Previous Page Next Page

1450 Confidentiality of Information

CPS October 2020

Information about a CPI or CPS case or client is confidential and may not be released except as authorized by federal and state law, regulations and rules, court orders, or opinions of the attorney general.

Confidentiality of child abuse and neglect records and information (including records and information related to reports, investigations, legal actions, and the provision of services to children and families) is governed by a combination of federal and state laws and regulations.

The primary controlling federal laws include:

Texas has incorporated these two federal laws into state law and rules as follows:

These laws provide the statutory basis for the DFPS policies about confidentiality and the sharing of child welfare information in the following sections.

1451 Sharing Confidential Information

CPS October 2020

A caseworker may be asked to share information with non-DFPS individuals or entities to protect or serve a child or family who is or was the subject of an abuse or neglect investigation or who received services from DFPS.

The law allows a caseworker to share case information with non-DFPS individuals or entities who are responsible for the child’s protection, diagnosis, care, treatment, supervision, or education, when necessary to meet the child’s needs.

Texas Family Code §261.201(a)

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.203(a)(12)

What information can be shared in a particular situation depends on the following factors:

  • Type of information that is requested or needs to be shared.
  • Person who is requesting the information or who needs the information.
  • Purpose for which the person needs the information.
  • Stage of service the case is in.

1452 Requests for Case Records

CPS October 2020

The DFPS Records Management Group (RMG) is responsible for fulfilling requests for case records that DFPS receives from outside people or entities when the release is authorized by law and rule. RMG also processes requests for case records from DFPS staff members, performing the appropriate redaction and returning the records to the staff member for release and handling.

In most cases, DFPS may not release a CPI case record until the investigation is closed.

If a caseworker receives a request for a copy of all or part of a child or family’s case record from a person outside DFPS, the caseworker generally refers the person to the Requesting a Copy of a Case Record webpage.

See:

1421 The Case Record

1422 Parts of the Case Record

1453 Releasing Information for the Safety or Protection of a Child or Family, or for Legal Processes

1453.1 Sharing Information During the Course of an Investigation

CPS June 2020

A caseworker may share information regarding a child or family during the course of an investigation, but only if it is necessary in order to conduct the investigation or protect the safety of the child.

The caseworker must obtain the supervisor’s approval before sharing such information.

Specific types of information that may be shared with appropriate persons or entities include:

  • Identifying information (name, description, possible whereabouts of the child or a family) used to locate the family being investigated. This includes identifying information about an alleged victim or perpetrator.
  • The fact that an investigation is being conducted.
  • Locating information for the child, family, alleged victim, or perpetrator being investigated, such as names, descriptions, or possible whereabouts.
  • Enough information regarding the alleged abuse or neglect to solicit meaningful responses from alleged victims, alleged perpetrators, other principals in the investigation, witnesses, and collateral sources for the following purposes:
    • Completing the safety and risk assessments.
    • Concluding whether abuse or neglect has occurred (or to close an investigation administratively or as Unable to Complete).
    • Determining whether services are needed during or after an investigation.

The caseworker must not share any information that may jeopardize a criminal prosecution of the case or the identity of the reporter.

The caseworker must not share any information that may identify any biological sibling’s adoptive family or adoptive name.

For additional guidance on sharing information during the course of an investigation, see:

1453.2 Releasing Information to Locate Missing Parents or Children

1453.3 General Prohibition against the Release of Criminal History Records Information

1453.4 Releasing Information to Law Enforcement Agencies, Out-of-State Child Protective Services Agencies, and County, District, or Prosecuting Attorneys

1453.7 Protecting Locating Information of Victims of Family Violence, Sexual Assault or Abuse, Trafficking, or Stalking

1453.2 Releasing Information to Locate Missing Parents or Children

CPS June 2020

When trying to locate a missing parent or child during an investigation or for other reasons related to a case the caseworker may release identifying information about the parent, primary caregiver, or child to individuals who may have information regarding that person. This information may include the person’s:

  • Name.
  • Age.
  • Ethnic group.
  • Physical description.
  • Social Security Number.
  • Former address and dates of residence.
  • Former employer and dates of employment.

The caseworker must not release information that is not needed to locate the parent, caregiver, family, or child.

1453.3 General Prohibition against the Release of Criminal History Records Information

CPS June 2020

State and federal law and policy prohibit DFPS from disclosing criminal history records information received from any federal, state or local law enforcement agency. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Local police reports.
  • Records received from DPS checks.
  • National Crime Information Center (NCIC) information obtained from FBI name-based or fingerprint checks.

Some exceptions are allowed, as described in:

1453.31 Exception Allowing Release of Information for Court and Administrative Hearings

1454.32 Exception Allowing Release of Information for Child Safety or to Carry Out Certain DFPS Functions

1453.33 Releasing Information for the Child’s Safety

1453.34 Criminal History Information Policy

1453.35 Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS)

1453.31 Exception Allowing Release of Information for Court and Administrative Hearings

CPS June 2020

Criminal history records information may need to be released if:

  • The court orders the release.
  • An administrative hearing is being held that concerns the person who is the subject of the criminal history information.

