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1455 Releasing Information to Obtain Services for the Child

CPS July 2014

The most common reason for a worker to release confidential information about a child to external persons or entities is to obtain care or services for the child. See:

1455.1 Releasing Information to the Caregiver of a Child in Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

For a child in conservatorship, the worker may provide a caregiver any information the caregiver would reasonably need to protect and care for the child. Caregivers may include licensed facilities as well as relatives, fictive kin, or foster families with whom the child is placed.

This includes information from the admission assessment and the child’s service plan.

Texas Family Code §261.201(f-1)

Although a foster parent does not have a right to a complete copy of the case record of a child in his or her care, the following types of information are part of the assessment and service plan and must be shared with the caregiver:

  •  the child’s legal status;

  •  a description of the circumstances that led to the court granting conservatorship of the child to DFPS;

  •  a description of the child’s behavior, any high-risk behavior posing a risk to self or others, and any recommended behavior management plan;

  •  any history of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect of the child, or any history of trafficking;

  •  current medical and dental status of the child, including the available results of any medical and dental examinations;

  •  current mental health and substance abuse status and history of the child, including available results of any psychological or psychiatric examination;

  •  the child’s current developmental level of functioning and history;

  •  the child’s current educational level, school history, including the names of previous schools attended and the dates the schools were attended, grades earned, special achievements, and school problems, if any;

  •  the services DFPS plans to provide to the child;

  •  immediate goals of the child’s placement;

  •  the parent’s expectations for placement, duration of the placement, and family involvement;

  •  the child’s understanding of the placement;

  •  the child’s social history, including information about past and existing relationships with the child’s birth parents, siblings, extended family members, and other significant adults and children, and the quality of those relationships with the child;

  •  a description of the child’s home environment and family functioning;

  •  the child’s birth and neonatal history;

  •  the child’s history of any other placements outside the child’s home, including the admission and discharge dates and reasons for placement;

  •  the child’s criminal history, if applicable;

  •  the child’s skills and special interests; and

  •  recommendations for any further assessments and testing of the child.

40 TAC §§749.1115, 749.1255

For information regarding the use of Form 2279 Placement Summary, see 4133 Provide and Discuss the Placement Summary (Form 2279).

1455.2 Releasing Information During Family Meetings

CPS July 2014

If a family agrees to participate in a Family Team Meeting, a Family Group Conference, or similar gathering, candid discussion will require the sharing of information that would generally be considered confidential. The amount of information that can be shared in family meetings will vary depending on the stage of service and clinical judgment. The confidential information shared should always be the minimum necessary for the care and protection of the child or family.

See:

6251 Overview of Permanency Planning Meetingss

Appendix 1100-1: Roles and Responsibilities of Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM) Staff

1455.3 Releasing Information to Access Health Care or Social Services
1455.31 Releasing Information on a Child Not in DFPS Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

For a child not in DFPS conservatorship, whose case is in the Investigation or Family Preservation stage, the parent or legal conservator of the child generally must give consent to any release of information regarding the child or any family member for the purpose of accessing services for the child.

Parental consent is not required for purposes related to investigating a case of alleged child abuse or neglect.

1455.32 Releasing Information on a Child in Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

Workers may disclose information about a child in DFPS conservatorship, whose case is in the Conservatorship, PAL, or Adoption stages, to:

  •  ensure that a child’s needs for health care and social services are met; or

  •  provide information for eligibility determination or billing purposes.

This information may be provided to the child’s designated medical consenter, health care providers and applicable agencies.

For a child in DFPS conservatorship, the medical consenter may also consent to sharing relevant information about a child to enable a health care provider to treat or serve the child.

Examples of entities that may receive this information include:

  •  medical, behavioral health, dental, vision care, or pharmacy providers;

  •  child care providers and agencies that administer child care subsidies;

  •  nutrition and income support programs such as TANF, WIC, and SNAP, or the Social Security Administration; and

  •  other federal, state, or local agencies offering supportive services, such as local health departments, Head Start, the Texas Department of State Health Services, or programs for children with disabilities offered by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services or Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Workers always disclose the minimum amount of personal information about the child or family necessary to meet the requirements of the service provider or agency. The key determining factor is whether the individual or agency needs the information to protect, diagnose, care for, treat, supervise or educate the child.

1455.4 Releasing Information to Access Education Services
1455.41 Releasing Information on a Child Not in DFPS Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

For a child not in DFPS conservatorship, whose case is in the Investigation or Family Preservation stage, the parent or legal conservator of the child generally must give consent to any release of information, whether verbal or written, regarding the child or any family member for the purpose of accessing educational services for the child, except for purposes related to investigating a case of alleged child abuse or neglect.

