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Policy Questions and Responses Regarding Requests for Information from the FPLS

AT-99-09

Published: June 16, 1999
Information About:
State/Local Child Support Agencies
Topics:
Case Management, Locate, Federal Systems, Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)
Types:
Policy, Action Transmittals (AT)
Tags:
Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), Safeguarding

AT-99-09

JUN 16, 1999

TO: STATE AGENCIES ADMINISTERING CHILD SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT PLANS UNDER TITLE IV-D OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND OTHER INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS.

SUBJECT: Policy Questions and Responses Regarding Requests for Information from the Federal Parent Locator Service under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

BACKGROUND: Section 453 of the Social Security Act (the Act) requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish and conduct a Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS), under the direction of the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), which shall be used for the purposes specified in the statute.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) amended the Act to expand the FPLS to include two new components. These components are the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) and the Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders (FCR). PRWORA also amended the Act to provide that specified entities may request or obtain access to information from the FPLS.

The Balanced Budget Reconciliation Act of 1997, the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 and the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 further amended the Act to permit additional entities to request or obtain access to information in the FPLS. The Child Support Performance and Incentives Act of 1998 amended the Act to include provisions related to the retention and deletion of data in the NDNH and the imposition of penalties for misuse of such data.

OCSE has received numerous inquiries from States and individuals regarding access to and requests for information from the FPLS. The purpose of this Action Transmittal is to inform the States and other interested individuals and organizations of OCSE’s response to these questions.

Requests for information from the FPLS are generally governed by two sections of the Social Security Act, Section 453 and Section 463. Part I of the Action Transmittal addresses requests pursuant to Section 453 and Part II addresses requests pursuant to Section 463 of the Act. The Action Transmittal also discusses related sections of the Act as well as the Federal regulations.

Part I addresses the following topics within the context of Section 453 of the Act, while Part II addresses the same topics within the context of Section 463:

  • Who May Request Information from the FPLS?
  • For What Purposes May an "Authorized Person" Request Information from the FPLS?
  • How Must an "Authorized Person" Submit a Request for Information from the FPLS?
  • What Information May an "Authorized Person" Receive in Response to a Request for Information from the FPLS?
  • What Other Entities May Receive Information from the FPLS?
  • What Safeguarding Requirements Apply?
  • What Is the Fee for FPLS Services?

ATTACHMENT: Series of Questions and Answers regarding access to and requests for information from the FPLS under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act.

INQUIRIES TO: Regional Administrators, ACF/OCSE.

David Gray Ross
Commissioner
Office of Child Support Enforcement


 

I. REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION FROM THE FEDERAL PARENT LOCATOR SERVICE UNDER SECTION 453 OF THE ACT

A. Who May Request Information from the FPLS under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: Who may request information from the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) under Section 453 of the Act?

Answer 1: Section 453 of the Act permits an "authorized person," as that term is defined in subsection 453 (c), to request information from the FPLS. Subsections 453 (h), (i) and (j) also permit access to or disclosure of certain information maintained within the FPLS to other specified entities. Part I of this Action Transmittal discusses requests by "authorized persons" and by other entities under Section 453. Part II discusses requests by "authorized persons" and other entities under Section 463.

Question 2: How is the term "authorized person" defined in Section 453 of the Act?

Answer 2: Under subsection 453 (c), the term "authorized person" means 150

  1. any agent or attorney of any State having in effect a plan approved under this part, who has the duty or authority under such plans to seek to recover any amounts owed as child and spousal support (including, when authorized under the State plan, any official of a political subdivision);
  2. the court which has authority to issue an order or to serve as the initiating court in an action to seek an order against a noncustodial parent for the support and maintenance of a child, or any agent of such court;
  3. the resident parent, legal guardian, attorney, or agent of a child (other than a child receiving aid under part A of this title) (as determined by regulations prescribed by the Secretary) without regard to the existence of a court order against a noncustodial parent who has a duty to support and maintain any such child;
  4. a State agency that is administering a program operated under a State plan under subpart 1 of part B, or a State plan approved under subpart 2 of part B or under part E of Title IV of the Social Security Act.

Question 3: For purposes of Section 453, does the term "authorized person" include a private attorney seeking child support on behalf of a child?

Answer 3: Yes. Under subsection 453 (c) (3), the term "authorized person" includes the attorney or agent of a child, other than a child receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), without regard to the existence of a court order against a noncustodial parent who has a duty to support and maintain any such child.

Question 4: For purposes of Section 453, to whom does the term "resident parent" refer in the definition of "authorized person"?

