Disclosures of Child Support Enforcement Information to State IV-B & IV-E Child Welfare Agencies
POLICY INTERPRETATION QUESTIONS
DATE: May 10, 2007
TO: State and Tribal IV-D Directors
SUBJECT: IV-D agency disclosures of child support enforcement information to State IV-B and IV-E child welfare agencies and related matters
QUESTION 1: Must a IV-D agency comply with a IV-B or IV-E agency’s request for data from the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) pursuant to section 453 of the Social Security Act (the Act)?
RESPONSE: Yes. For purposes of receiving FPLS information, section 453(c)(4) of the Act includes “a State agency that is administering a program operated under a State plan under…part B… or under part E.” For example, a State IV-B or IV-E agency may request information from the FPLS to locate or facilitate the discovery of an individual who has or may have parental rights to a child. A Title IV-B or IV-E agency must submit its request for FPLS information through the State IV-D agency’s State Parent Locator Services (SPLS) in accordance with 45 CFR 303.70 (see AT-99-09 for further guidance).
Information obtained from the FPLS will help caseworkers identify and locate noncustodial parents who may be interested in providing a permanent home for a child in foster care. As discussed in AT-99-09, 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. The FPLS may not be used, however, to locate any other relative of the child.
See AT-98-27 for guidance related to the issue of disclosure of information in matters of domestic violence and child abuse. See AT-99-09 for the purposes for which authorized persons can access the FPLS and the information that can be received by such persons. See also OCSE-IM-99-01 or ACYF-CB-IM-99-02, a single Information Memorandum jointly issued by both agencies, for an overview of the ‘Use of the FPLS for Child Welfare Services.’
QUESTION 2: In response to IV-B or IV-E agency requests, must IV-D agencies share information from State locate sources with IV-B and IV-E agencies to, among other things, allow those agencies to make timely and informed decisions about permanency?
RESPONSE: Yes. Section 454(8) of the Act requires the IV-D agency to use all sources of information and available records as well as the FPLS for the purpose of, among other things, establishing parentage. This section also requires that the IV-D agency disclose, subject to certain privacy safeguards, the information described in section 453 of the Act to authorized persons, which include IV-B and IV-E agencies, as discussed above. The information described in section 453 of the Act includes information that can be obtained "from any other department, agency, or instrumentality . . . of any State." Therefore, information from State locate sources is similarly available in response to appropriate requests from IV-B and IV-E agencies. This requirement is also found in 45 CFR 302.35(d).
QUESTION 3: May IV-D agencies share data in their statewide automated systems with IV-B and IV-E agencies?
RESPONSE: No. At this time, there is no existing statutory or regulatory authority in title IV-D or 45 CFR Part 307 to allow this disclosure. Section 454A(f)(3) allows States to “Exchang[e] information with State agencies (of the State and of other States) administering programs under part A,…title XIX, and other programs designated by the Secretary, as necessary to perform State agency responsibilities…” No such designation is currently in place for IV-B and IV-E agencies.
QUESTION 4: Must the IV-D agency open a child support case in response to a locate request from a IV-B or IV-E agency?
RESPONSE: It depends on the request. IV-D agencies may receive two kinds of requests. First, the IV-D agency will have requests from IV-B and IV-E agencies to access the FPLS to locate an individual who has or may have parental rights to assist in the permanent placement of a child. In this case, the State IV-D agency is not required to open a case and should treat this “locate” request similar to requests from the resident parent, legal guardian, attorney and other authorized persons listed under §453(c)(1)-(3). AT-02-04 discusses how to process locate requests.
The second type of request is a referral for IV-D services where the State has secured an assignment of rights to child support on behalf of a child receiving title IV-E foster care payments. In this case, the IV-D agency must open a child support case and provide any necessary services. 45 CFR 303.2(b) outlines IV-D agency responsibilities when a case is referred to the agency.
QUESTION 5: Which agency determines an appropriate referral from a IV-E agency to a IV-D agency?
RESPONSE: Section 471(a)(17) of the Act requires a State plan for foster care and adoption assistance to provide “that, where appropriate, all steps will be taken, including cooperative efforts with the State agencies administering… [titles IV-A and IV-D] to secure an assignment to the State of any rights to support on behalf of each child receiving foster care maintenance payments…” Because this is a IV-E State plan requirement, the IV-E agency determines whether a referral to the IV-D agency is appropriate.
QUESTION 6: Is the IV-E agency required to refer a case to the IV-D agency within any particular timeframe?
RESPONSE: No. A IV-E agency may determine when referral to the IV-D agency is appropriate. In the former Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, cases now under IV-E were handled by State IV-A agencies and required notice to the IV-D agency within two working days of the determination of eligibility for or furnishing of AFDC or AFDC foster care payments. See 45 CFR 235.70. This requirement does not apply to the IV-E program.
QUESTION 7: Can the IV-D agency close a case that was referred by the IV-E agency?
RESPONSE: Once a IV-E agency determines that it is appropriate to secure an assignment of rights and to refer a case, the IV-D agency has an obligation to work the case as it would any other. This includes keeping a case open unless one of the case closure criteria in 45 CFR 303.11 applies. For example, if medical support or arrearages are assigned, a request by the IV-E agency will not suffice to close the case under 45 CFR 303.11(b)(8). If no such assignment exists, the IV-D agency may close the case upon the IV-E agency’s request.
Likewise, 45 CFR 303.11(b)(9) allows the IV-D agency to close the case if the IV-E agency finds a good cause or other exception to cooperation with the IV-D agency and either agency determines that continued enforcement would risk harm to the child or caretaker relative. (Case closure situations are further described in the OCSE Action Transmittal AT-99-04.)
QUESTION 8: What is the role of the IV-D agency if a State has a law under which the cost to the State of maintaining a child in State custody creates a debt by the parent to the State (for example, if the child is in juvenile detention or a mental institution)?
RESPONSE: If the child is not receiving assistance or services under titles IV-A, IV-E, XIX, or, in some cases, under the Food Stamp Act of 1977, there is no role for the IV-D agency unless an individual or agency files an application for IV-D services. The IV-D agency must then establish a support order based on child support guidelines. The IV-D agency may only collect child support, not a debt to the State.
cc: ACF/OCSE Regional Program Managers
Office of Child Support Enforcement