Texas Government Code §411.114(a)(6)

1453.32 Exception Allowing Release of Information for Child Safety or to Carry Out Certain DFPS Functions

CPS June 2020

A caseworker may need to disclose information obtained from a criminal records search to protect the safety of a child when an investigation is taking place, or when an interstate, kinship, or foster placement is being considered.

Parental Child Safety Placement Agreement

A caseworker may provide information to the caregiver being considered for a Parental Child Safety Placement (PCSP) when the PCSP will not be made, or when the PCSP will be made but a caregiver or household member has a criminal history.

Employee of Services Provider

A worker may provide criminal history about a proposed or current employee or volunteer to a Supervised Independent Living (SIL) or Supervised Visitation provider that contracts with DFPS to provide services to young adults receiving extended foster care services. This can include information on a person 14 years of age or older who will be working or staying in a SIL host home providing services.

Home Studies

A worker may provide criminal history about a proposed foster or adoptive family to a business or organization that contracts with DFPS to conduct home screenings or home studies for DFPS for purposes of foster or adoptive home development, including kinship assessments for prospective kinship placements.

Information provided for use in a home study should be shared in its entirety, or may be summarized. Information should be shared electronically if possible. If electronic transmission is not possible, it may be printed and submitted to the contractor. Printed criminal history information must be stored or destroyed according to Records Management Group Handbook, 2540 Handling Criminal History Record Information.

1453.33 Releasing Information for the Child’s Safety

CPS June 2020

The caseworker may disclose otherwise confidential information to the parent or caregiver of a child who is an alleged victim of abuse or neglect in any of the following situations:

  • The alleged perpetrator is also in the home.
  • The alleged perpetrator is the subject of the criminal history information.
  • The caseworker and supervisor determine that the release of information to the parent or caregiver is necessary to ensure the safety or welfare of the child or the adult.

The caseworker should reveal as little information as possible about the household member’s criminal history, sharing only what is necessary to protect the child or adult’s health and safety.

1453.34 Criminal History Information Policy

CPS June 2020

For information on how criminal history record information may be released, such as when the information can be printed and when it can only be conveyed verbally, when it may be stored and when it must be destroyed, and other related information, see Records Management Group Handbook, 2540 Handling Criminal History Record Information.

1453.35 Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS)

CPS June 2020

For information specific to criminal history record information obtained through the Texas Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (TLETS), see the TLETS Handbook.

1453.4 Releasing Information to Law Enforcement Agencies, Out-of-State Child Protective Services Agencies, and County, District, or Prosecuting Attorneys
1453.41 Sharing Information during an Open Investigation

CPS June 2020

When investigating reports of child abuse or neglect the caseworker may verbally share case narrative or other information contained in IMPACT on an open investigation with the following:

  • Local, state, or federal law enforcement and government officials.
  • A law enforcement or child protective services agency in another state.
  • Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) and the Forensic Assessment Network Center (FACN).

Before sharing any such information, if the caseworker and supervisor are unsure whether the requester is a person described above, the caseworker must call the main phone line of the requester’s office to confirm that the requester works there. The caseworker verifies in what capacity the requester is involved in DFPS’s case. 

Requests from Attorneys Representing DFPS

If the county or district attorney is representing DFPS in a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, the caseworker must provide the attorney all information requested in order for the attorney to represent DFPS. Before providing the documentation, the caseworker must clearly mark it as Confidential Draft, Subject to Change with a watermark or coversheet.

Requests about Another Caseworker’s Case

If the request is about another caseworker’s case, the caseworker must refer the requester to the caseworker or supervisor assigned to the case.

Requests from Law Enforcement about an Open Investigation

If law enforcement needs records during an open investigation, law enforcement must request the information as follows:

Information Contained in IMPACT

To obtain written case narratives or other information contained in IMPACT, law enforcement completes the Law Enforcement Request for Case Record Information form and submits it to DFPS’s Records Management Group (RMG).

The caseworker may only release case information contained in IMPACT if law enforcement has an immediate need for the written information contained in IMPACT and the supervisor has reviewed the written information and approve the release.

Before releasing the written information to law enforcement, the caseworker must clearly mark the document as Confidential Draft, Subject to Change with a watermark or coversheet.

External Documentation

External documentation can include any copies of the record that are final and not subject to change, such as photographs, court orders, or audio and video recordings.

The caseworker or supervisor provide copies of external documents to law enforcement.

Note: Law enforcement is entitled to an unredacted copy of the investigation report.

1453.42 Sharing Information after the Investigation is Closed

CPS June 2020

The caseworker refers a request for information to the Records Management Group (RMG) if the record is:

  • From a closed investigation.
  • Alternative Response, whether the case stage is open or closed.
  • Family-Based Safety Services, whether the case stage is open or closed.
  • Conservatorship, whether the case stage is open or closed.