Answer 4: The context within which the term is used throughout Title IV-D of the Act indicates that the term "resident parent" in subsection 453 (c) (3) means the custodial parent. For example, the term "resident parent" is used in subsection 454 (11) (B), requiring that the State plan "provide that any payment required to be made under section 456 or 457 of this title to a family shall be made to the resident parent, legal guardian, or caretaker relative having custody of or responsibility for the child or children . . . ." Thus, the "resident parent" is the person having custody or responsibility for the child or children and to whom child support payments are made. The context makes it clear that the term "resident parent" is synonymous with "custodial parent" for purposes of Title IV-D.

Question 5: Is a State foster care or child welfare agency an "authorized person" within the meaning of Section 453?

Answer 5: Yes. State IV-E and IV-B agencies are "authorized persons" within the meaning of Section 453. As added by Section 105 of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA) (P.L. 105-89), subsection 453 (c) (4) includes within the definition of "authorized person" a State agency that is administering a program operated under a State plan under subpart 1 of part B, or a State plan approved under subpart 2 of part B or under part E of the Act. ASFA establishes permanency, safety and well-being as national goals for children in the child welfare system.

Subsection 453 (c) (4) permits a State IV-E or IV-B agency to request information from the FPLS to locate or facilitate the discovery of an individual who has or may have parental rights in order to make more informed and timely decisions about permanency. Information obtained from the FPLS will assist workers to identify and locate noncustodial parents who may be interested in providing a permanent home for a child in foster care. Even if a noncustodial parent is unable to provide a home for the child, ruling out this alternative soon after a child’s placement into foster care will allow the agency to move expeditiously toward adoption or another permanent placement. Further, a State can gather information from noncustodial parents about relatives who may want to provide a home for the child. See OCSE-IM-99-01 or ACYF-CB-IM-99-02, a single Information Memorandum jointly issued by both agencies.

Question 6: May an Indian Tribe or a Tribal organization request information from the FPLS for the purposes authorized in Section 453 of the Act?

Answer 6: Yes. A Tribe or a Tribal organization, if it meets the definition of an "authorized person" in subsection 453 (c) (1) or (c) (2) of the Act, may submit requests for FPLS information through the State IV-D agency’s State Parent Locator Service (SPLS) for an "authorized purpose" under subsection 453 (a) (2). This topic will be addressed in a forthcoming issuance by OCSE.

B. For What Purposes May an "Authorized Person" Request Information from the FPLS under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: For what purposes may an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 453 (c) of the Act, request information from the FPLS?

Answer 1: Under subsection 453 (a) (2), an authorized person may request information from the FPLS for the purpose of establishing parentage or establishing, setting the amount of, modifying, or enforcing child support obligations.

Note that an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 453 (c) of the Act, may request information from the FPLS only for the purposes specified in Section 453 (a) (2) of the Act. A person authorized to request information from the FPLS pursuant to Section 453 may not request FPLS information for the purposes specified in Section 463 of the Act, which are enforcing any State or Federal law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child or making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination. The "authorized persons" and "authorized purposes" in Section 453 and Section 463, respectively, may not be "mixed and matched."

Question 2: May information from the FPLS be requested for purposes of international child support enforcement?

Answer 2: Yes. Section 459A of the Act authorizes the Secretary of State, with the concurrence of the Secretary of Health and Human Services, to declare any foreign country (or a political subdivision thereof) to be a foreign reciprocating country if (1) the foreign country has established, or undertakes to establish, procedures for the establishment and enforcement of duties of support owed to obligees who are residents of the United States, and (2) such procedures are substantially in conformity with the standards prescribed under subsection 459A (b) of the Act.

Subsection 459A (c) of the Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to facilitate support enforcement in cases involving residents of the United States and residents of foreign countries that are the subject of a declaration, as described above. Subsection 459A (c) (2) includes among the Secretary’s responsibilities notification of foreign reciprocating countries of the State of residence of individuals sought for support enforcement purposes, on the basis of information provided by the FPLS.

C. How Must an "Authorized Person" Submit a Request for Information from the FPLS under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: How must an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 453 (c) of the Act, submit a request for information from the FPLS?

Answer 1: The submittal of a request for information from the FPLS by an "authorized person" for authorized purposes is governed by Federal law and regulations and instructions issued by OCSE.

Subsection 453 (d) of the Act provides that a request for information from the FPLS shall be filed in such manner and form as the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall by regulation prescribe and shall be accompanied or supported by such documents as the Secretary may determine to be necessary.