1455.42 Releasing Information on a Child in Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

For a child in DFPS conservatorship, whose case is in the Conservatorship, PAL, or Adoption stages, the worker and the caregiver decide how much information a school needs to know about the child’s situation to best meet the child’s needs.

The caseworker never discloses the names of the perpetrators or the roles of the family members in the abuse and neglect history.

The key determining factor is whether the individual needs the information to protect, diagnose, care for, treat, supervise or educate the child.

At Enrollment

The school should be informed that the child is in DFPS conservatorship and should receive a completed Form 2085 Placement Authorization and a Form 2985-E Designation of Education Decision-Maker. These forms will inform the school of who may be contacted and for what purposes. The school may also request a copy of a court order naming DFPS as the conservator and the order should be provided upon request. The worker should redact or de-identify any information in the court order that it is not necessary for the school to see to secure enrollment.

After Enrollment

Once enrolled, the caseworker provides the school with general information regarding the reason the child is in care, as well as information regarding any behaviors that the child could manifest during the school day.

It may be necessary to disclose limited information regarding the circumstances and the details of the child’s abuse or neglect history in order to ensure that the schools have the most appropriate information to best serve the child, and to aid in creating a supportive environment for the child.

The worker always shares only as much information as is necessary to protect the child and meet his or her needs.

Special Education Services

In order to develop or carry out a child’s individualized education program, information regarding any aspect of a student’s special education needs, eligibility, services, or placement, may be shared with:

  •  appropriate school personnel;

  •  the foster parent or caregiver; or

  •  any person appointed as a surrogate parent by the school or the court to make special education decisions on behalf of a child in conservatorship.

1455.5 Releasing Information to Prospective Adoptive or Adoptive Parents

CPS July 2014

Prospective adoptive parents have a right to review a redacted copy of a child’s Health, Social, Educational and Genetic History report (HSEGH) and portions of the child’s case record before making a decision whether to adopt a child.

Texas Family Code §§162.005, 162.006, 261.201(d), (e), and (f)

For the procedures to follow to submit records to the Records Management Group (RMG) for redaction and for presentation to the prospective adoptive family, see:

6941.1 Sharing the HSEGH Report With the Prospective Adoptive Family

6954.34 Releasing the Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History (HSEGH) Report and ARS to Other Parties on Request

6954.33 Providing Additional Medical, Psychological, or Psychiatric Information to the Adoptive Family

6926 Preparing the Child’s Records for Presentation to Prospective Adoptive Parents

6939.2 Confidentiality

6939.3 Meeting to Discuss the Child

6938.2 Holding Separate Discussions about Adoptive Families to Protect Privacy

6941 Presenting Information About the

Child

Post-consummation, adoptive parents are entitled to a redacted copy of the HSEGH and the case file upon entry of a decree of adoption.

Texas Family Code §162.018

1455.6 Sharing Information with Juvenile Service Providers

CPS July 2014

Texas law requires that, for youth in DFPS conservatorship, DFPS must share a youth’s personal health information or history of governmental services with juvenile service providers if requested.

Juvenile service providers include, but are not limited to: 

  •  health and human services agencies, as defined by Texas Government Code §531.001, and the Health and Human Services Commission;

  •  juvenile probation departments;

  •  Texas Juvenile Justice Department;

  •  an independent school district;

  •  a juvenile justice alternative education program;

  •  a charter school;

  •  a local mental health or mental retardation authority;

  •  a court with jurisdiction over juveniles; and

  •  a district or county attorney’s office.

Texas Family Code §58.0051

The information is to be released upon the request of the juvenile service provider only for the purpose of coordinating and monitoring the youth’s care or improving the quality of services for the youth. The information required to be released, if allowed by federal law, are the youth’s:

  •  identity;

  •  medical records;

  •  assessment results;

  •  special needs;

  •  program placements; and

  •  psychological diagnoses.

Texas Family Code §58.0052

Other information can also be shared if the release is necessary for the care and protection of the youth. See 1451 Sharing Confidential Information.

Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records can only be released if the child has specially consented. See 1457.4 Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records Pertaining to a Child.

1455.7 Sharing Information with Local Juvenile Probation Departments

CPS July 2014

In addition to the information that can be shared with a juvenile service provider, some juvenile probation departments may have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DFPS signed by

  •  DFPS state office staff and the local juvenile probation department that allows the sharing of certain information regarding both current and past DFPS clients; and

  •  DFPS regional staff and the local juvenile probation department that allows the provision of state office approved information using certain procedures and possibly including co-located staff.