The caseworker may verbally discuss closed cases with agencies whose identities are confirmed as described in 1453.32 Exception Allowing Release of Information for Child Safety or to Carry Out Certain DFPS Functions.

1453.43 Sharing Information with Law Enforcement about Criminal Activity at Any Case Stage

CPS June 2020

A caseworker may become aware of, or law enforcement may request, information about illegal or criminal behavior on the part of the child or the child’s family at any time during an active investigation, alternative response case, family-based safety services case, or conservatorship case.

If law enforcement requests case records or information in this situation, caseworkers must follow the procedures in 1453.41 Sharing Information during an Open Investigation or 1453.42 Sharing Information after the Investigation is Closed, as applicable.

If law enforcement has not requested any information, the caseworker consults with the supervisor to decide how to proceed. The supervisor may decide to consult with Legal before taking any action.

1453.5 Releasing Information to the Family Court, or to Comply with a Court Order

CPS June 2020

The caseworker may provide information about a DFPS case to the family court having jurisdiction over the case when ordered by the court, when submitting affidavits or testifying under oath, or when providing required court reports.

Texas Family Code §§261.201(b) and (c), 266.007

The caseworker must try to ensure that the court is aware that identifying information about the reporter is confidential. When testifying in a protective services case, the caseworker must not identify the reporter without the reporter’s consent unless the judge specifically orders the caseworker to do so.

DFPS staff must direct requests for copies of the case record to the Records Management Group (RMG) mailbox for processing.

1453.6 Releasing Information to Court-Appointed Attorneys and Guardians Ad Litem

CPS June 2021

A person appointed by a court to represent the child, such as an attorney ad litem, guardian ad litem, or Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) appointed as the guardian ad litem, is authorized to have immediate access to any information relating to the child to help the person represent the best interests of the child.

Texas Family Code §107.002

Texas Family Code §107.003

Texas Family Code §107.006

Before sharing information, DFPS staff members make sure that the person has a valid court order that confirms the person’s appointment by a court.

For specific requirements and timelines for sharing information and working with the child’s attorney and guardian ad litem, see 5240 Working With the Child’s Attorney Ad Litem, Guardian Ad Litem, and CASA.

1453.61 Releasing Information to CASA Staff and Volunteers

CPS June 2021

DFPS and the state CASA office have entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that outlines what information DFPS can share with a CASA who is appointed for a child and how the information can be shared.

A copy of this MOU is included in the Court-Related Issues Resource Guide.

For specific requirements and timelines for sharing information and working with the child’s CASA, see:

1453.6 Releasing Information to Court-Appointed Attorneys and Guardians Ad Litem

5242 Working With a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA)

6939.4 Meeting to Discuss the Potential Adoptive Families

1453.7 Protecting Locating Information of Victims of Family Violence, Sexual Assault or Abuse, Trafficking, or Stalking

CPS June 2021

DFPS staff members are required by law to protect locating information for victims of family violence, sexual assault or abuse, trafficking, or stalking when the victim is in the Address Confidentiality Program.

See 2342 OAG Address Confidentiality.

1454 Releasing Information to Obtain Services for the Child

CPS June 2021

The most common reason for DFPS to release confidential information about a child to external people or entities is to obtain care or services for the child.

1454.1 Releasing Information to the Caregiver of a Child in Conservatorship

CPS June 2021

For a child in DFPS conservatorship, DFPS may give 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 (close family friends), or foster families with whom the child is placed.

Texas Family Code §261.201(f-1)

26 TAC §749.1115

26 TAC §749.1255

26 TAC §748.1217

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

1454.2 Releasing Information during Family Meetings

CPS June 2021

If a family agrees to participate in a family team meeting, 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 varies depending on the stage of service and circumstances of the case. The amount of information shared in family meetings should always be the minimum necessary to ensure the child’s safety, well-being, and permanency, and the minimum necessary for the care and protection of the child or family.

See:

1121 Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM)

6251 Overview of Permanency Planning Meetings

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

1454.3 Releasing Information to Access Health Care or Social Services

CPS June 2021

Child in an Alternative Response, Investigation, or Family-Based Safety Services Case

For a child not in DFPS conservatorship, whose case is in the Alternative Response, Investigation, or Family Preservation stage, the consent of the child’s parent or legal conservator generally is necessary for any release of information about the child or any family member for the purpose of accessing services for the child.

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

Child in Conservatorship

DFPS may disclose information about a child in DFPS conservatorship to do the following:

  • Make sure that the child’s needs for health care and social services are met.
  • Provide information for eligibility determination or billing purposes.

DFPS may give this information to the child’s designated medical consenter, health care providers, and applicable agencies.

For a child in DFPS conservatorship, the medical consenter may consent to sharing relevant information about the 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 Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Simplified Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), or the Social Security Administration.
  • Other federal, state, or local agencies offering supportive services, such as local health departments, Head Start, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), or programs for children with disabilities offered by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC).

