Get Services

15110 Release of the Case Record

APS January 2022

APS refers all individuals and entities requesting case records, including those listed in 15111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record, to the Records Management Group (RMG), unless otherwise noted in policy, for information on getting case records.

The APS specialist gives the requester the following:

As another option, the APS specialist may give Form 4885 Request for Case Records to the requester and email the completed form to RMG for processing.

See 15111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys.

15111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record

APS January 2022

Certain individuals and entities are entitled to part or all of the APS case record, as stated in Texas Administrative Code §705.1907.

When RMG receives a written request, RMG sends a copy of the APS case record to the requester, if the law entitles the requester to receive the record.

All copies of case records that RMG provides exclude confidential information, including the reporter’s name and other identifying information about the reporter.

15111.1 Release of Case Records to Reporters, Alleged Perpetrators, Collaterals, and Attorneys Ad Litem

APS January 2022

Reporters, Alleged Perpetrators, and Collaterals

When RMG receives a written request, RMG sends the reporter, alleged perpetrator, or collateral, or his or her attorney, a copy of the portion of the APS case record to which the requester is entitled.

Attorneys Ad Litem

When RMG receives a written request that includes a copy of the court order identifying the requester as the attorney ad litem for the client, RMG sends a copy of the APS case record to the attorney ad litem. For attorneys ad litem, RMG considers a request submitted by email as a written request.

DFPS staff members may inform the attorney ad litem that the most efficient way to get APS records is to submit the request with a subpoena (court order).

Texas Administrative Code §705.1907

See:

15111.2 Release of Case Records to HHSC Provider Investigations

15111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

15120 Disclosure of Case Information

15121 Case Information to the Reporter and Collaterals

15111.2 Release of Case Records to HHSC Provider Investigations

APS January 2022

In some cases, an APS specialist may accidentally conduct an investigation that falls under the jurisdiction of Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Provider Investigations (PI).

Since the investigation falls under the jurisdiction described in Human Resources Code §48.252, the provider agency is entitled to receive a de-identified (redacted) copy of the investigative report.

The APS specialist makes sure that this copy of the report contains only information about the investigation and conceals the reporter’s identity. To do this, the APS specialist uses the Case File Print function in IMPACT to print the following:

  • De-identified Intake Report.
  • Person List.
  • Contact Log.
  • Investigation Conclusion.
  • External Documentation Report.
  • Copies of external documentation.

The APS specialist then does the following:

  • Consults with the HHSC PI supervisor.
  • Gives the de-identified APS report to the HHSC PI supervisor, so he or she can release the case record to the appropriate entities.

The facility or provider agency is not entitled to a copy of the case record if DFPS appropriately classified and investigated the case as an APS investigation.

See:

15127 Release of Case Information to Entities Responsible for Protecting Clients

4231.1 Allegations in Settings Investigated by HHSC Provider Investigations

15111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

APS January 2022

Law enforcement officials and prosecuting attorneys have access to APS case records for purposes of investigating and prosecuting crimes related to abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

Law enforcement officials include Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigators and the staff of the Enforcement Division of the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB).

Law enforcement and prosecuting attorneys may request APS case records after APS notifies them that a crime may have been committed.

Upon receiving a verbal or written request, DFPS releases a copy of the entire case record, including the reporter’s name and any information from other agencies, to a law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney who requests it for a case that is under current criminal investigation, prosecution, or litigation against DFPS. (However, see the subheading Redaction of HIV or AIDS Status, below.)

See 15111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record.

Closed Cases

If a law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney requests a copy of the case record for a closed case, and the request is for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a crime, the APS specialist directs the requester to the DFPS Requesting a Case Record webpage, which describes how a law enforcement official or a prosecuting attorney may request records.

Depending on what case records are needed, the law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney chooses one of the following options:

  • If only a copy of the most recent closed Investigation Report on a specific person is needed, the requester completes and submits Form 4888 Request for Case Record Information from Law Enforcement. RMG usually completes these requests within seven business days.
  • If more detailed information is needed (such as copies of entire case files, audio or video recordings, or a personal appearance or affidavit by the custodian of records), the requester emails the Records Management mailbox and attaches a subpoena outlining exactly what is needed. These requests usually require at least 20 business days.

Open Cases

If a law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney requests a copy of the case record for an open case, and the request is for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a crime, the APS specialist does as follows:

  • Attaches Form 2270 Confidential Coversheet to the front of a copy of the entire case record, including the reporter’s name and any information from other agencies.
  • Provides this to the law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney making the request.

If a law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney requests other case-related information for an open case, the APS specialist consults with the regional attorney.

Redaction of HIV or AIDS Status

The APS supervisor or designee is required to redact a person’s HIV or AIDS status from the case record to make sure this information is not released.

To redact a case record manually, the APS supervisor or designee does as follows:

  • Prints the case record.
  • Uses a marker to black out a person’s HIV or AIDS status.
  • Copies the marked case record.
  • Mails a copy of the redacted case record to the appropriate recipient.

See:

8400 Referrals to Law Enforcement

15125.2 Disclosure of HIV or AIDS Information

15120 Disclosure of Case Information

APS January 2022

This section and its subitems describe the circumstances under which APS may disclose case information without providing a complete or partial copy of the case record. See 15110 Release of the Case Record if needed.

