The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) supports well-founded research regarding children and families involved in the child welfare system. However, the agency by law must protect the confidentiality of the children and families it serves and ensure their safety and well-being. DFPS will generally only release information or data that does not identify people, unless there is a compelling need for identified information or data. The Child Protective Services (CPS) Program Analytics and Evaluation Team (Analytics) evaluates requests on a case-by-case basis.
The guidelines below pertain to external research requests for information that is not publically available through reports on the agency's website. All other requests should follow the DFPS Open Records Policy.
External research requests must be submitted to the Research Evaluation mailbox using Form 2704 (Request for approval to conduct research). You can also informally request feedback on your request through the Research Evaluation mailbox before filling out Form 2704.
After receiving a Form 2704, DFPS will evaluate it and let you know if your request has been approved or denied. If the request is approved, DFPS will send you information and documents needed to move forward with the process.
Note: Once a request is approved, DFPS will work with the requester to draft and execute a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and to provide the relevant information. The entire process may take up to 90 days or longer, depending on the volume of requests and/or the complexity of the request.
General Guidelines for Research Requests
DFPS generally consents to methodologically sound research addressing an important issue regarding child abuse or neglect of children and families involved in the child welfare system, if it meets the following criteria:
- The request is not unduly intrusive to and does not unduly compromise the confidentiality of children and families currently or formerly involved in the Child Protective Services (CPS) system. DFPS generally does not consent to requests requiring personal participation of children and families in the CPS system, the release of medical, school or CPS records, or the identification of children and families formerly involved in the CPS system.
- The request does not unduly compromise the confidentiality or privacy rights of DFPS staff.
- The request is not unduly burdensome on DFPS staff or resources.
DFPS generally only releases information or data in a de-identified form, unless there is a compelling need for identifying information.
Once DFPS has approved the research project, you may be required to obtain consent from certain individuals who will be involved in or impacted by the study. You may also have to comply with any consent protocols required by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), if applicable. DFPS will decide for each research study on a case-by-case basis which individuals will need to provide consent before participating.
Generally, the following guidelines will apply:
- Caseworker consent - The Caseworker is a CPS staff person who has been assigned by DFPS to provide casework services to the child. In most cases, the consent of a child’s caseworker will be required for a child in DFPS conservatorship to participate in a study. If the child was participating in a study before the child entered DFPS managing conservatorship, consent from the DFPS caseworker (in addition to approval of the department) will be required for the child to continue in the study once the child is in conservatorship.
- Note: DFPS approves the study but individual caseworkers sign the guardian consent form for the child on their caseload. The caseworker is not giving approval of the study – the Commissioner does that – they are providing consent on behalf of the agency for the individual child.
- Child - If appropriate, the approval of the child may be required.
- Caregiver - The caregiver is a relative, foster parent, or facility staff responsible for the day-to-day care of the child. If the research study will require the participation of the child’s caregiver, the consent of the caregiver will be necessary.
- Medical Consenter - The medical consenter is the caregiver, caseworker, or other individual who is designated by DFPS and/or authorized by a court to oversee and consent to the medical care of the child. In rare instances, a child over the age of 16 may be authorized as his or her own medical consenter. If participation of the child will involve the child’s current medical care, the consent of the medical consenter may be required.
- Legal/biological parent - In some cases, DFPS may require the researcher to get the consent of the child’s biological or legal parent for a child in DFPS conservatorship, if the agency deems it appropriate. If a child is no longer in DFPS conservatorship, consent to continue to participate in an approved research study must be obtained from the child’s biological or legal parent.
Exception - when DFPS approval or consent is not required
DFPS approval or consent is not required for Institutional Review Board-approved research involving de-identified retrospective data of children currently or formerly in conservatorship if the de-identified data is obtained from health system or hospital records and consent would not be required for children not currently or formerly involved in DFPS conservatorship or services. Research entities shall follow the consent procedures, if any, of their institution, funding source, and/or IRB.