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16000 Confidentiality and Integrity of Records

16100 Disclosure and Release of Case Information

APS February 2021

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

16111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record

16121 Case Information to the Reporter and Collaterals

16122 Case Information to Others to Help Clients Get Services

16110 Release of the Case Record

APS February 2021

APS refers all individuals and entities requesting case records, including those listed in 16111 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-G Request for Case Records to the requester and email the completed form to RMG for processing.

See 16111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys.

16111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record

APS February 2021

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 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.

16111.1 Release of Case Records to Reporters, Alleged Perpetrators, Collaterals, and Attorneys Ad Litem

APS February 2021

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:

16111.2 Release of Case Records to HHSC Provider Investigations

16111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

16120 Disclosure of Case Information

16121 Case Information to the Reporter and Collaterals

16111.2 Release of Case Records to HHSC Provider Investigations

APS February 2021

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 16127 Release of Case Information to Entities Responsible for Protecting Clients.

See also 4231.1 Allegations in Settings Investigated by HHSC Provider Investigations.

16111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

APS February 2021

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

Law enforcement officials include Office of 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 Redaction of HIV or AIDS Status, below.)

See also 16111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record.

Closed Investigations

If a law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney requests a copy of the case record for a closed investigation, 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 Investigations

If a law enforcement official or prosecuting attorney requests a copy of the case record for an open investigation, 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 investigation, the APS specialist consults with the regional attorney.

Redaction of HIV or AIDS Status

The APS supervisor or designee is required to redact the client’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

16125.2 Disclosure of HIV or AIDS Information

16120 Disclosure of Case Information

APS February 2021

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 16110 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 the 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.

16121 Case Information to the Reporter and Collaterals

APS February 2021

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:

16111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record

16122 Case Information to Others to Help Clients Get Services

16122 Case Information to Others to Help Clients Get Services

APS February 2021

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 external case file.

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 the supervisor for approval to share the documents.

See:

15300 Employee Misconduct Registry (EMR)

15200 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases

16111.3 Release of Case Records to Law Enforcement Agencies and Prosecuting Attorneys

16124 Case Information in Connection With a Court Action

16124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship

16123 Case Information to Prospective Guardians

APS February 2021

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 guardians become the client’s guardians and submit Form 4885-G 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 16111 Individuals and Entities Entitled to the Case Record.

16124 Case Information in Connection With a Court Action

APS February 2021

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.

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.

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 also 7222 Attendance at Guardianship Hearings.

16124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship

APS February 2021

The APS specialist notifies the probate court about any investigation involving an alleged victim 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 upon conclusion of the investigation, 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 upon conclusion of the investigation, regardless of the findings. This form is generated in IMPACT as a Contact/Summary Type on the Contact Detail page.

Guardian or Proposed Guardian Is Discovered After APS Investigation

If the APS specialist determines, at the end of the investigation or during the service delivery stage (Maintenance or Intensive Case Services), 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 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 also 7100 Investigations Involving a Ward.

16124.2 Court Notification About HHSC OGS Guardianship

APS February 2021

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 APS receives an intake report about an alleged victim who is a ward of HHSC OGS and the intake is received after the case in which HHSC OGS became guardian is closed.

The specialist follows the directions in 16124.1 Court Notification About an Investigation Involving Guardianship, under the subheading Guardianship Is Already in Place.

16124.3 Court Notification When the Alleged Perpetrator Has a Guardian

APS February 2021

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.

16124.4 Court Notification of Alleged Financial Exploitation by a Guardian of the Estate

APS February 2021

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 allegations of financial exploitation by a guardian of the estate, the APS specialist notifies the court that has jurisdiction, as explained in 16124.1 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 §48.002 Human Resources Code. 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.

See 7130 Financial Exploitation Allegations Against a Guardian of the Estate.

16124.5 Court Notification About Cases Involving a Desk Review

APS February 2021

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 15100 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

15100 Desk Review

16210 Content of Case Records

16125 Disclosure of Protected Case Information

16125.1 Disclosure of Reporter Information

APS February 2021

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

16125.2 Disclosure of HIV or AIDS Information

APS February 2021

Information about whether a client is HIV-positive or has AIDS is highly confidential under both federal and state law, including the federal HIPAA Privacy Rule. Only the client or the client’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 client or legal guardian may inform the service provider or other entity.

