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Use of the Federal Parent Locator Service for Child Welfare Services


Published: January 1, 1999
Information About:
Other Public Partners, Foster Care (IV-E), State/Local Child Support Agencies
Federal Systems, Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS)
Policy, Information Memorandums (IM)
Location Systems

Information Memorandum IM-99-01

DATE: January 1, 1999

TO: State and Territorial Agencies Administering or Supervising the Administration of Title IV-D and Titles IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act

SUBJECT: Use of the Federal Parent Locator Service for Child Welfare Services

LEGAL AND RELATED: The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (Public Law 105-89)

REFERENCES: Title IV-D, Section 453 of the Social Security Act as amended, 45 CFR 303.21, and 45 CFR 303.70.

PURPOSE: To inform State agencies administering titles IV-B, IV-D and IV-E of the capacity to locate non-custodial parents using information from the Federal Parent Locator Service as authorized by the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997.


In December 1996, the President directed the Department to provide specific recommendations for strategies to move children more quickly from foster care to permanent homes and to meet the goal of at least doubling the number of adoptions and other permanent placements over the next five years. In February 1997, the Department responded with the Adoption 2002 report, which outlined the existing barriers to expediting the placement of children from foster care to permanent homes and an agenda to overcome these barriers. The Adoption 2002 report identified the lack of timely information on alternative permanent placements with non-custodial parents or relatives as one barrier to permanency and proposed the use of the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) to locate parents and relatives.

On November 19, 1997, the President signed into law the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (ASFA), Public Law 105-89, establishing permanency, safety and well-being as national goals for children in the child welfare system. Many ASFA provisions were developed from the action steps first identified in the Adoption 2002 report, including using information available from the FPLS to locate non-custodial parents.

In part, ASFA amends title IV-D, section 453 of the Act to authorize title IV-B and IV-E agencies to request information from the FPLS to locate or facilitate the discovery of an individual who is or may be a child’s parent.


Federal Parent Locator Service

The Federal Parent Locator Service, established and conducted under title IV-D, §453 of the Social Security Act (the Act), is a computerized network of information on individuals, including their Social Security Numbers, most recent home address, wage and benefit information, and employment data. This national database is amassed from information provided to the Office of Child Support Enforcement by State and Federal sources. Each State conducts a State Parent Locator Service that gathers information such as unemployment compensation, employment and wage information, and tax records. By law, the States must transmit information contained in their State systems to the FPLS.

In addition, the FPLS obtains information from Federal agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Defense, the National Personnel Records Center, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and from the State Employment Security agencies.

Pursuant to section 453 of the Act, certain information from the FPLS may be requested for the purpose of:

  • establishing parentage,
  • establishing, setting the amount of, modifying, or enforcing child support obligations; or
  • making or enforcing a child custody or visitation determination or enforcing any Federal or State law on unlawful taking or restraint of a child.

As a locate service, the FPLS may be used to obtain information on, or to facilitate the discovery and location of any individual:

  • who is under an obligation to pay child support,
  • against whom an obligation is sought; or
  • to whom an obligation is owed.

Accessing the FPLS

Only authorized persons may request information from the FPLS and solely for the purposes designated in the statute. Federal regulations at 45 CFR 303.70 authorize only the State

title IV-D Child Support Enforcement Agency to request information from the FPLS. Therefore, a title IV-B or IV-E agency must submit its request for FPLS information to the State title IV-D agency, consistent with the aforementioned regulations.

ASFA authorizes the titles IV-B and IV-E agencies to request information from the FPLS to locate individuals who have or may have parental rights to a child. The FPLS may not be used, however, to locate any other relative of the child. Information obtained from the FPLS is confidential and must be safeguarded under the requirements of 45 CFR 303.21.

The title IV-B/IV-E agency may wish to develop an interagency agreement with the title IV-D agency. The interagency agreement would delineate the terms and conditions of the child welfare agency's access to the FPLS and ensure timely feedback on any information obtained on the absent parent. This agreement may help to facilitate the title IV-B/IV-E agency's requests to the title IV-D agency for information on parents. If needed, ACF Regional Office staff are available to assist with the development of this agreement.

Available Information

Information that may be made available to titles IV-B and IV-E agencies from the FPLS regarding an individual who has or may have parental rights to a child includes the following:

  • Person’s Social Security Number
  • Person’s address or location
  • Employer’s name
  • Employer’s address
  • Employment wages, benefits, or other income

The law prohibits the disclosure of any FPLS information on an individual if the State title IV-D agency has placed an "FV" indicator on an individual. The "FV" indicator notifies the FPLS that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and disclosure of that information could be harmful to the custodial parent or the child of such parent. One exception to the disclosure of information in these cases is to a court with jurisdiction to issue an order for the support and maintenance of a child. If the court or its agent makes an FPLS request through the State title IV-D agency, the information will be provided to the court. The court can share this information only if it determines that further disclosure would not be harmful to the custodial party or the child.

Benefits of Collaboration between Child Welfare and Child Support

We believe that a State that uses the FPLS will be able to make more informed and timely decisions about permanency. The FPLS will assist workers to identify and locate absent parents who may be interested in providing a permanent home for a child in foster care. Even if an absent 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 and court to move expeditiously towards adoption or another permanent placement. Further, a State can gather information from non-custodial parents about relatives who may want to provide a home for the child.

To achieve these benefits, we encourage our State title IV-D Child Support Enforcement agencies and our State title IV-B and IV-E agencies to collaborate to maximize the use of the FPLS in the search for parents of children in foster care. We jointly invite your collaboration and assure you of our ongoing commitment to assist your efforts. We have attached a list of Federal Regional Office staff who will be able to provide technical assistance.

David Gray Ross
Patricia Montoya
Office of Child Support Enforcement