Federal law and regulations describe the manner in which requests for FPLS information shall be handled. The State plan requirement in subsection 454 (8) of the Act provides that each State IV-D agency must establish an SPLS utilizing all sources of information and available records and the FPLS. Federal regulation requires the SPLS to accept requests to use the FPLS only from authorized persons. 45 CFR 302.35 (c). Only the central SPLS, and any additional IV-D offices designated under Section 302.35 (b), may submit requests for information to the FPLS. 45 CFR 303.70 (a).

The Federal regulations reiterate that all requests must be made in the manner and form prescribed by OCSE. 45 CFR 303.70 (b). The requests shall contain the information specified by Federal regulation. 45 CFR 303.70 (c) (1) through (5). In addition, all requests must be accompanied by a statement, signed by the Director of the IV-D agency or his or her designee, attesting that the request is being made for a statutorily-authorized purpose and that information obtained through the FPLS shall be treated as confidential and shall be safeguarded in accordance with requirements of the Act and instructions issued by OCSE. 45 CFR 303.70 (d).

Question 2: Do the requirements governing the submittal of requests for FPLS information, as described in Question and Answer 1, above, also apply to State IV-E and IV-B agencies?

Answer 2: Yes. A request for FPLS information by a State IV-E or IV-B agency must comply with the requirements of Federal regulations governing such requests. Thus, a Title IV-E or IV-B agency must submit its request for FPLS information through the State IV-D agency’s SPLS. See 45 CFR 303.70. See also OCSE-IM-99-01 or ACYF-CB-IM-99-02, a single Information Memorandum jointly issued by both agencies.

Question 3: May a Clerk of the Court directly submit to OCSE a request for information to the FPLS?

Answer 3: No. A Clerk of the Court may request FPLS information for a purpose authorized under subsection 453 (a) (2) if the Clerk is an "authorized person" within the meaning of subsection 453 (c) (2), acting in the capacity of an agent of a court with proper jurisdiction to issue a child support order or to serve as the initiating court in an action to seek such an order against a noncustodial parent. The Clerk must submit the request for FPLS information through the SPLS. See OCSE-PIQ-98-02.

Question 4: Under Section 453 of the Act, are there any instances in which a request for information from the FPLS may be submitted directly to OCSE?

Answer 4: Yes. While an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 453 (c) of the Act, must submit a request for FPLS information through the SPLS established by the State IV-D agency, Section 453 permits other entities, such as the Secretary of the Treasury, the Social Security Administration and certain researchers, to have access to certain FPLS information directly from OCSE. See this Action Transmittal, Part I, Section E, below.

D. What Information May an "Authorized Person" Receive in Response to a Request for Information from the FPLS under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: In response to a request, what information may an "authorized person," as defined in Section 453 of the Act, receive from the FPLS?

Answer 1: Subsection 453 (a) (2) of the Act provides that location information, wage and employment information, and asset and debt information are available from the FPLS.

Only the IV-D agency may request and receive all information from the FPLS. The information that may be provided to other authorized persons under Section 453 includes an individual’s social security number, address, wage and unemployment compensation amounts, and the employer’s name, address, and employer identification number.

FPLS information relating to an individual’s assets and debts, available under subsection 453 (a) (2) (C) of the Act, is currently obtained from the Internal Revenue Service. Subsection 6103 (l) (6) of the Internal Revenue Code provides that tax information may only be disclosed to child support enforcement agencies.

E. What Other Entities May Receive Information from the FPLS under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: In addition to the "authorized persons" who may request information from the FPLS for the specified purposes under subsection 453 (a) (2), what other entities may receive information from the FPLS under Section 453?

Answer 1: Under subsections 453 (h), (i) and (j), certain entities may receive information contained in the Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders (FCR) or the NDNH. These entities are: the Secretary of the Treasury; the Social Security Administration; State IV-D agencies; State IV-A agencies; and certain researchers.

Question 2: For what purposes may the Secretary of the Treasury have access to information in the FPLS?

Answer 2: Under subsection 453 (h) (3), the Secretary of the Treasury shall have access to the information in the FCR component of the FPLS for the purpose of administering those sections of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 which grant tax benefits based on support or residence of children.

Under subsection 453 (i) (3), the Secretary of the Treasury shall have access to the information in the NDNH for purposes of administering section 32 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, or the advance payment of the earned income tax credit under section 3507 of the Code, and verifying a claim with respect to employment in a tax return.

Question 3: For what purposes may the Social Security Administration receive information in the FPLS?

Answer 3: Subsection 453 (j) (1) (A) of the Act requires the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to transmit data in each component of the FPLS and information on individuals and employers maintained under Section 453 to the Social Security Administration to the extent necessary for the Social Security Administration to verify the accuracy of, correct, or supply, to the extent possible, and report to the Secretary, the name, Social Security number, and birth date of individuals whose information is contained in the FPLS, and the Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Under subsection 453 (j) (4), information in the NDNH is available to the Commissioner of Social Security.