When to Reveal Status

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

  • The client 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 client. These professionals are entitled to know the client’s HIV or AIDS status when providing care, even if the client or the legal guardian does not give permission.

When to Keep Status Confidential

The APS specialist is not allowed to inform the following people without the client’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 client’s HIV or AIDS status is redacted when providing case records to entities outside of DFPS, including law enforcement.

16125.3 Disclosure of Criminal History Information

APS February 2021

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 alleged victim) 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 an alleged victim 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 alleged victim or the other adult.

DFPS may not disclose criminal history information received from law enforcement to anyone, unless any of the following apply:

  • 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 16125.3 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 16100 Disclosure and Release of Case Information and its subitems.

See also 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

16125.3 Disclosure of Criminal History Information

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

16126 Case Information to HHSC on AFC Provider Applicants or HCSSA Staff

APS February 2021

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 15200 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases.

See also 8500 Allegations Involving Paid Caretakers.

16126.1 Release of Information on Applicants to Become AFC Providers

APS February 2021

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:

  1. The applicant signs and submits HHSC Form 2357 DFPS Records Check.
  2. The DFPS Background Checks program receives Form 2357 from the HHSC employee who is requesting the records check.
  3. 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:

  • 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 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 15200 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases.

The Background Checks staff member sends Form 2357 to the DFPS 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 Form 2357, 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 or CPI case records.

If There Is a Possible Match

The Background Checks staff member sends Form 2357 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 also:

4100 Allegations Involving HHSC Health Care Facilities

15240 Release Hearings for Non-EMR Cases

15220 Notification of Intent to Release Findings in Non-EMR Cases

16127 Release of Case Information to Entities Responsible for Protecting Clients

APS February 2021

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 15000 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 findings 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

15210 Emergency Release of Findings in Non-EMR Cases

16111.2 Release of Case Records to HHSC Provider Investigations

16127.1 Release of Information to State Supported Living Centers (SSLC)

APS February 2021

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

When the finding is Valid, DFPS offers the designated perpetrator due process at the end of the investigation. An emergency release of findings is required because the designated perpetrator will still have access to the client and other vulnerable adults and children who live at the SSLC. The APS specialist does the following:

The district director or designee and APS specialist follow policy in 15200 Due Process for Non-EMR (Employee Misconduct Registry) Cases for conducting an administrative review and offering the designated perpetrator a release hearing, if requested.

16200 Management of Case Records

APS February 2021

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 §705.7105

16210 Content of Case Records

APS February 2021

A complete case record consists of the following:

  • Electronic case file (case information in the IMPACT case management system).
  • External case file, which includes all documentation that cannot be stored in IMPACT. See External Case File (External Documentation), below, 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.

Some electronic documents (including emails and email attachments) are not captured in IMPACT, and therefore, they are not automatically included in the electronic case file. APS staff members must describe these documents appropriately in IMPACT.

See 6310 Photos, Audio, and Video as Evidence.

External Case File (External Documentation)

All case information that cannot be entered or uploaded into IMPACT is filed separately. This information is called external documentation.

APS does not maintain an external case file for a case that has no external documentation. APS does not print IMPACT records and file them in the external 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.
  • Audio tapes, videotapes, and digital recordings.
  • Recordings of forensic interviews from Children’s Advocacy Centers (CACs).

APS documents all external case information that cannot be entered or uploaded into IMPACT, including case specific emails and printed DFPS forms, on the External Documentation page and keeps the information in an external 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 on the External Documentation page and places them in the external 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 external case file.

See:

6400 Documentary Evidence

13140 Required Documentation of Legal Actions

16220 Maintenance of External Case Files

APS February 2021

The APS specialist does not keep separate case records, notes, or documentation from closed cases in offices or vehicles. APS stores all external documentation 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 physical case files to the Records Management Group (RMG) through the Records and Imaging Office (RIO) within 30 calendar days after case closure. The electronic case file stays in IMPACT until its destruction date, and it states where to find the external documentation.

See:

State of Texas Records Retention Schedule for DFPS

16231 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 of 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 external case file or in the APS specialist’s office.

External Documentation Page

The APS specialist maintains an external case file if there are documents that are essential to the case and cannot be stored in IMPACT.

The APS specialist lists all external documentation, except legal forms (see Legal Forms in 16210 Content of Case Records) on the External Documentation page. This is the only way other people viewing the case, such as supervisors, coworkers, and case readers, will know external documentation exists.

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.

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.