DFPS always discloses 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 person or agency needs the information to protect, diagnose, care for, treat, supervise, or educate the child.

1454.4 Releasing Information to Access Education Services

CPS June 2021

Child in an Alternative Response, Investigation, or Family-Based Safety Services Case

For a child not in DFPS conservatorship, whose case is in the Investigation, Alternative Response, or Family Preservation stage, the consent of the child’s parent or legal conservator generally is necessary for any release of information about the child or any family member for the purpose of accessing educational services for the child.

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

Child in Conservatorship

For a child in DFPS conservatorship, both the caseworker and caregiver share responsibility for maintaining the confidentiality of the child’s information. For guidelines, see Maintaining Confidentiality for Children and Youth While Enrolled in School in the Education for Children Resource Guide.

See:

15373.1 Confidentiality

15340 Documents Required for Enrollment

1454.5 Releasing Information to Adoptive or Prospective Adoptive Parents

CPS June 2021

Prospective Adoptive Parents

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

Texas Family Code §162.005

Texas Family Code §162.006

Texas Family Code §162.0062

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

For the procedures for submitting 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, Child-Placing Agency, Single Source Continuum Contractor, or Other Person Placing a Child for Adoption

6954.34 Releasing the Health, Social, Educational, and Genetic History (HSEGH) Report and Adoption Readiness Summary (ARS) to Other People 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

6939.1 Conducting Separate Meetings to Discuss the Child and the Potential Adoptive Families

6941 Presenting Information About the Child

Adoptive Parents

After the adoption is consummated and a decree of adoption is entered, adoptive parents are entitled to a redacted copy of the HSEGH and the case file.

Texas Family Code §162.0062

1454.6 Sharing Information with Certain Providers Who Serve Children and Youth

CPS June 2021

For children and youth in DFPS conservatorship, Texas law requires DFPS to share the youth’s personal health information or history of governmental services with juvenile service providers, if requested, but only if the information is needed to identity the youth, coordinate and monitor the youth’s care, or improve the quality of service that the youth receives.

Juvenile service providers include, but are not limited to, the following: 

  • 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 authority.
  • A court with jurisdiction over juveniles.
  • A district or county attorney’s office.

Texas Family Code §58.0051

The following information about the youth is required to be released for the purposes stated above, if allowed by federal law:

  • Identity
  • Medical records
  • Assessment results
  • Special needs
  • Program placements
  • Psychological diagnoses

Texas Family Code §58.0052

DFPS can also share other information if necessary for the care and protection of the youth. See 1451 Sharing Confidential Information.

Exception

Under federal law, drug or alcohol treatment records can only be released if the child or youth has specifically consented to the release. See 1456.4 Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records about a Child.

1454.7 Sharing Information with Texas State and Local Juvenile Justice Agencies

CPS June 2021

DFPS shares information about youth with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) and local juvenile probation departments in Texas on current and past cases, when either of the following applies:

  • The information is necessary to improve and maintain community safety.
  • The information helps provide or continue to provide services to a youth who is or has been involved with the programs of the agency that is giving or receiving the information.

Texas Family Code §58.0052(b-1) and (b-2)

DFPS may share information only about a youth who meets one or more of the following criteria:

  • Is or has been in DFPS’s temporary or permanent managing conservatorship.
  • Is or was involved in a family-based safety services case with DFPS.
  • Has been reported to DFPS as an alleged victim of abuse or neglect (in an open investigation).
  • Is a perpetrator in a case in which the DFPS investigation concluded there was a reason to believe abuse or neglect occurred.
  • Is a victim in a case in which the DFPS investigation concluded there was a reason to believe abuse or neglect occurred (see Texas Family Code §58.0052(b-1)).

For information on requesting records, see Requesting a Copy of a Case Record on the DFPS website.

TJJD and local juvenile probation departments in Texas make requests for information from DFPS’s Records Management Group (RMG), using Form 4885-J Request for Case Record Information from Juvenile Service Providers. If the case is an open conservatorship, family-based safety services (FBSS), or investigation case, RMG gives the requesting juvenile justice agency contact information for DFPS regional staff, so staff members can share information to make sure the services provided by DFPS and the juvenile justice agency are coordinated. For all closed cases, RMG is responsible for the release of any information to the juvenile justice agency. RMG provides the information for open and closed cases within 14 business days after the request is made.

Staff members of DFPS or of DFPS’s single source continuum contractor can make a request to TJJD and the local juvenile probation departments for information about youth who have been or currently are in the custody or control of the juvenile justice agency. The juvenile justice agencies are required to release, within 14 business days, information that is necessary to improve and maintain community safety or that helps provide or continue to provide services to a youth.

Under federal law, drug or alcohol treatment records can only be released if the child or youth has specifically consented to the release. See 1456.4 Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records about a Child.

1455 Releasing or Using Children’s Photos and Images

1455.1 When Children May Release or Use Photos of Themselves

CPS June 2021

DFPS generally allows children and youth in DFPS conservatorship to release or use photos and images of themselves. Examples include posting images on social media and sending pictures of themselves to family and friends.