Examples of situations that might require APS to disclose relevant case information include the following:

  • Gaining information necessary for an investigation.
  • Arranging for a forensic interview or services through a Children’s Advocacy Center (CAC).
  • Arranging for services to address abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.
  • Arranging for guardianship.
  • Notifying the regional staff of the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) Office of Guardianship Services (OGS) immediately when APS receives allegations of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation of a person who is a ward of HHSC OGS by anyone other than an HHSC OGS staff member. APS also gives HHSC OGS the finding and enough information to allow HHSC OGS to determine whether the ward is safe.
  • Notifying HHSC OGS management in State Office immediately when APS receives allegations of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation by an HHSC OGS staff member acting in his or her role as a guardian. APS also gives State Office at HHSC OGS the finding and enough information to allow HHSC OGS to determine whether the ward is safe.
  • Facilitating the involuntary admission of a client to a mental health facility.
  • Responding to a court order for disclosure.

15121 Case Information to the Reporter and Collaterals

APS January 2022

The reporter and collaterals are legally entitled to specific parts of the case record, in some circumstances. Neither the reporter nor a collateral is entitled to other information about the case.

Unless the reporter or collateral is legally entitled to the case record or case information, DFPS tells the reporter or collateral only whether APS accepted the case for investigation.

The APS specialist may, however, give collaterals, including the reporter, relevant case information, as needed, to do the following:

  • Gain information necessary for the investigation.
  • Arrange for services to address abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.

The APS specialist contacts his or her supervisor and the regional attorney, if directed by the supervisor, when uncertain about what information may be released.

DFPS staff members refer the reporter or collateral to the DFPS Records Management Group (RMG) if the reporter or collateral requests records.

See:

15111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record

15122 Case Information to Others to Help Clients Get Services

15122 Case Information to Others to Help Clients Get Services

APS January 2022

APS may share confidential information with people or agencies, such as community service providers or local government entities, when the information is necessary to complete an investigation or provide any of the following services:

  • Protective services
  • Health care
  • Housing
  • Social services

Verbal Disclosure

The APS specialist may verbally tell limited case information to authorized personnel from other entities, including HHSC Provider Investigations, when necessary to complete an investigation or arrange for services to address abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.

Written Disclosure

The APS specialist only shares confidential written information (such as financial documents, medical records, and legal documents) when a community service provider or local government entity is unable to obtain records necessary to arrange for services. Before APS shares the written information, the client, client’s authorized representative, or client’s guardian must sign Form 2307 Authorization to Release Information. The specialist places the signed Form 2307 Authorization to Release Information in the paper case file or uploads it to OneCase.

If the client is unable to sign, or the client, client’s authorized representative, or client’s guardian refuses to sign an authorization form, and the information is necessary to deliver protective services, the APS specialist consults with the supervisor for approval to share the documents.

See:

14400 Employee Misconduct Registry (EMR)

14300 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases

15111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

15124 Case Information in Connection With a Court Action

15124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship

15123 Case Information to Prospective Guardians

APS January 2022

HHSC Office of Guardianship Services (OGS)

APS and HHSC OGS work together on cases that involve guardianship referrals to ensure positive outcomes for clients whom they both serve.

APS and HHSC OGS share information with each other to do the following:

  • Assess the client for acceptance into the HHSC OGS program.
  • Explore whether there are more appropriate, less restrictive alternatives to HHSC guardianship.
  • Find possible or alternate guardians.
  • Develop safety plans.
  • Make sure the client is safe.

When referring clients to HHSC OGS for assessment, the APS specialist does the following:

  • Verbally gives HHSC OGS any necessary case information.
  • Provides the necessary written information, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Safety Assessment.
    • Risk of Recidivism Assessment.
    • Strengths and Needs Assessment, if applicable.
    • Contact narratives.
    • Medical or psychological records.
    • Names and addresses of relatives, friends, or other interested people.
    • Financial records or documents.

The APS specialist does not disclose whether the client is HIV-positive or has AIDS, unless the court has specifically ordered the specialist to do so.

See 7300 Referrals to HHSC Office of Guardianship Services (OGS).

Other Proposed Guardians

The APS specialist verbally shares as much information as necessary to inform proposed guardians of the client’s situation or condition.

The APS specialist informs proposed guardians that all APS case information is confidential.

The APS specialist does not do any of the following:

  • Disclose the name or other identifying information about reporters of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation.
  • Disclose whether the client is HIV-positive or has AIDS, unless the court has specifically ordered the specialist to do so.
  • Provide copies of APS case records, unless the proposed guardian becomes the client’s guardian and submits Form 4885 Request for Case Records.

If an alternate proposed guardian is identified after HHSC OGS has had a certified medical examination (CME) of the client, HHSC OGS gives the alternate proposed guardian a copy of the CME report.

APS does not give proposed guardians medical statements related to CMEs that APS has obtained. The court, attorney ad litem, or guardian ad litem can request these statements from APS.

See 15111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record.

15124 Case Information in Connection With a Court Action

APS September 2022

APS must verbally disclose all information (including information from the client, collaterals, and other agencies, but excluding the reporter’s identity) to any of the following upon request:

  • County or district attorney
  • Attorney ad litem
  • Guardian ad litem
  • Court investigator

Court Orders

A request for case information from court staff on behalf of the judge is considered a court order. A court order may be written or verbal. APS discloses the reporter’s identity or HHSC case information in response to a court order, when the order specifically includes the request for the reporter’s identity and the exact HHSC information required.

If the APS specialist is uncertain of whether to consider a request to be a court order, or needs clarification on what information may be released, the APS specialist consults with the regional attorney.

Court Hearings

APS may disclose all APS case information (excluding HHSC information) upon request in a court hearing. APS may reveal the reporter’s identity only upon direct order from the court, if the court rules to waive confidentiality.

APS staff members must try to ensure that the court is aware that identifying information about the reporter is confidential. When testifying in court, the APS specialist must not identify the reporter unless the judge specifically orders the APS specialist to do so.

DFPS staff members share all case information, including the reporter’s identity, with the attorney representing DFPS.