Question 4: In addition to the submittal of a request for FPLS information by a State IV-D agency in its capacity as an "authorized person" under subsection 453 (c) (1) for the child support purposes specified in subsection 453 (a) (2) of the Act, does the Act specify any other purposes for which the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall report or disclose information in the FPLS to a State IV-D agency?

Answer 4: Yes. In addition to permitting a State IV-D agency to request information from the FPLS for the purpose of establishing parentage or establishing, setting the amount of, modifying, or enforcing child support obligations pursuant to subsection 453 (a) (2) of the Act, subsection 453 (j) (2) provides that, for the purpose of locating individuals in a paternity establishment case or a case involving the establishment, modification, or enforcement of a support order, the Secretary shall compare information in the NDNH against information in the support case abstracts in the FCR not less often than every two business days and, within two business days after such a comparison reveals a match with respect to an individual, report the information to the State IV-D agency responsible for the case.

As further discussed in Questions and Answers 5 and 6, below, the Act also grants the Secretary discretion to conduct additional data comparisons of the information maintained in the components of the FPLS and to report matches to a State IV-D agency or IV-A agency.

Question 5: Does the Act grant the Secretary of Health and Human Services discretion to conduct additional FPLS data comparisons?

Answer 5: Yes. Subsection 453 (j) (3) of the Act provides that, to the extent and with the frequency that the Secretary of Health and Human Services determines to be effective in assisting States to carry out their responsibilities under the IV-D program or the IV-A program, the Secretary shall 150

  1. compare the information in each component of the FPLS against the information in each other component of the FPLS (other than the required comparison between the NDNH and the FCR discussed in Answer 4, above), and report instances in which such a comparison reveals a match with respect to an individual to State IV-A and IV-D agencies; and
  2. disclose information in the components of the FPLS to State IV-A and IV-D agencies.

Question 6: May data in the FPLS be used for research purposes?

Answer 6: Yes. The Act grants the Secretary of Health and Human Services discretion on the use of certain FPLS data for research purposes. Subsection 453 (j) (5) of the Act provides that the Secretary of Health and Human Services may provide access to data in each component of the FPLS and to information on newly hired employees reported by employers for research purposes found by the Secretary to be likely to contribute to achieving the purposes of the IV-A program or the IV-D program, but without personal identifiers.

Question 7: While an "authorized person" as defined in subsection 453 (c) must submit a request for FPLS information through the SPLS established by the State IV-D agency, how may a request by other entities under subsections 453 (h), (i) or (j) be submitted to the FPLS?

Answer 7: In contrast to a request for FPLS information by an "authorized person" under subsection 453 (c) of the Act, which must be submitted through the SPLS, subsections 453 (h), (i) and (j) provide that the Secretary of the Treasury and the Commissioner of Social Security should submit requests for FPLS information directly to OCSE.

F. What Safeguarding Requirements Apply to Requests for Information under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: What are the safeguarding requirements in Title IV-D of the Act that apply to requests for information from the FPLS and receipt of such information pursuant to Section 453 of the Act?

Answer 1: In addition to the general requirement that only authorized persons may request statutorily specified information from the FPLS solely for authorized purposes and in accordance with the procedures described above, Sections 453 and 454 of the Act contain several safeguarding requirements that apply to requests for information from the FPLS under Section 453 of the Act and receipt of such information.

Section 453 includes the following provisions:

  • Subsection 453 (b) (2) prohibits the disclosure of FPLS information if the disclosure of such information would contravene the national policy or security interests of the United States or the confidentiality of census data or if the State has notified the Secretary (FPLS) that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and the disclosure of such information could be harmful to the parent or the child. The exception to the general prohibition against the disclosure of FPLS information in cases of family violence, based upon a determination by a court with proper jurisdiction, is described in detail in OCSE-AT-98-27.
  • Subsection 453 (b) (3) provides that information received or transmitted pursuant to Section 453 shall be subject to the safeguarding provisions contained in subsection 454 (26) of the Act.
  • Subsection 453 (l) (1) provides that information in the FPLS, and information resulting from comparisons of such information, shall not be used or disclosed except as expressly provided in Section 453, subject to Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.
  • Subsection 453 (l) (2) provides that the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall require the imposition of an administrative penalty (up to and including dismissal from employment), and a fine of $1,000 for each act of unauthorized access to, disclosure of, or use of information in the NDNH by any officer or employee of the United States who knowingly and willfully violates this provision.
  • Subsection 453 (m) provides that the Secretary shall establish and implement safeguards with respect to the FCR and the NDNH designed to ensure the accuracy and completeness of information in the FPLS and restrict access to confidential information in the FPLS to authorized persons, and restrict use of such information to authorized purposes.