The following criteria must be met:

  • DFPS, as the managing conservator, has not documented a restriction to the child sharing photos or images. A restriction may be specific to certain people or entities, or more general.
  • Release or use of the photo or image poses no threat to the child’s health or safety.
  • The use is not for any commercial use, publicity, financial benefit, or similar gain for someone other than the child.

See also 6480 Email, Internet, and Social Media Use by Children and Youth in Foster Care.

1455.2 When a Caregiver May Release or Use Photos of the Child

CPS June 2021

The caregiver may generally release or use photos and images of a child or youth in DFPS conservatorship if the caregiver has verbal or written consent from the child (if developmentally and age appropriate). When the child cannot give consent, the consent of the child’s caseworker is required.

Examples of appropriate use of photos include the following:

  • School pictures and other school-related uses, such as yearbook photos or publications of Honor Roll students in the local newspaper.
  • Family and vacation photos.
  • Group photos, such as of a sports team, scout troop, or church group.
  • Other situations that support normalcy. See 6241.1 Basic Description and Content of the Child’s Plan of Service.

Texas Family Code §264.001

Texas Family Code §264.125

The following criteria must be met:

  • DFPS, as the managing conservator, has not documented a restriction to the caregiver sharing photos or images of the child. A restriction may be specific to certain people or entities, or more general.
  • Release or use of the photo or image is not contrary to the best interest of the child. That is, its use poses no threat to the child’s health or safety, and the use is not for any commercial use, publicity, financial benefit, or similar gain for someone other than the child.
  • No reference is made to the fact the child is in DFPS conservatorship, and the use does not stigmatize the child in any way.
1455.3 When the Child’s Consent Is Not Required for Use of Photos

CPS June 2021

The following uses do not require the consent of the child, youth, or caregiver:

  • DFPS may release or provide a photo or image of a child 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, DFPS may use the child’s photo without restriction for purposes of seeking an adoptive home for the child.

For best practices for recruitment for adoption, see:

Adoption Resource Guide

Texas Adoption Resource Exchange Guide

1456 Special Types of Information or Situations

1456.1 Release of Information on a Child Fatality Investigation

CPS June 2021

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

Texas Family Code §261.203

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.209

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §702.301-702.317

See 2330 Child Fatality.

1456.2 Release of Abortion Information

CPS June 2021

Youth Not in DFPS Conservatorship

During the Alternative Response, Investigation, or Family Preservation stages of a case, information about a minor who is seeking or has had an abortion is confidential. If DFPS has this information, DFPS withholds it from the minor’s parents. See 2341 Abortion for the only exceptions to this policy.

Youth in DFPS Conservatorship

When DFPS has information indicating that a youth in conservatorship is pregnant and is seeking, or has had, an abortion, the caseworker follows the instructions in 11742 Informing Parents and Caregivers About Pregnancy and Abortion-Related Information about what information can be released to parents, foster parents, or other people.

1456.3 HIV Information

CPS June 2021

A person’s HIV status is confidential information that may not be released unless specifically allowed by law.

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

  • A person seeking to adopt a child is entitled to information about 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 about HIV tests for the child who is being or will be fostered.
  • DFPS releases HIV information when ordered by a court having jurisdiction over a proceeding involving the child or involving a person suspected of abusing the child.
  • DFPS may release HIV information to health care professionals and to contracted service agencies and volunteers, when necessary to provide for their protection or to provide for the patient’s health and welfare.
  • DFPS may release HIV information about a person if that person (or the person’s parent or legal conservator if the person is a minor) consents to the specific release by signing an Authorization to Disclose Protected Health Information form.
  • DFPS may release HIV test results to the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) if there is a potential health risk to the public or if DSHS is conducting an investigation.

A person’s HIV status must not appear in a removal affidavit.

1456.4 Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records about a Child

CPS June 2021

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 caseworker verifies that the child has signed Form 2063 Release of Confidential Information and has specifically authorized the disclosure. The caseworker gives the child a copy of the signed consent form and keeps the original in the child’s case file.

However, 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 DFPS inform the people to whom this information is disclosed that the information and records are confidential and may not be further disclosed.

Texas Family Code §107.006

See 5241.61 Providing Drug or Alcohol Treatment Records.

1456.5 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.).

1456.6 Releasing Information to Military Personnel

CPS May 2018

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.

In an investigation, the caseworker must notify the US Department of Defense Family Advocacy Program at the closest active duty military installation of an investigation that involves an alleged perpetrator who is an active duty member of the US armed forces or the spouse of a member on active duty. See 2248.7 Determining Alleged Perpetrator’s Military Status.

1456.7 Media Inquiries and Requests from Legislative Offices

CPS June 2021

All requests for information from the media must be immediately directed to the regional media specialist. See the list of DFPS Media Specialists on the DFPS website.

Requests for information from legislative offices are directed to the DFPS Office of External Relations at state office.