See also section 6820 CPS Youth and Juvenile Justice and its subsections for additional matters relating to juvenile justice issues. Questions can be directed to the regional juvenile justice liaisons.

1456 Releasing or Using Children’s Photographs or Images

1456.1 DFPS and the Child’s Consent Required

CPS July 2014

A photo or image of a child or youth in DFPS conservatorship may be released or otherwise used only if all of the following conditions are met:

  •  DFPS, as the managing conservator, gives written permission.

  •  The child, if old enough and developmentally able to read and write, gives written permission.

  •  Release or use of the photo is in the best interest of the child or youth. That is, its use poses no threat to the child’s health or safety, and the use is not for any commercial use, publicity, pecuniary benefit, or similar gain for another party.

  •  No reference is made to the fact the child or youth is in the conservatorship of DFPS, and the use does not stigmatize the child in any way.

1456.11 Exception When Only the Child’s Consent Is Required

CPS July 2014

Uses not requiring DFPS consent but requiring verbal or written consent from a child or youth in DFPS conservatorship are as follows:

  •  The child or youth, or the caregiver with the child’s or youth’s consent, may release or otherwise distribute a photo that includes the child to the child’s friends or to the caregiver’s friends or family, such as a school picture traded with peers or a family photo sent in a holiday card.

  •  The child or youth, or the caregiver with the child’s or youth’s consent, may release or provide a photograph of him or herself to the child’s or youth’s biological family.

  •  The child or youth, or the caregiver with the child’s or youth’s consent, may release or allow a photograph that includes the child or youth to be used if the use meets the following criteria:

  •  Release or use of the photo is in the best interest of the child or youth. That is, its use poses no threat to the child’s health or safety, and the use is not for any commercial use, publicity, pecuniary benefit, or similar gain for another party;

  •  No reference is made to the fact the child or youth is in the conservatorship of DFPS, and the use does not stigmatize the child in any way; and

  •  The photograph is used as a normal part of a school or extracurricular activity. 

     Examples include photos published in the school yearbook or a church newsletter, photos of Honor Roll students published in the local newspaper, a group photo of a scout troop distributed to all the troop members and posted on a community youth center bulletin board, photos of the basketball team posted in a school showcase, or other similar publication.

  •  The child or youth, or the individual designated to make education decisions for the child with the child or youth’s consent, may release or otherwise distribute a photo that includes the child for uses that are solely school-related.

1456.12 Exception When the Child’s Consent Is Not Required

CPS July 2014

Uses not requiring child, youth, or caregiver consent are as follows:

  •  DFPS may release or provide a photograph or image of a child or youth in DFPS conservatorship to law enforcement officials, the county or district attorney, or the court, in order to protect the child from abuse, neglect, or other harm.

  •  If parental rights have been terminated and DFPS is named as the permanent managing conservator, the child’s or youth’s photograph may be used by DFPS without restriction for purposes of seeking an adoptive home for the child or youth.

1457 Special Types of Information or Situations

1457.1 Release of Information on a Child Fatality Investigation

CPS July 2014

Federal and state law includes specific information and instructions for DFPS regarding releasing to the public certain summary information about a child fatality. Designated staff in each region are required to respond to the request according to the requirements of statute and rule.

Texas Family Code §261.203

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §§700.209; 702.301 – 702.317

See also 2330 Child Fatality.

1457.2 Abortion Information
1457.21 Releasing Abortion Information on a Child Not in DFPS Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

During the Investigation or Family Preservation stages of a case, information about a minor who is seeking or has had an abortion is confidential, which includes withholding abortion information from her parents. See  2341 Exceptions to Confidentiality of Abortion-Related Information for the only exceptions to this policy.

1457.22 Releasing Abortion Information on a Child in Conservatorship

CPS July 2014

When DFPS has information indicating that a girl in conservatorship is pregnant and wants an abortion, the worker follows the detailed instructions in 11742 Informing Parents and Caregivers About Pregnancy and Abortion-Related Information regarding what information can be released to parents, foster parents, or other individuals.

1457.3 HIV Information

CPS July 2014

The HIV status of an individual is assumed to be confidential information that may not be released unless it is specifically allowed by law.

Chapter 81, Health and Safety Code, restricts the release of reports, records, and information relating to an individual’s HIV status to specific entities for specific purposes. Because of DFPS’s responsibility to share information as necessary to ensure that the needs of a child in DFPS conservatorship are met, a worker may share HIV information in the following circumstances:

  •  A person seeking to adopt a child is entitled to information regarding HIV tests for the child he or she is seeking to adopt.

  •  A prospective or current foster parent of a child is entitled to information regarding HIV tests for the child that will be fostered.