Section 454 contains three State plan requirements that pertain to the safeguarding of FPLS information:

  • Subsection 454 (8) requires the State plan to provide that the State IV-D agency will establish an SPLS utilizing all sources of information and available records and the FPLS and, subject to the privacy safeguards required under subsection 454 (26), referenced below, disclose only the information described in Sections 453 and 463 to the authorized persons specified in such sections for the purposes specified in such sections.
  • Subsection 454 (16) requires the State plan to provide for the establishment and operation by the State agency of a Statewide automated data processing and information retrieval system meeting the requirements of Section 454A of the Act. In turn, subsection 454A (d) requires the State IV-D agency to have in effect safeguards on the integrity, accuracy, and completeness of, access to, and use of data in the automated system required by Section 454A, which shall include the following (in addition to such other safeguards as the Secretary may specify in regulations):

(1) Written policies concerning access to data by State agency personnel and sharing of data with other persons, which 150

(A) permit access to and use of data only to the extent necessary to carry out the State program under Title IV-D; and
(B) specify the data which may be used for particular program purposes, and the personnel permitted access to such data.

(2) Systems controls (such as passwords or blocking of fields) to ensure direct adherence to the policies described in paragraph (1).

(3) Routine monitoring of access to and use of the automated system, through methods such as audit trails and feedback mechanisms, to guard against and promptly identify unauthorized access or use.

(4) Procedures to ensure that all personnel (including State and local agency staff and contractors) who may have access to or be required to use confidential program data are informed of applicable requirements and penalties (including those in section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986), and are adequately trained in security procedures.

(5) Administrative penalties (up to and including dismissal from employment) for unauthorized access to, or disclosure or use of, confidential data.

  • Subsection 454 (26) provides that a State plan for child and spousal support must have in effect safeguards, applicable to all confidential information handled by the State agency, that are designed to protect the privacy rights of the parties, including 150
  1. safeguards against unauthorized use or disclosure of information relating to proceedings or actions to establish paternity, or to establish, modify or enforce support, or to make or enforce a child custody determination;
  2. prohibitions against the release of information on the whereabouts of one party or the child to another party against whom a protective order with respect to the former party or the child has been entered;
  3. prohibitions against the release of information on the whereabouts of one party or the child to another person if the State has reason to believe that release of the information to that person may result in physical or emotional harm to the party or the child;
  4. in cases where the prohibitions under subparagraphs (B) and (C) apply, the requirement to notify the FPLS, for purposes of subsection 453 (b) (2), that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse against a party or the child and the disclosure of such information could be harmful to the party or the child; and
  5. procedures providing that when the FPLS discloses information about a parent or child to a State court or an agent of a State court described in subsection 453 (c) (2) or 463 (d) (2) (B) of the Act, and advises the court or agent that the FPLS has been notified that there is reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse pursuant to subsection 453 (b) (2), the court shall determine whether disclosure to any other person of information received from the FPLS could be harmful to the parent or child, and if the court determines that disclosure could be harmful, the court and its agents shall not make any such disclosure.

Question 2: In addition to the provisions of Title IV-D of the Act, are requests for information from the FPLS under Section 453 and receipt of such information subject to Federal regulatory safeguards?

Answer 2: Yes. Federal regulations governing requests for FPLS information under Section 453 complement the statutory safeguards in Title IV-D of the Act. These include the following provisions in Title 45 CFR, Chapter III.

  • Section 302.35, "State parent locator service," which provides that the SPLS shall only accept requests to use the FPLS from "authorized persons," as defined in Sections 453 and 463 of the Act.
  • Section 303.70, "Requests by the State Parent Locator Service (SPLS) for information from the FPLS," which in part provides that only the SPLS office, and any additional IV-D offices designated by the IV-D agency with written approval by OCSE, may submit requests for information to the FPLS. 45 CFR 303.70 (a). The section further requires that all requests be accompanied by a statement, signed by the Director of the IV-D agency or his or her designee, attesting that the request is being made solely for an authorized purpose and that any information obtained through the FPLS shall be treated as confidential and shall be safeguarded under the requirements of subsections 453 (b), 453 (l), 454 (8), 454 (17), 454 (26) and 463 (c) of the Act and instructions issued by OCSE. 45 CFR 303.70 (d).

Question 3: Do the statutory and regulatory safeguards described above apply to persons or entities to whom the IV-D agency delegates any of the functions of the IV-D program?