1457 Subpoenas

CPS June 2021

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

1458 Public Information (Open Records) Requests

CPS June 2021

Under Chapter 552 of the Texas Government Code, information and records held by a governmental agency are generally open and available to the public unless the law provides an exception or makes the information confidential. Agencies must do the following:

  • Promptly release requested information if no exception applies.
  • Request a decision from the Office of the Attorney General if there is uncertainty about whether an exception applies.

Case Records

Case records of children and adults who are or have been clients of DFPS are confidential and only releasable to certain people and entities. A requester may or may not be entitled to confidential case information, depending on the requester’s relationship to the case.

See 1452 Requests for Case Records.

Other Information

Requests for information DFPS holds that is not case information are requests 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 the following:

  • Personnel records
  • Statistics
  • Agency financial information
  • Contract proposals
  • Policy and procedures

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

If a DFPS staff member is asked about an “open records” request or receives a request that the staff member believes to be one, the staff member tells the requester to make the request through the DFPS open records process. See the Open Records Policy webpage on the DFPS website.

1459 Family Advocates and Other Advocacy Organizations

CPS October 2021

Family advocacy groups are organizations whose mission is to promote the rights of parents by doing the following:

  • Supporting parents and caregivers.
  • Educating the community and legislators about working with the child welfare system.

This policy (this section and its subitems) only applies to advocacy groups that meet both of the following criteria:

  • There is not a law authorizing them to be present at court hearings or case-related meetings or to receive or obtain information from DFPS.
  • DFPS does not have a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with them about the release of information.

This policy does not apply to the following:

  • Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA).
  • Disability Rights Texas (DRTx).
  • Children’s advocacy centers (CAC).
  • Human trafficking and child exploitation (HTCE) advocate agencies.
  • Advocates for victims of family violence.

For information about MOUs, contact the following:

  • Statewide CPS MOUs: State Office Division for Program Strategy.
  • Regional CPS MOUs: CPS regional operations support administrator (ROSA).
  • CPI MOUs: CPI Communications mailbox.

The caseworker does not release or share information except as required by federal or state law.

Texas Human Resources Code §40.005

42 U.S.C. 5106a(b)(2)(B)(viii)

Texas Family Code §261.201

40 Texas Administrative Code §700.203

1459.1 Case Records

CPS October 2021

DFPS cannot release case records to any person not authorized by relevant law to obtain those records.

If a parent, caregiver, or alleged perpetrator signs a release of information for an advocate, this does not allow DFPS to release documents to the advocate.

Staff members direct all requests for records to the DFPS Records Management Group (RMG). See the Records Management Group Handbook, 3000 Disclosure of DFPS Records.

Texas Human Resources Code §40.005.

42 U.S.C. 5106a(b)(2)(B)(viii)

Texas Family Code §261.201

40 Texas Administrative Code §700.203

1459.2 Communication

CPS October 2021

The caseworker communicates about a case with either of the following:

  • The parent or alleged perpetrator (AP).
  • The parent or AP’s attorney, if the parent or AP has one.

Verbal Communication

If an advocate is present (either in person or by phone) during communication with the parent or AP, the caseworker gets verbal consent from the parent or AP before discussing the case in the presence of the advocate. The caseworker documents the parent or AP’s consent or denial of consent in IMPACT.

If the parent or AP has previously provided written consent, the caseworker does not need to get additional verbal consent.

Written Communication

If an advocate or advocacy organization initiates communication on behalf of a parent or AP, a DFPS staff member responds directly to the parent or AP and the parent or AP’s attorney. The advocate or advocacy organization is not included in the response.

When communicating by email or text message, DFPS staff members make sure only people legally entitled to receive information are included in the communication.

1459.3 Participation in Meetings

CPS October 2021

Meetings that DFPS Facilitates

An advocate may attend meetings related to the case as a support to a parent, caregiver, or alleged perpetrator (AP). These meetings may include, for example, permanency conferences, family team meetings, and family group conferences. However, the following requirements apply:

  • The advocate’s presence must not be disruptive to the meeting. If the advocate is disruptive, the meeting facilitator determines whether to ask the advocate to leave and tries to continue the meeting without disruption.
  • An advocate for a parent, caregiver, or AP may not be present while another parent, caregiver, or AP’s confidential information is discussed.

Court Proceedings, Settlement Conferences, and Court-Ordered Mediation

Only the following people can actively participate in court proceedings, settlement conferences, and court-ordered mediation:

  • Parties to the case.
  • Attorneys representing parties.
  • Court appointed special advocates.

However, family advocates may attend hearings (as permitted by the court) and participate as witnesses if a party calls them to do so. They may also be available as a support to a party who participates in mediation or settlement. If the advocate is disruptive, the caseworker consults with the attorney representing DFPS to determine whether it is appropriate for DFPS to object to the advocate’s presence as a support.

1459.4 Participation in Interviews

CPS October 2021

A parent, caregiver, or alleged perpetrator (AP) may request an advocate’s presence while CPS or CPI is interviewing the parent, caregiver, or AP, as described in 2246.1 Interviewing Parents and Alleged Perpetrators.