Subpoenas

An APS staff member may receive a subpoena for various reasons, including subpoenas to attend a court proceeding or provide case records. A staff member consults with the regional attorney upon receiving a subpoena or directive from the court.

For policy and procedures about subpoenas, how to handle the accompanying cash or check, and related matters, see the DFPS Subpoena Policy.

See 7222 Attendance at Guardianship Hearings.

15124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship

APS January 2022

The APS specialist notifies the probate court about any investigation involving a client who has a guardian or a pending guardianship (other than HHSC OGS). APS notifies the court regardless of the findings and whether or not the guardian or proposed guardian is the alleged perpetrator.

Guardianship Is Pending

When there is a pending guardianship, the APS specialist notifies the court where the guardianship petition is filed. The APS specialist does as follows:

  • Sends the Notice to Probate Court of APS Investigation upon receipt of the intake or as soon as the APS specialist becomes aware of the pending guardianship. This form is found in the APS forms on the DFPS intranet.
  • Sends the APS Court Report for Guardianship once each allegation has a finding, regardless of the findings. This form is generated in IMPACT as a Contact/Summary Type on the Contact Detail page.

Proposed Guardian Has Prior Valid Findings in an APS Investigation

When someone who has filed for guardianship with APS’s help is found to have valid findings in an APS investigation, the APS specialist discusses those findings with the proposed guardian and determines whether he or she still intends to pursue guardianship.

If, after discussing the valid findings, the person still intends to pursue guardianship, the APS specialist submits the Notification of Prior APS Findings form to the court where the guardianship petition is filed. This form is found in the APS forms on the DFPS intranet.

Guardianship Is Already in Place

When a guardianship is already in place, the APS specialist notifies the court where the guardianship petition is filed by sending the APS Court Report for Guardianship once each allegation has a finding, regardless of the findings. This form is generated in IMPACT as a Contact/Summary Type on the Contact Detail page.

Guardianship or Proposed Guardian Is Discovered During the APS Case

If the APS specialist determines at any point during the case that the client has a guardian or a proposed guardian, the APS specialist does as follows:

  • Notes in a contact narrative in IMPACT the date when the APS specialist learned that the client has a guardian or proposed guardian.
  • Notifies the court to which the guardian is (or will be) accountable by sending the APS Court Report for Guardianship, which is generated in IMPACT as a Contact/Summary Type on the Contact Detail page. (The Notice to Probate Court of APS Investigation is not required.)

See 7100 Investigations Involving a Ward.

15124.2 Court Notification About HHSC OGS Guardianship

APS January 2022

Guardianship Pending or Referred by APS

APS does not notify the court of APS involvement when either of the following applies:

  • There is a pending guardianship for the client with HHSC OGS.
  • HHSC OGS becomes the client’s guardian as a result of a guardianship referral from APS.

Guardianship Already in Place

The APS specialist notifies the court if both of the following apply:

  • APS receives an intake report about a client who is a ward of HHSC OGS.
  • The intake is received after the case in which HHSC OGS became guardian is closed.

The specialist follows the directions in 15124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship, under the subheading Guardianship Is Already in Place.

See 7100 Investigations Involving a Ward.

15124.3 Court Notification When the Alleged Perpetrator Has a Guardian

APS January 2022

APS is not required to notify the court when the alleged perpetrator is an adult who has a guardian. However, the APS specialist may do so, if the specialist believes that the notification could benefit the alleged perpetrator by providing greater oversight of his or her situation.

15124.4 Court Notification of Alleged Financial Exploitation by a Guardian of the Estate

APS January 2022

A guardian of the estate cannot exploit his or her ward because the court’s finding of incapacity has removed the ward’s legal ability to give consent. By law, the court has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of all expenditures that a guardian of the estate makes, and the court reviews the expenditures at least annually. See 7130 Financial Exploitation Allegations Against a Guardian of the Estate for procedures on handling intake reports that allege financial exploitation by a guardian of the estate.

If APS receives an intake alleging financial exploitation by a guardian of the estate, the APS specialist notifies the court that has jurisdiction, as explained in 15124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship. The specialist includes the following information in the Summary of APS Findings and Actions section of the APS Court Report for Guardianship in IMPACT:

APS has no jurisdiction to make a finding of financial exploitation in this situation, since a victim of financial exploitation must be legally able to give or withhold informed consent to financial transactions for financial exploitation to occur under Human Resources Code §48.002. APS will not conduct an investigation for the purpose of making a finding about this allegation. Therefore, APS is referring this matter to the court for further action as the court finds appropriate.

Please be assured that APS continues to conduct investigations and make findings about wards of this court who may have been abused or neglected, since the ability to give legal consent is not part of the definitions of abuse or neglect.

15124.5 Court Notification About Cases Involving a Desk Review

APS January 2022

The APS specialist notifies the court to which the client’s guardian is accountable when all of the following apply:

  • APS validates one or more allegations in the case.
  • The client has a guardian or a pending guardianship.
  • A desk review is required. (See 14100 Desk Review.)

The APS specialist sends the APS Court Report for Guardianship form (located in IMPACT) in either of the following situations:

  • Before APS completes the desk review, if the specialist and supervisor believe that the client is at significant risk.
  • After the desk review, if the specialist and supervisor believe that the risk to the client is low.

If the APS specialist sends the form before the desk review, the specialist states in the form that the findings are subject to change.

If the findings are overturned as a result of the desk review, the APS specialist notifies the court by sending the Court Notification of Desk Review Findings.

See:

7212 IMPACT Background Checks

15210 Content of Case Records

15125 Disclosure of Protected Case Information

15125.1 Disclosure of Reporter Information

APS January 2022

DFPS keeps the names of people who report abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation confidential. The names are not disclosed to APS clients, family members of APS clients, the public, or other agencies.