Answer 3: Yes. Federal regulations require the State plan to provide for the establishment or designation of a single and separate organizational unit to administer the IV-D plan. 45 CFR 302.12 (a). Under this requirement, the IV-D agency shall be responsible and accountable for the operation of the IV-D program. 45 CFR 302.12 (a) (2).

The regulation provides that, with certain exceptions, the single and separate agency need not perform all of the functions of the IV-D program so long as it insures that all these functions are being carried out properly, efficiently, and effectively. 45 CFR 302.12 (a) (2). The exceptions include the following functions: the establishment and administration of the State plan; formal evaluation of the quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and scope of services provided under the plan; and financial control of the operation of the plan. 45 CFR 303.20 (d).

If the IV-D agency delegates any of the functions of the IV-D program to any other State or local agency or official, or any official with whom a cooperative agreement has been entered into or purchases services from any person or private agency, the IV-D agency shall have responsibility for securing compliance with the requirements of the State plan by such agency or officials. 45 CFR 302.12 (a) (3).

G. What Is the Fee for FPLS Services Provided under Section 453 of the Act?

Question 1: What is the fee for FPLS services provided under Section 453 of the Act?

Answer 1: Subsection 453 (k) (3) provides that a State or Federal agency that receives information from the Secretary pursuant to Section 453 shall reimburse the Secretary for costs incurred in furnishing the information, at rates which the Secretary determines to be reasonable (which rates shall include the costs of obtaining, verifying, maintaining, and comparing the information).

During Fiscal Year 1999, fees are based upon a transitional pricing strategy. Each State will be charged a flat $5,000 access fee in addition to a variable fee based on the State’s IV-D caseload. See OCSE-DCL-98-66. OCSE is evaluating the effectiveness of this pricing strategy.

Subsection 453 (e) (2) of the Act further provides that whenever FPLS services are furnished to an individual specified in subsection (c) (3) of Section 453, the individual shall be charged a fee to reimburse OCSE for the expense of providing the FPLS services.


 

II. REQUESTS FOR INFORMATION FROM THE FEDERAL PARENT LOCATOR SERVICE UNDER SECTION 463 OF THE ACT

A. Who May Request Information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: Who may request information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act?

Answer 1: Section 463 of the Act permits an "authorized person," as that term is defined in subsection 463 (d) (2), and other entities specified under subsections 463 (e) and (f) to request information from the FPLS.

Question 2: How is the term "authorized person" defined in Section 463 of the Act?

Answer 2: Under subsection 463 (d) (2), the term "authorized person" means 150

  1. any agent or attorney of any State having an agreement under this section, who has the duty or authority under the law of such State to enforce a child custody or visitation determination;
  2. any court having jurisdiction to make or enforce a child custody or visitation determination, or any agent of such court; and
  3. any agent or attorney of the United States, or of a State having an agreement under this section, who has the duty or authority to investigate, enforce, or bring a prosecution with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child.

Question 3: For purposes of Section 463, does the term "authorized person" include a private attorney seeking to enforce a child custody or visitation determination?

Answer 3: No. For purposes of Section 463, a private attorney seeking to make or enforce a child custody or visitation determination is not considered to be either an agent or attorney of the State under subsection 463 (d) (2) (A) or an agent of the court under subsection 463 (d) (2) (B) of the Act. See OCSE-PIQ-98-05.

Question 4: Who is an "authorized person" under subsection 463 (d) (2) (A)?

Answer 4: Subsection 463 (d) (2) (A) includes an appropriate State official, provided that the State has a law that empowers the official to act on behalf of the State to enforce a child custody or visitation determination. To the extent provided by State law, examples of such agents are officers employed by the State, such as social workers and law enforcement officials, including a State’s attorney empowered to act on behalf of the State to prosecute a parental kidnapping or child custody case. See OCSE-PIQ-98-05.

B. For What Purposes May an "Authorized Person" Request Information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: For what purposes may an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 463 (d) (2) of the Act, request information from the FPLS?

Answer 1: Under subsection 463 (a), an "authorized person" may request information from the FPLS for the purpose of150

  1. enforcing any State or Federal law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child; or
  2. making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination.

Subsection 463 (d) (1) provides that for purposes of Section 463, the term "custody or visitation determination" means a judgment, decree, or other order of a court providing for the custody or visitation of a child, and includes permanent and temporary orders, and initial orders and modification.

Note than an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 463 (d) (2) of the Act, may request information from the FPLS only for the purposes specified in subsection 463 (b) of the Act. A person authorized to request information from the FPLS pursuant to Section 463 may not request FPLS information for the purposes specified in Section 453 of the Act, which are establishing parentage or establishing, setting the amount of, modifying, or enforcing child support obligations. The "authorized persons" and "authorized purposes" in Section 453 and Section 463, respectively, may not be "mixed and matched."