However, when interviewing a child for a CPS or CPI case, the caseworker tries to interview the child alone, without anyone else present, as described in 2244.4 Conducting the Interview and 12240 Contacts When the Child Is Not in a PCSP.

If the advocate delays or obstructs the caseworker’s ability to conduct an investigation, including by interfering with or obstructing interviews, the caseworker consults with the attorney representing DFPS to seek an order in aid of investigation.

Texas Family Code §261.303

1460 Closing Cases

1461 Closing Cases in IMPACT

CPS June 2021

A CPI (including Alternative Response, AR) or CPS case ends when CPI or CPS determines the investigation or ongoing services are complete. This means case management services are discontinued, and a supervisor has approved the case to be submitted for closure in IMPACT. DFPS staff members complete all required documentation and terminate active service authorizations in IMPACT. The supervisor approves the case for closure in IMPACT.

See 1433 Supervisory Approval Process in IMPACT.

1462 Preparing the External Record

CPS June 2021

Once a case is closed in IMPACT, the external record is reviewed, approved, and prepared to be submitted for retention (storage). The external record includes physical records stored in the physical file and electronic records stored in OneCase.

Records in the external record include forms, photos, memorabilia, documentary evidence, and other case-related materials that DFPS staff members collect during the case.

Case information that is also in IMPACT does not meet the criteria for being part of the external record. When a case is closed, the case information in IMPACT must not be printed and filed in the physical file, except when any of the following applies:

  • The information requires a signature.
  • The information represents a point-in-time report (a report that may contain different information depending on when it was generated), such as a Principal Case History Report or DFPS History Check.
  • DFPS policy requires that the information be printed and filed in the physical file, as is required for a child’s Health Passport.
1462.1 Unit Staff Responsibilities

CPS June 2021

To prepare the external record for storage, DFPS staff members in the unit that closed the case follow the procedures below.

Unit Staff – External Documentation

Staff members file all external documentation about the case in the physical file or upload it into OneCase. See:

DFPS OneCase: Functionality & Usage on the DFPS intranet

1462.2 Items Retained in the External Record

Staff members delete or destroy all other copies of external documentation (physical or electronic) after verifying that the information either has been successfully uploaded into OneCase or is in the physical file.

Unit Staff – Physical File

Staff members remove the following from the physical file:

  • Case information that is in IMPACT. The caseworker removes from the physical file any copies of case information that is also in IMPACT, except copies that meet any of the following criteria:
    • Contain signatures.
    • Contain handwritten notes from the caseworker or supervisor.
    • Represent a point-in-time report (a report that may contain different information depending on when it was generated), such as a Principal Case History Report or a DFPS History Check.
  • Duplicate copies of documents or photos.
  • Paper items that have been documented in IMPACT, such as notes written on pages from a notepad or phone messages taken by support staff.

See 6134 External Documentation.

In the Records Management Group Handbook, see:

1220 Physical File

1221 Contents of a Physical File

2300 Maintenance of Records

Supervisor or Designee

The supervisor or designee reviews the external record submitted by the caseworker to make sure that it meets both of the following criteria:

  • Contains the correct information.
  • Does not contain information that should not be included in the external record.

When the supervisor or designee approves the physical file as ready for storage, the physical file is given to the administrative technician.

See:

1462.2 Items Retained in the External Record

1462.3 Items Returned to the Child When a Conservatorship Case Is Closed

Administrative Technician

The administrative technician does the following:

  • Prepares the physical file.
  • Arranges for the file to be shipped to the DFPS Records and Imaging Operations (RIO) office.

See How to Prepare Your APS and CPS Case Records for Storage on the DFPS intranet.

1462.2 Items Retained in the External Record

CPS June 2021

DFPS retains the records after a case is closed to do the following:

  • Document the services provided to clients.
  • Meet state and federal requirements for accountability.

DFPS Rules, 40 TAC §700.106(a)

During an active case, DFPS staff members store forms, photos, records, memorabilia, and other case-related materials.

When the case is closed, the following items are retained as part of the external record:

  • All photos taken during the Investigation stage.
  • Original case notes taken by the caseworker during the investigation.
  • Photos taken during the Family-based Safety Services (FBSS) and Conservatorship (CVS) stages that document the presence or absence of abuse or neglect.
  • Copies of medical, dental, and psychological records.
  • Court documents.
  • Correspondence, both sent and received.
  • Documents that require or contain signatures.
  • Supporting documents received from external sources, such as police reports.
  • Reports from caregivers.
  • Copies of original birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, or other forms of official identification.
  • Information about family group decision-making.
  • Audio and video recordings (DVDs, CDs, and other media) received from other people or entities (for example, Children’s Advocacy Centers).
  • The child’s Health Passport (retained in the Health Passport system; see 11240 Using the Health Passport).

See 1470 Retention and Disposition of Case Information.