  •  HIV information can be released when ordered by a court having jurisdiction of a proceeding involving the child or involving a person suspected of abusing the child.

  •  HIV information may be released to health care professionals and to contracted service agencies and volunteers when necessary to provide for their protection and to provide for the patient’s health and welfare.

  •  HIV information may be released if the individual (or the individual’s parent or legal conservator if the individual is a minor) consents to the specific release by signing an Authorization to Disclose Protected Health Information form.

  •  CPS may release test results to the Texas Department of State Health Services if there is a potential health risk to the public or if DSHS is conducting an investigation.

  •  An individual’s HIV status must not appear in a removal affidavit.

1457.4 Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records Pertaining to a Child

CPS July 2014

DFPS may only release a child’s drug or alcohol treatment records if the child has specifically consented to that disclosure. Before disclosing a child’s drug or alcohol treatment records, the worker must verify that the child has signed Form 2060 Consent for Release of Confidential Alcohol or Drug Information and has specifically authorized the disclosure. The child must be given a copy of the consent form and the original retained in the child’s case file.

DFPS does not need the child’s consent to release information about DFPS’s own assessment of the child, including whether the child is believed to have a substance abuse problem or a need for treatment.

The law requires that the persons to whom this information is disclosed be informed that the information and records are confidential and may not be further disclosed.

1457.5 Privileged Communications

CPS July 2014

Communications between a DFPS worker and a client are not considered privileged. The worker should be aware that even though CPS case records are considered “confidential” under law, the client and other individuals may be able to see or obtain part or all of the case record.

1457.6 Disability Rights Texas

CPS July 2014

Federal law allows DFPS to release confidential records to Disability Rights Texas (DRT) (formerly Advocacy, Inc) when DRT is representing an individual or investigating concerns related to:

  •  the status or treatment of a DFPS client; or

  •  the possible abuse or neglect of a DFPS client.

The agency’s authority extends to DFPS clients, including APS, CCL or CPS, who have certain kinds of disabilities or who are living in certain kinds of facilities. DRT will specify in their request under what legal authority they are assisting the individual.

Based on a Memorandum of Understanding between DFPS and DRT, requests for records from DRT are directed to the DFPS regional attorney listed for the region in which the case originated.

A worker directs requests from DRT to the request form that can be accessed at How to Request a Confidential DFPS Record if You Are With Disability Rights Texas (formerly Advocacy, Inc.).

1457.7 Releasing Information to Military Personnel

CPS July 2014

The worker may release information about a case to military personnel in the following situations:

  •  A protective services complaint is received and an investigation is made on a military base.

  •  A national registry is used on the military base according to applicable federal regulations.

  •  The worker or military personnel are providing remedial services to a family in the military.

The worker must not release the information until the worker receives an official letter stating the specific information requested, the use for the information, and the parties to whom the information will be released.

1457.8 Media Inquiries or Requests from Legislative Offices

CPS July 2014

All requests for information from the media must be immediately directed to the regional DFPS Media Specialist.

Requests for information from legislative offices are directed to the Office for Consumer and External Affairs at state office.

1458 Subpoenas

CPS July 2014

Subpoenas are a common tool used in litigation, and it is not uncommon for a worker to be served with a subpoena sometime during DFPS employment. In order to ensure that subpoenas are handled properly, consistently, and as efficiently as possible, workers must follow the procedures outlined in the DFPS Subpoena Policy after receiving a subpoena.

1459 Public Information (Open Records)

CPS July 2014

Under Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code, information and records held by a governmental agency are generally presumed to be open and available to the public unless the law provides an exception or makes the information confidential. Agencies must promptly release requested information if no exception applies or request a ruling from the Office of the Attorney General.

Agency case records of children and adults who are or have been clients of DFPS are confidential and only releasable to certain parties. Depending on the relationship to a case, a requestor may or may not be entitled to confidential case information.

Most requests for case records must be made through the Records Management Group (RMG), or through the DFPS Office of Public Information, depending on who is making the request and what kind of information they are requesting.

Requests for information the agency holds that is other than case information may be a request made under the Texas Public Information Act, often referred to as “Open Records.” Examples of common open records requests made to DFPS include requests for personnel records, statistical information, fiscal information, contract proposals, facility applications, and policy and procedure memos.

The Texas Public Information Act does not require a governmental body to create new information, to do legal research, or to answer questions. The request must ask for records or information already in existence.

If you are asked about an “open records” request or receive a request you believe to be one, tell the individual to make their request via DFPS Open Records Policy or contact the DFPS Open Government Attorney at (512) 438-5467.

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