Exceptions: DFPS may release reporters’ names verbally or in writing to the following:

  • Court, when the judge orders DFPS to do so.
  • District or county attorney.
  • Law enforcement agencies.
  • Other investigating Texas state agencies, including HHSC Provider Investigations.
  • DFPS staff.

Human Resources Code §48.101

15125.2 Disclosure of HIV or AIDS Information

APS January 2022

Information about whether a person is HIV-positive or has AIDS is highly confidential under both federal and state law, including the federal HIPAA Privacy Rule. Only the person or the person’s legal guardian has the legal authority, under most circumstances, to reveal this status to anyone. If a service provider or other entity needs to know about the status, only the person or legal guardian may inform the service provider or other entity.

When to Reveal Status

If the APS specialist knows that a person is HIV-positive or has AIDS, the specialist may reveal the status when any of the following apply:

  • The person or legal guardian has given written permission to the APS specialist to reveal the HIV-positive or AIDS status to specific entities or people.
  • A court orders DFPS to release the information.
  • Physicians, nurses, or other health professionals (except emergency medical personnel) provide medical care to the person. These professionals are entitled to know the person’s HIV or AIDS status when providing care, even if the person or the legal guardian does not give permission.

When to Keep Status Confidential

The APS specialist is not allowed to inform the following people that a person is HIV-positive or has AIDS without the person’s or legal guardian’s written permission:

  • Law enforcement.
  • Emergency medical personnel, such as paramedics or emergency medical technicians.
  • Other people who are at risk.

The APS specialist may remind these people to take the same precautions that they would use with any person’s bodily fluids.

The APS specialist is required to make sure any information about the person’s HIV or AIDS status is redacted when providing case records to entities outside DFPS, including law enforcement.

15125.3 Disclosure of Criminal History Information

APS January 2022

DFPS is authorized to disclose criminal history information received from law enforcement only to certain people.

Texas Government Code §411.114

These people include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The person who is the subject of the criminal history record (such as the alleged perpetrator).
  • A person who is age 65 or older or has a disability (such as the client) and lives with the alleged perpetrator who is the subject of the criminal history record, if DFPS determines that releasing the information is necessary to ensure the safety or welfare of the person who is age 65 or older or has a disability.
  • Another adult who lives with a client and the alleged perpetrator who is the subject of the criminal history record, if DFPS determines that releasing the information is necessary to ensure the safety or welfare of the client or the other adult.

DFPS may not disclose criminal history information received from law enforcement to anyone, unless at least one of the following applies:

  • A law, or the list above in this section, allows the disclosure.
  • A court order requires the disclosure.
  • The person who is the subject of the criminal history record consents to the disclosure.
  • The disclosure is for the purposes of an administrative hearing that DFPS is holding about the person who is the subject of the criminal history record.

DFPS does not disclose criminal history information received from law enforcement to HHSC OGS or any other entity, except as outlined above.

See:

7210 Background Checks and Guardianship

7211 Criminal History Checks

Procedure for Disclosure of Criminal History Information

The APS specialist may disclose the results of a criminal history record check to the people or entities described in 15125.3 Disclosure of Criminal History Information by doing either of the following:

  • Allowing an appropriate person to view a copy of the records check in the APS specialist’s presence.
  • Verbally telling an appropriate person the contents of the records check.

DFPS may not give these people or entities a copy of the criminal history information, unless the court orders DFPS to do so.

Before releasing the criminal history information, the APS specialist does the following:

  • Gets supervisory approval.
  • Documents the supervisory approval in IMPACT.

APS may release criminal history information to authorized people or entities without holding a release hearing. However, APS may not release any other information, including case-related information, except as authorized in 15100 Disclosure and Release of Case Information and its subitems.

See 7211 Criminal History Checks.

Penalty for Unauthorized Disclosure of Criminal History Information

A person commits an offense if he or she is not a DFPS employee and knowingly or intentionally does either of the following:

  • Obtains an APS client’s criminal history information in an unauthorized manner, uses the information for an unauthorized purpose, or discloses the information to a person who is not entitled to it.
  • Gives a person a paper or electronic copy of the client’s criminal history record. This applies even if the recipient is legally entitled to the information.

When an APS staff member discloses criminal history information, it is best practice for the staff member to inform the recipient about these legal restrictions.

See:

7211 Criminal History Checks

15125.3 Disclosure of Criminal History Information

Texas Government Code, §411.085(a)(1)-(2)

15126 Case Information to HHSC on AFC Provider Applicants or HCSSA Staff

APS January 2022

APS gives information to HHSC when any of the following occur:

  • A person submits an application to HHSC to become an adult foster care (AFC) provider, and HHSC informs APS of the application.
  • APS validates an allegation of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation against an adult foster care provider.
  • APS validates an allegation of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation against an employee of a home and community support services agency (HCSSA) that HHSC licenses.

Before releasing the information, the APS specialist follows the procedures in 14300 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases.

See 8500 Allegations Involving Paid Caretakers.

15126.1 Release of Information on Applicants to Become AFC Providers

APS January 2022

The contract managers for HHSC’s AFC program are required to ask DFPS to determine whether a person who applies to provide adult foster care has ever been a perpetrator in a validated APS case.

The process for this is as follows:

  • The applicant signs and submits HHSC Form 2357 DFPS Records Check.
  • The DFPS Background Checks program receives Form 2357 from the HHSC employee who is requesting the records check.
  • A Background Checks staff member conducts a records check in IMPACT to determine whether the applicant has been a perpetrator in a validated APS case. See If There Is No Match, If There Is a Positive Match, and If There Is a Possible Match, below.

See 6410 Records Checks.