1462.3 Items Returned to the Child When a Conservatorship Case Is Closed

CPS June 2021

Items from Physical File

The following items are removed from the physical file and given to the child when a conservatorship case is closed:

  • Photos of the child and the child’s family that were used for reasons other than documenting the presence or absence of abuse or neglect.
  • Original birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, or other forms of official identification. (Copies of these items are retained in the physical file.)
  • Original letters to and from the child.
  • Personal items, such as the following:
    • Personal property.
    • Any item that may hold special meaning to the child, such as items that represent or document life events associated with the child or the child’s family.

All Items Belonging to the Child

Items belonging to the child are given to the child when the child leaves DFPS conservatorship. This also applies to a youth who ages out of care.

This applies to items from the physical file (see above in this section) and to other items, including objects that cannot be placed in a file.

If the child cannot be contacted, the caseworker contacts relatives who have been active in the case and asks them to assume responsibility for the child’s belongings.

Unclaimed Items

If the child or relatives cannot be contacted, DFPS keeps the child’s items for three years after the child leaves care. The items are stored at the local office.

At the end of the three years, DFPS destroys the following types of unclaimed items:

  • Toiletries and other personal hygiene items.
  • IDs that are expired or have been replaced with updated ones.
  • Electronics that may contain personal information.
  • Any other items that contain personal information.

At the end of the three years, DFPS donates other unclaimed items, such as electronics (if they do not contain personal information), bikes, and clothing.

Before disposing of the child’s items, the caseworker documents in a closed stage addendum in the Substitute Care (SUB) stage the actions taken to do the following:

  • Locate and contact the child and the child’s relatives.
  • Maintain or dispose of the child’s items.

1470 Retention and Disposition of Case Information

CPS June 2021

Retention and disposition of case records are functions of the DFPS Records Management Group (RMG). Closed case records must be sent to the unit’s assigned Records and Imaging Operations (RIO) office within 30 days of case closure.

Refer to the following resources maintained by RMG:

Records Management Group Handbook, 4000 Records Retention and Disposal

How to Prepare Your APS and CPS Case Records for Storage

DFPS Records Retention Schedule

See 1462 Preparing the External Record and its subitems.

Calculating the Destruction Date in IMPACT

The Records Retention section on the Case Summary page in IMPACT automatically calculates and displays the appropriate destruction date for case records upon closure of the case.

The Records Retention section is visible only after the case has been approved for closure.

1480 Workload Management – Case Conferences and Supportive Supervision

CPS June 2021

The purpose of case conferences and supportive supervision is to provide time for the caseworker and supervisor to discuss the status of cases on the caseworker’s workload and make collaborative decisions about the next steps to achieve the following:

  • A thorough assessment of child safety, which includes a review of child vulnerability, dangers, parent’s strengths and protective actions, and the safety decision for the case.
  • The case plan outlined in the Family Plan of Service.
  • The permanency goals in the Child’s Plan of Service.
  • Case closure.

The supervisor does the following:

  • Provides supportive supervision.
  • Addresses any issues related to the caseworker’s professional skills and development.
  • Outlines a plan to address any identified issues.

A supervisor holds a workload management or case conference with each caseworker assigned to the unit at least 10 times each year, but regional management may require more.

Before the Conference

Before each conference, the caseworker does the following:

  • Updates case documentation for the cases being discussed, according to relevant time frames.
  • Prepares to discuss the status of each case, including any significant changes since the last conference and any upcoming deadlines.

During the Conference

Discussion of each case includes the following topics, as they apply to the caseworker’s stage of service:

  • Ongoing assessment of child safety, which includes a review of child vulnerability, dangers, and parent’s strengths and protective actions.
  • Investigation documentation and case closure.
  • Progress made toward achieving the goals in the Family Plan of Service and the Child’s Plan of Service, permanency, and case closure.
  • A review of the services being offered to the child and family to determine whether any services should be discontinued or added.
  • Upcoming deadlines and court dates.
  • Additional steps to take to achieve the identified goals and case closure.
  • Identification of existing or potential obstacles to achieving the identified goals and case closure and of potential solutions to those obstacles.

The supervisor does the following:

  • Evaluates and discusses the caseworker’s ability to do the following:
    • Assess child safety based on the relationship among the child,  vulnerability, dangers, and parent’s strengths and protective actions.
    • Meet standards for quality of documentation.
    • Meet relevant policy and licensing standards.
    • Maintain timely case contacts.
    • Maintain timely case documentation.
  • Meets documentation requirements in a clear and meaningful way.

After the Conference

Within two weeks after the conference, the supervisor does the following:

  • Documents and dates the conference notes, including any objectives or expectations that were set for the caseworker. The supervisor may document the conference notes on a conference form or in another format approved by regional management.
  • Shares the conference notes with the caseworker, either electronically or in hard copy.
  • Files a copy of the conference notes in the caseworker’s personnel file, which the supervisor maintains locally for that purpose.

Previous Page Next Page