C. How Must An "Authorized Person" Submit a Request for Information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: How must an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 463 (d) (2) of the Act, submit a request for information from the FPLS?

Answer 1: The submittal of requests for information from the FPLS by authorized persons for authorized purposes under Section 463 of the Act is governed by Federal law and regulations and instructions issued by OCSE.

Subsection 463 (a) of the Act requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter into an agreement with every State for the purpose of determining the whereabouts of any parent or child when such information is to be used to locate such parent or child for the purpose of 150

  1. enforcing any State or Federal law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child; or
  2. making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination.

Generally, the procedures governing requests for FPLS information from "authorized persons" under Section 463 of the Act are the same as those governing requests for information from "authorized persons" under Section 453 of the Act. These procedures, described in Part I, Section C, Question and Answer 1, above, require an "authorized person" to submit a request through the SPLS.

An exception to this requirement applies to agents or attorneys of the United States, who may request information directly from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act in connection with a parental kidnapping or child custody case. See 45 CFR 303.69, "Requests by agents or attorneys of the United States for information from the Federal Parent Locator Service (PLS)."

Question 2: Does Section 463 of the Act require that OCSE enter into an agreement with every State to request information from the FPLS?

Answer 2: Yes. Subsection 463 (a) of the Act provides that "The Secretary shall enter into an agreement with every State under which the services of the FPLS shall be made available to each State" for purposes of Section 463. Subsection 463 (a) formerly required OCSE to enter into an agreement with "any State which is able and willing to do so" for the purpose of submitting requests for FPLS information in custody and parental kidnapping cases. As amended by Section 5534 (b) (1) (A) of the Balanced Budget Reconciliation Act of 1997, P.L.105-33, such agreements are now mandatory.

Question 3: If a noncustodial parent seeks to enforce a child custody or visitation determination, how should the parent submit a request for information from the FPLS?

Answer 3: As indicated in Part II, Section A, Question and Answer 2, above, a noncustodial parent seeking to enforce a child custody or visitation determination is not an "authorized person" within the meaning of subsection 463 (d) (2) of the Act. For the purpose of enforcing a child custody or visitation determination, however, an "authorized person" as defined in subsection 463 (d) (2) (A) or (B) of the Act may submit a request for FPLS information via the SPLS on behalf of the noncustodial parent.

Thus, a noncustodial parent may request that an appropriate State official who is an authorized person within the meaning of the statute submit a location request to the FPLS, provided that the State has a law that empowers the official to act on behalf of the State to enforce a child custody or visitation determination. To the extent provided by State law, examples of such agents are officers employed by the State, such as social workers and law enforcement officials, including a State’s attorney empowered to act on behalf of the State to prosecute a parental kidnapping or child custody case. The definition does not include a private attorney. The noncustodial parent may also petition a court with proper jurisdiction to submit the request to the SPLS on his or her behalf. A private attorney is not considered to be an agent of the court for the purposes of the statutory definition of "authorized person." See OCSE-PIQ-98-05.

D. What Information May an "Authorized Person" Receive in Response to a Request for Information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: What information may an "authorized person," as defined in subsection 463 (d) (2), receive from the FPLS?

Answer 1: Subsection 463 (c) provides that only information as to the most recent address and place of employment of any parent or child shall be provided under Section 463.

E. What Other Entities May Receive Information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: In addition to the "authorized persons" who may request information from the FPLS under Section 463 of the Act, what other entities may receive information from the FPLS under Section 463?

Answer 1: Subsection 463 (e) requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter into an agreement with the State Department in its capacity as the Central Authority under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction under which the services of the FPLS shall be made available to the State Department upon its request for the purpose of locating any parent or child on behalf of an applicant to the State Department.

Subsection 463 (f) requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to enter into an agreement with the Attorney General under which the services of the FPLS shall be made available to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention upon its request to locate any parent or child on behalf of such Office for the purpose of enforcing any State or Federal law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child or making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination.

In accordance with Federal regulations, agents or attorneys of the United States may request information directly from the FPLS in connection with a parental kidnapping or child custody case. 45 CFR 303.69.

F. What Safeguarding Requirements Apply to Requests for Information under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: What are the safeguarding requirements in Title IV-D that apply to a request for information from the FPLS pursuant to Section 463 of the Act?

Answer 1: Requests for information under Section 463 of the Act are governed by the general requirement that only authorized persons, as defined in Section 463, may request statutorily specified information from the FPLS only for purposes authorized under Section 463. Such a request must be made in accordance with the procedures described in Part II, Section C, above.