16230 Records Retention and Destruction

APS February 2021

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 16231 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:

16251 Merging and Relating Persons

16252 Merging Cases

16231 Destruction of Case Records

16231 Destruction of Case Records

APS February 2021

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 and the final disposition of the allegations in the case, 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 record retention to prepare, ship, and store records.

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

16240 Person Information

APS February 2021

The alleged victim and alleged perpetrator are the only people who are principals in an APS investigation. Other people who are part of the investigation 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 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 interviewee’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 alleged victim only if the APS specialist knows the alleged victim’s status. However, the APS specialist must mark a citizenship status if APS is referring the alleged victim 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 interviewee that protective services do not depend on the interviewee 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

15320 Required Information for EMR-Eligible Investigations

Manual Person Merge in 16251 Merging and Relating Persons

16250 Merging Persons and Cases

16251 Merging and Relating Persons

APS February 2021

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 pertinent 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 is not able to complete an automated Person Merge, it 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 ensure these merges are correct and complete. The designated staff members research the persons’ records and contact field staff for further information to determine which Person ID numbers should be merged.

Manual Person Merge

Before the APS specialist can progress or close an investigation, 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.

Person Relate

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

The APS specialist completes a Person Search for every new person added to the list. If the search reveals that the person already had 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.

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.

16252 Merging Cases

APS February 2021

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 specialist merges the new case number into the original Case ID number. However, the specialist does not merge the cases if the new case is a duplicate referral, as outlined in Close Duplicate Reports Without Merging Cases, below.

Once the original case is closed, the case record is complete. A Case Search using the Case ID number for the Merge From (new) case links to the Case ID number for the Merge To (original) case and becomes one record. The process starts over with a new Case ID number if DFPS receives a new case.

When to Merge Cases

The APS specialist merges cases when DFPS receives a new report about a client in an open APS case. Only open cases are merged. The specialist merges cases as soon as he or she completes all necessary tasks and the cases are in the same stage. This allows the specialist to document in only one case. However, the specialist does not merge the cases if the new case is a duplicate referral, as outlined in Close Duplicate Reports Without Merging Cases, below.

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.

Merge Only Open Cases in the Same Stage

The APS specialist merges open cases when both cases are in the same stage (for example, when both cases are in the Investigation stage, or when both cases are in the same service delivery stage, such as the Maintenance stage).

The APS specialist merges the newer case into the older case.

If the cases to be merged are in the Investigation stage, the APS specialist completes an initial Safety Assessment, including the Case Initiation section, in the older case because it will remain open after the case merge.

When the original case is in a service delivery stage (Maintenance or Intensive Case Services) and DFPS receives a new intake report with new allegations or new incidents involving an alleged perpetrator, the APS specialist does the following:

  1. Completes the investigation for the new case.
  2. Completes a new Risk of Recidivism Assessment, if the new case has a finding of Valid.
  3. Progresses the new case to a service delivery stage (Maintenance or Intensive Case Services), if appropriate.
  4. Merges the cases, if they are in the same stage.

The APS specialist closes the cases separately, without merging, if the new investigation will not progress to a service delivery stage. The APS specialist informs the client of case closure when the last of the two separate cases is closed.

See:

11300 New Allegations During a Service Delivery Stage

11400 New Intakes During a Service Delivery Stage

14200 Service Stage Closure

Duplicate Referral/Already Investigated in 14111 Rapid Closure Codes and Disposition of Other

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, and it can be in any stage.

The APS specialist refers to Duplicate Referral/Already Investigated in 14111 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 also 8320 New Intakes During the Investigation.

Case Merge Checklist

Before merging cases, the APS specialist does the following:

  • Makes sure it is appropriate to merge the two cases.
  • Completes a Person Search and Person Merge for any person who is on both Person Lists, to make sure each person has only one Person ID. Any person listed on both Person Lists with different Person ID numbers will appear twice on the new merged Person List because IMPACT classifies each Person ID as a separate person.
  • 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 investigations.
  • Completes all open Service Authorizations in the Merge From case.
  • Makes sure the same alleged victim or client is listed in both cases.
  • Makes sure the Merge To case and the Merge From case are open and in the same stage. Both cases must be in the Investigation stage, or both cases must be in the same service delivery stage (Maintenance or Intensive Case Services).
  • Makes sure the Merge To case is the case with the earlier intake date (that is, the older case).

See also 8700 Risk of Recidivism Assessment (RORA).

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