If There Is No Match

The Background Checks staff member does as follows:

If There Is a Positive Match

Designated Perpetrator

If the Background Checks staff member finds that the applicant is a designated perpetrator in a validated APS case, APS offers the applicant due process before notifying HHSC about the positive match. See 14300 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases.

The Background Checks staff member sends HHSC Form 2357 DFPS Records Check to the APS Policy mailbox.

A program specialist in APS State Office notifies the APS program administrator about the request from HHSC and the need to offer the perpetrator due process.

The program administrator or designee does as follows:

A program specialist in APS State Office does as follows:

  • Completes Form 2357, based on the outcome of the due process.
  • Returns the form to the HHSC AFC contract manager listed on the form.

Sustained Perpetrator

If the Background Checks staff member finds that the applicant is a sustained perpetrator in a validated APS case, the Background Checks staff member does as follows:

  • Completes HHSC Form 2357 DFPS Records Check, including the validated case in which APS has already completed or waived due process.
  • Returns the form to the HHSC AFC contract manager listed on the form.

Information Not to Release to HHSC

APS does not release to HHSC information from the following sources:

  • A criminal history check.
  • CPS, CPI, or CCI case records.

If There Is a Possible Match

The Background Checks staff member sends HHSC Form 2357 DFPS Records Check to the APS Policy mailbox for an appropriate APS State Office staff member to review the information further.

If the APS State Office staff member determines that there is no match, the State Office program specialist does as follows:

  • Checks the No Match checkbox on Form 2357.
  • Signs the form and returns it to the HHSC AFC contract manager listed on the form.

If the APS State Office staff member determines that there is a match, a State Office program specialist notifies the APS program administrator about the request from HHSC and the need to offer the perpetrator due process. The process continues as outlined in If There Is a Positive Match, above.

See:

4100 Allegations Involving HHSC Health Care Facilities

14340 Release Hearings for Non-EMR Cases

14320 Notification of Intent to Release Findings in Non-EMR Cases

15127 Release of Case Information to Entities Responsible for Protecting Clients

APS January 2022

At the end of an investigation, the APS specialist may disclose case information, including findings, in writing to authorized personnel at entities that provide care to the client, if a release is warranted. The specialist does not reveal the reporter’s name. See Determining Whether a Release Is Warranted, below.

Examples of entities that provide care include the following:

  • Nursing homes.
  • Home health agencies.
  • Assisted living facilities.
  • State supported living centers.
  • State hospitals.
  • Providers of home and community-based services (HCS).
  • Private intermediate care facilities for individuals with an intellectual disability or related condition (ICF/IID).

If a release is warranted, the APS specialist follows the procedures in 14000 Due Process and Release of Information before releasing case information.

Determining Whether a Release Is Warranted

The APS specialist consults with the supervisor and regional attorney to determine whether there is enough justification to warrant seeking a release of information, given the extensive requirements for due process before releasing a finding of Valid.

The APS specialist considers how not releasing information may contribute to an ongoing risk of abuse or neglect. That is, the client may be at greater risk of abuse or neglect because the entity is not aware of the validated abuse or neglect by a family member or a person with an ongoing relationship who has access to the client. The entity may need to know about the abuse or neglect to protect the client.

If a release is warranted, the specialist also considers whether an emergency release is warranted, based on the potential risk to the client of ongoing abuse or neglect.

See:

4231.1 Allegations in Settings Investigated by HHSC Provider Investigations

14310 Emergency Release of Findings in Non-EMR Cases

15111.2 Release of Case Records to HHSC Provider Investigations

15127.1 Release of Information to State Supported Living Centers (SSLC)

APS September 2022

In some instances, when a client is a resident of an SSLC, APS conducts the investigation because of the relationship between the client and the alleged perpetrator.

An SSLC resident may go on leave to either of the following:

  • A home (such as a family member’s residence) to visit family or friends.
  • A provider (such as an HCS group home) to transition to living in the community.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) holds SSLCs accountable for the health and protection of residents while they are away from the facility. Since the SSLC is accountable for the resident, APS specialists are allowed to release information to the SSLC when completing an investigation in these instances.

Verbal Communication

The APS specialist verbally communicates with the SSLC administrator or designee as follows:

  • When APS receives the intake.
  • During the investigation to identify any concerns that may affect the health or welfare of the client.
  • At the end of the investigation, if the finding is Invalid or Unable to Determine, to tell the SSLC the finding and any information necessary to protect the client.

Written Communication

At the end of the investigation, if there is a Valid finding, an emergency release of findings is required because the designated perpetrator will still have access to the client, other vulnerable adults, and children who live at the SSLC. The APS specialist does as follows:

The district director or designee and APS specialist follow policy in 14300 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases for conducting an administrative review and offering the designated perpetrator a release hearing, if requested.

15128 Release of Records to Office of Court Administration

APS September 2022

The Office of Court Administration’s Guardianship Abuse, Fraud, and Exploitation Deterrence Program (GAFEDP) reviews court records of guardianship cases to identify reporting deficiencies by guardians and audit annual accountings.

Texas Government Code, Section 72.1221 entitles GAFEDP to access financial records in the APS case record of a person who is under guardianship for the purposes of conducting its reviews and audits. Records that must be released to GAFEDP upon request include all of the following records:

  • Financial institution records.
  • Accounting records.
  • Other financial records concerning a ward or the ward’s estate, including receipts, records of deposits and withdrawals, invoices, bills, and any other records of transactions involving the money or assets of a ward or the ward’s estate.

GAFEDP may request the records from DPFS directly or through an order issued by the court in which the guardianship is filed or pending.

Closed Cases

If a representative of GAFEDP requests a copy of the financial records for a closed APS case, the APS specialist directs the requester to the “Related to Civil Matter” section of the DFPS Requesting a Case Record webpage. RMG will complete these requests as soon as possible.