Furthermore, subsection 463 (c) states that information authorized to be provided by the FPLS under specified subsections of Section 463 shall be subject to the same conditions with respect to disclosure as information authorized to be provided under Section 453 of the Act. Thus, the statutory and regulatory provisions governing requests for FPLS information pursuant to Section 453 of the Act also apply to requests for FPLS information pursuant to Section 463 of the Act. See Part I, Section F, of this Action Transmittal.

Subsection 453 (b) (2) of the Act contains a prohibition against the disclosure of FPLS information if a State has notified the FPLS that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and that disclosure of such information could be harmful to the custodial parent or the child of such parent.

If the FPLS has received such notification under subsection 453 (b) (2) (B), information will be disclosed to the court only if, upon receipt of information from the FPLS, the court determines whether disclosure to any other person of that information could be harmful to the parent or the child. In parental kidnapping or custody or visitation cases, the court must be a court described in subsection 463(d)(2)(B) of the Act with jurisdiction to make or enforce a child custody or visitation determination. See 42 U.S.C. 653 (b) (2); see also OCSE-AT-98-27. If the court determines that such disclosure could be harmful, the court shall not disclose the information. Subsection 454 (26) (E) contains a corresponding State plan requirement.

The State plan requirement in subsection 454 (17) requires the State to have in effect an agreement with OCSE governing requests for FPLS information pursuant to Section 463. These agreements must contain safeguarding provisions.

Question 2: In addition to the provisions of Title IV-D of the Act, are requests for information from the FPLS under Section 463 and receipt of such information subject to Federal regulatory safeguards?

Answer 2: Yes. In addition to the provisions cited above, Federal regulations require that an agreement under Section 463 of the Act must contain a provision that the State shall adopt policies and procedures to ensure that information shall be used and disclosed solely for the purpose of enforcing any State or Federal law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child or making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination. 45 CFR 303.15 (c) (8). The regulation requires the State to:

(i) Restrict access to the information to authorized persons whose duties or responsibilities require access in connection with child custody and parental kidnapping cases;

(ii) Store the information during nonduty hours, or when not in use, in a locked container within a secure area that is safe from access by unauthorized persons;

(iii) Process the information under the immediate supervision and control of authorized personnel, in a manner which will protect the confidentiality of the information, and in such a way that unauthorized persons cannot retrieve the information by computer, remote terminal, or other means;

(iv) Brief all employees who will have access to the data on security procedures and instructions;

(v) Send the information directly to the requestor and make no other use of the information;

(vi) After the information is sent to the requestor, destroy any confidential records and information related to the request.

Question 3: Do the statutory and regulatory safeguards described above apply to persons or entities to whom the IV-D agency delegates any of the functions of the IV-D program?

Answer 3: Yes. Federal regulations require the State plan to provide for the establishment or designation of a single and separate organizational unit to administer the IV-D plan. 45 CFR 302.12 (a). Under this requirement, the IV-D agency shall be responsible and accountable for the operation of the IV-D program. 45 CFR 302.12 (a) (2).

The regulation provides that, with certain exceptions, the single and separate agency need not perform all of the functions of the IV-D program so long as it insures that all these functions are being carried out properly, efficiently, and effectively. 45 CFR 302.12 (a) (2). The exceptions include the following functions: the establishment and administration of the State plan; formal evaluation of the quality, efficiency, effectiveness, and scope of services provided under the plan; and financial control of the operation of the plan. 45 CFR 303.20 (d).

If the IV-D agency delegates any of the functions of the IV-D program to any other State or local agency or official, or any official with whom a cooperative agreement has been entered into or purchases services from any person or private agency, the IV-D agency shall have responsibility for securing compliance with the requirements of the State plan by such agency or officials. 45 CFR 302.12 (a) (3).

G. What Is the Fee for FPLS Services Provided under Section 463 of the Act?

Question 1: What is the fee for FPLS services provided under Section 463 of the Act?

Answer 1: Subsection 454 (17) of the Act, in part, requires the State to impose and collect (in accordance with regulations of the Secretary) a fee sufficient to cover the costs to the State and to the Secretary incurred by reason of such requests, and transmit to the Secretary from time to time (in accordance with regulations) so much of the fees collected as are attributable to the costs the Secretary incurred.

Subsection 463 (e) exempts the State Department from the payment of FPLS fees when, pursuant to an agreement under subsection 463 (e) with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the State Department requests FPLS information in its capacity as the Central Authority under the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. Subsection 463 (f) exempts the Department of Justice from the payment of FPLS fees when FPLS services are requested to locate missing children pursuant to an agreement between the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Attorney General under subsection 463 (f).