Open Cases

If a representative of GAFEDP requests a copy of the financial records for an open case, the APS specialist provides the copy by email to the requester.

If a representative of GAFEDP requests other case-related information for an open case, the APS specialist consults with the regional attorney before releasing the information.

Redaction of Client’s Personal Information

Before releasing any records, APS is required to redact any personal identifying information.

To redact a financial record manually, the APS supervisor or designee does as follows:

  • Prints the financial record.
  • Uses a marker to black out the client’s personal identifying information, including a person’s HIV or AIDS status.
  • Copies the marked financial record.

If the APS supervisor or designee has concerns about the case redaction, he or she consults with the regional attorney.

15200 Management of Case Records

APS January 2022

APS case records consist of all files, reports, records, communications, and documents that meet both of the following criteria:

  • They are collected, developed, or used in an investigation of abuse, neglect, or financial exploitation, or in providing services as a result of an investigation.
  • They are in the custody and control of DFPS.

Human Resources Code §§48.101, 48.102

Texas Administrative Code §705.1905

15210 Content of Case Records

APS January 2022

A complete case record consists of the following:

  • Electronic case file (case information in the IMPACT case management system).
  • External case file, which consists of the following:
    • Case information in OneCase (an additional electronic system). See OneCase in 15211 External Case File.
    • Paper case file, which includes all documentation that cannot be entered or uploaded into IMPACT or OneCase. This information is called external documentation. See Paper Case File (External Documentation), in 15211 External Case File, for examples.

Electronic Case File

The electronic case file includes all information entered into IMPACT about a specific case, beginning at intake and continuing throughout the case. This information may be entered in IMPACT using the External Documentation page or OneCase, as applicable.

See 6310 Photos, Audio, and Video as Evidence.

15211 External Case File

APS January 2022

OneCase

OneCase is an application accessed within IMPACT that allows DFPS staff to upload and view external case evidence that cannot be uploaded on the External Documentation page of a case. This evidence includes external documents, photos, and audio and video recordings.

Uploading External Documents Using OneCase

OneCase contains three tabs where APS documentation can be uploaded and stored: Financial, Investigation, and Legacy. The APS specialist uploads external documents to the Financial and Investigation tabs, as appropriate. The Legacy tab is reserved for documents uploaded by Records and Imaging Operations (RIO) staff.

Instructions for using OneCase are available under the Resources tab of the APS section of the DFPS intranet (see How to Use OneCase).

Sending External Documents to RIO

The APS specialist may send external documents to RIO to upload into OneCase when either of the following applies:

  • An audio or video recording is saved on a CD or DVD, and APS staff cannot upload it directly into OneCase.
  • There is a large number of external records (for example, 50 pages of bank statements, 30 pages of medical records, and so on).

Procedures for sending external documents to RIO are available under the Resources tab of the APS section of the DFPS intranet (see Sending Records to RIO Using Barcode Tabs).

Paper Case File (External Documentation)

The APS specialist maintains a paper case file only if there are documents that are essential to the case and cannot be uploaded into IMPACT or OneCase.

APS does not maintain a paper case file for a case that has no external documentation. APS does not print IMPACT records and file them in the paper case file.

When there is a large amount of paper documents or electronic hardware (such as computer disks, videotapes, or audiotapes) and using OneCase is not appropriate, the APS specialist describes these documents on the External Documentation page and files them in the paper case file.

Examples of external documentation include the following:

  • Paper documents, including forms.
  • Spreadsheets, photos, emails, and other electronic documents that cannot be stored in IMPACT.
  • Computer disks.
  • Audiotapes, videotapes, and digital recordings.
  • Recordings of forensic interviews from Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs).

See Sending External Documents to RIO, above.

When external case information cannot be entered directly into IMPACT or uploaded to OneCase, the APS specialist does the following:

  • Documents the external case information on the External Documentation page.
  • Keeps the information in the paper case file.

Legal Forms

If APS receives copies of legal forms related to legal actions that occurred before APS involvement, the APS specialist documents them by doing either of the following:

  • Scanning the forms and uploading them to OneCase.
  • Listing and describing the forms on the External Documentation page and filing them in the paper case file.

These may include powers of attorney, letters of guardianship, and so on.

The APS specialist documents legal forms related to current legal actions taken in the case by doing the following:

  • Checking the Document In Case File checkbox for the related legal action on the Legal Action and Outcome page in IMPACT.
  • Placing the form in the paper case file or uploading it to OneCase.

See:

6400 Documentary Evidence

12140 Required Documentation of Legal Actions

15220 Maintenance of Paper Case Files

APS January 2022

The APS specialist does not keep case records, notes, or documentation from closed cases in offices or vehicles. APS stores all external documentation that is not uploaded using OneCase in a secure centralized file cabinet to protect confidentiality. If a file folder is used, it is labeled with the IMPACT case name and number.

The APS specialist shields external media, such as CDs or other disks, from sun, light, and heat to protect them from damage.

APS sends all external case files not already uploaded to IMPACT or OneCase to the Records and Imaging Office (RIO) within 30 calendar days after case closure. The electronic case file stays in IMPACT or OneCase until its destruction date, and it states where to find the external documentation.

The APS specialist destroys external documentation after it is successfully uploaded to IMPACT or OneCase.

See:

State of Texas Records Retention Schedule for DFPS

15231 Destruction of Case Records

Case Notes Outside IMPACT

The practice of keeping case notes outside IMPACT risks exposing confidential client information. The Mobile Protective Services (MPS) application on the tablet PC enables the APS specialist to enter information directly into the electronic case file and reduces the need to keep paper case notes.

The APS specialist uses MPS to enter case information directly into IMPACT, when possible.

If it is necessary to take written case notes outside MPS or IMPACT, the APS specialist does the following:

  • Enters the information into IMPACT by 11:59 p.m. the next business day following the contact.
  • Destroys the paper case notes in a manner that maintains confidentiality.
  • Never keeps written case notes in the paper case file or in the APS specialist’s office.

External Documentation Page

The APS specialist lists external documentation on the External Documentation page if the documentation is not uploaded to OneCase.

The APS specialist enters the following information:

  • The date APS obtained the document.
  • The Type that best describes the document. If none of the options are appropriate, the APS specialist chooses Other.
  • The location of the document (for example, case file or file drawer) in the Item Location field.
  • An accurate description that gives more information about the document in the Details field.

Digital Photos

The APS specialist may choose to upload digital photos on the External Documentation page in IMPACT. Digital photos are the only type of external documentation that can be viewed from this page.

Grouping Similar Documents

The APS specialist may group multiple documents together under one entry if both of the following apply:

  • The documents are all the same Type, such as medical records.
  • APS collected the documents from the same entity, such as a physician’s office.

Otherwise, the APS specialist enters each document separately.

15230 Records Retention and Destruction

APS January 2022

DFPS keeps APS case records for a specific amount of time, to enable DFPS staff members to research critical case information. The amount of time depends on the final disposition of the case and whether there was an alleged perpetrator, as outlined in 15231 Destruction of Case Records.

APS staff members help manage records in IMPACT before destruction by doing the following:

  • Merging and relating persons, as appropriate.
  • Updating person detail information.
  • Merging cases, as appropriate.

See:

15251 Merging and Relating Persons

15252 Merging Cases

15231 Destruction of Case Records

15231 Destruction of Case Records

APS January 2022

Once an APS case record reaches its destruction date, the Records Management Group (RMG) does the following:

  • Permanently removes the electronic case file from IMPACT.
  • Destroys any external documentation that is part of the case record in a manner that maintains confidentiality.

IMPACT automatically calculates the date for destruction of the case. The entire record for a certain case is destroyed at the same time, regardless of the medium.

The destruction date is based on the date when APS closed the case, the final disposition of the case, and whether there was a perpetrator, as follows:

  • Self-neglect cases are kept for three years, regardless of the final disposition.
  • Valid cases with a designated perpetrator are kept for 10 years. (This includes guardianship cases.)
  • Valid-Reportable Conduct cases are kept for 99 years.
  • Invalid or Unable to Determine cases with an alleged perpetrator are kept for five years.

APS does not reuse tapes (from audio or video), CDs, or other disks.

APS follows established DFPS guidelines for records retention to prepare, ship, and store records.

See the Records Management Group Handbook, 2612 Handling Physical Case Files.

15240 Person Information

APS January 2022

The client and alleged perpetrator are the only people who are principals in an APS case. Other people who are part of the case are collaterals.

It is important for the information about principals and collaterals to be as accurate as possible.

Documentation of Principals and Collaterals

During the case, the APS specialist does as follows:

  • Adds additional principals and collaterals not entered at intake on the Person List page.
  • Documents relevant information about all principals and collaterals on the Person Detail page.

When the APS specialist learns relevant information about a collateral or principal, such as correct name, address, phone number, and so on, the specialist adds this information to the Person Detail page.

Information About Principals

The APS specialist must attempt to verify the following information for each principal. On the Person Detail page, the specialist must enter the information or document the person’s refusal to provide it. The information is as follows:

  • Full name.
  • Current or most recent address.
  • Phone numbers (including whether the number belongs to the principal or someone else, such as a neighbor or family member).
  • Date of birth.
  • Ethnicity.
  • Preferred language.
  • Social Security number (if the person chooses to provide it).
  • Gender.
  • Client ID number for the System of Application, Verification, Eligibility, Referral, and Reporting (SAVERR) or the Texas Integrated Eligibility Redesign System (TIERS), if the person is receiving these services through HHSC.
  • Date of death (if applicable).
  • All appropriate information on the Person Characteristics page.

The APS specialist marks a citizenship status for the client only if the APS specialist knows the client’s status. However, the APS specialist must mark a citizenship status if APS is referring the client to the HHSC Office of Guardianship Services.

Social Security Number

APS does not have the legal authority to require any person to provide his or her Social Security number. The APS specialist informs the person that protective services do not depend on the person providing his or her Social Security number, and he or she has the right to choose not to provide it.

The APS specialist does not enter an incorrect or partial Social Security number in IMPACT for any principal or collateral. If a principal or collateral is unable to provide his or her full Social Security number or refuses to provide it, the APS specialist documents this in a contact narrative.

The APS specialist must obtain the designated perpetrator’s Social Security number when referring the designated perpetrator to the Employee Misconduct Registry (EMR). The APS specialist requests the number from the designated perpetrator’s employer if both of the following apply:

  • The designated perpetrator is EMR-eligible but declines to share his or her Social Security number.
  • The number isn’t already included in the intake.

See:

9000 Case Contacts

14420 Required Information for EMR-Eligible Investigations

15251 Merging and Relating Persons (subheading Manual Person Merge)

15250 Merging Persons and Cases

15251 Merging and Relating Persons

APS January 2022

Having a person’s complete IMPACT record under a single Person ID number is very helpful to the APS specialist in his or her efforts to investigate allegations and provide services. The APS specialist can easily view information, such as the following:

  • Current and past locating information (such as address).
  • Collateral information not listed in the current intake.
  • Previous and current DFPS involvement.
  • Previous successful and unsuccessful interventions.
  • Worker safety issues (issues that may put the safety of DFPS staff members at risk).
  • Limited English proficiency (LEP) information, if applicable.
  • Dynamics and history of personal relationships.

Person Identification (ID) Number

IMPACT creates a unique Person ID number each time a staff member enters a person into the system. Each person’s identifying information and case history are linked to his or her Person ID number.

If the same person is entered into IMPACT more than once, that person may have multiple Person ID numbers in the system. This results in his or her case history being divided among several different records because the system classifies each Person ID as a different person.

The Person Relate and Person Merge functions combine each person’s identifying information and case history into one record. The records linked to each separate Person ID become a single record with a single Person ID number.

Automated Person Merge

IMPACT automatically merges persons if the system matches two or more of the following elements:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Gender
  • SAVERR or TIERS number

If IMPACT merges persons in an open case, the APS specialist receives an alert on his or her To Do List. The APS specialist reviews the alert to make sure the merge was correct.

There are some instances when IMPACT cannot do an automated Person Merge. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Some of the elements above match, but some elements are different.
  • Both persons are associated with the same event.
  • The age difference is greater than five years.

When IMPACT attempts an automated Person Merge but is not able to complete it, IMPACT generates an Automated Person Merge Exception Report, which lists the Person ID numbers that were in the attempted merge. Designated staff members process these reports to make sure these merges are correct and complete by researching the persons’ records and contacting field staff for further information to determine which Person ID numbers should be merged.

Manual Person Merge

Before the APS specialist can close a case, he or she completes a Person Search for each principal on the Person List. This is done from the Person Detail page.

If the Person Search reveals that the person has more than one Person ID number, the APS specialist completes a manual Person Merge from the Person Merge/Split Detail page.

The specialist must be diligent and make sure the Person ID numbers to be merged are the same person.

Exception for Persons with DFPS Employment

A manual Person Merge is not performed if it would merge a person’s employment-related Person ID number with a non-employment-related Person ID number. For example, if John Smith has a Person ID number because he is a DFPS employee or contractor (DFPS external staff) and another Person ID number because he was alleged to have abused his grandmother or his child, no merge is performed, and he retains the two separate Person ID numbers. In that situation, merging the two Person ID numbers would take away the option to view the perpetrator’s case history, including in open cases.

Person Relate

The APS specialist adds to the Person List any additional collaterals or principals discovered during the case.

The APS specialist completes a Person Search for every new person added to the list. If the search reveals that the person already has a Person ID number, the APS specialist clicks the Relate button. This process brings the existing Person ID into the case rather than creating a new Person ID. However, the APS specialist does not use the Relate function if the previously assigned Person ID number is connected to DFPS employment, as described under the subheading Exception for Persons with DFPS Employment, above.

Relating a person allows the APS specialist to review the person’s address, phone number, demographic information, and case history.

If the Person Search reveals more than one exact match, the specialist uses the Relate function for one of the exact matches. The specialist uses the Person Merge function to merge the remaining Person ID numbers.

Person Split

If two Person ID numbers are merged in error, the APS specialist completes a manual Person Split from the Person Merge/Split Detail page.

IMPACT does not have an automated Person Split feature.

15252 Merging Cases

APS September 2022

Every APS case record must contain all of the information that APS has received during the course of the case. Each APS case has a unique Case Identification (ID) number.

If there is an open APS case for a client, and DFPS receives a new report about the same client, the APS specialist merges the new Case ID number into the original Case ID number. See the subheading, When to Merge Cases, below.

Once the original case is closed, its case record is complete. A Case Search using the Case ID number for the Merge From (new) case gives a result that is the Case ID number for the Merge To (original) case because the new case has become part of the original case.

If DFPS receives a new report about the same client when the original case is already closed, a completely new case begins (without merging).

The APS specialist does not merge the cases if the new case is a duplicate referral.  See the subheading, Close Duplicate Reports Without Merging Cases, below in this section.

When to Merge Cases

The APS specialist merges cases when DFPS receives a new report with new allegations about a client in an open APS case. The APS specialist follows policy in 8320 New Intakes before merging the cases.

For the new case, the APS specialist completes a case initiation contact, initial face-to-face contact, and Safety Assessment. However, an initial face-to-face contact and full Safety Assessment are not required if the client is currently safe, and the specialist made face-to-face contact with the client no more than 30 days before the new report.

The APS specialist does not need to complete the Risk of Recidivism Assessment (RORA) for the original case before the merge. The RORA may be completed after the cases are merged.

Once a case is closed, no further merge action may be performed. A closed case must not be merged with an open case or with another closed case.

Close Duplicate Reports Without Merging Cases

The APS specialist closes the new intake using the rapid closure code Duplicate Referral/Already Investigated,if DFPS receives a second intake that is identical to an existing case. This applies regardless of the status of the original case; it can be open or closed.

The APS specialist refers to Duplicate Referral/Already Investigated in 13110 Rapid Closure Codes and Disposition of Other to determine whether the new intake is identical and can be closed using this rapid closure code.

See 8320 New Intakes.

Case Merge Checklist

Before merging cases, the APS specialist does as follows:

  • Makes sure it is appropriate to merge the two cases.
  • Completes a Person Search and Person Merge, for any person on the  Person List of both cases, to make sure the person only has one Person ID number.  However, the APS specialist does not do a Person Merge if one of the Person ID numbers is connected to DFPS employment, as described in 15251 Merging and Relating Persons, under the subheading Exception for Persons with DFPS Employment.
  • Makes sure the final risk level is the same in the Merge To case and the Merge From case, if the APS specialist has completed a Risk of Recidivism Assessment in both cases. See Discretionary Override in 8700 Risk of Recidivism Assessment (RORA).
  • Completes all open Service Authorizations in the Merge From case.
  • Makes sure the same client is listed in both cases.
  • Makes sure the Merge To case is the case with the earlier intake date (that is, the older case).

See 8700 Risk of Recidivism Assessment (RORA).

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