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Requesting Research Matching Agreements

A Look Inside OCSE - Story Series

Published: October 30, 2019

Graphic of 12 separate streams of numerical data shrinking and going into a USB cable simultaneouslyMost state child support programs use Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) data to locate parents, establish paternity and child support orders, and enforce those orders. However, other programs request FPLS information for additional uses. OCSE reviews these requests to determine if they meet the criteria required under the Social Security Act.

The majority of the requests we receive are for information in the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH) because it contains the most current wage and employment information. These requests challenge us to balance our duty to safeguard the information with our authority to share the information in accordance with federal law.

Congress has long recognized that federal agencies should have access to the best data reasonably available. In order to provide this kind of access and still protect individuals’ privacy, Congress requires that OCSE collect, use, and share data only in accordance with its authorized purpose. One such purpose allows state and federal agencies to request NDNH data to determine an individual’s eligibility for benefits or to investigate fraud, waste, and abuse. But the majority of requests for NDNH data come from federal or state agencies that want to determine the effectiveness of their programs through evaluations or research. The research authority that allows this is contained in §453(j)(5) of the Social Security Act.

Research purposes

Evidence-based decision-making depends on reliable, high-quality information. Our primary goal is to provide data to agencies while protecting the privacy and confidentiality of NDNH records, so we remove personal identifiers for research requests.

The Data Access Team supports federal and state agencies that have legal authority to access information in the NDNH. Under this legal authority, NDNH data must be used for research purposes that will likely contribute to the work of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or child support programs.

Lifting children out of poverty

Child support and TANF provide a wide range of benefits and support many activities that target eliminating the effects of child poverty. The requesting agencies must show that the information they seek will improve these programs. For example, they must provide information that will improve services for those in poverty, discover tools to help care for children, or assist individuals with employment opportunities. In fact, many of the research requests are from programs developed by the Department of Health and Human Services for families served by the TANF and child support programs.

Employment and other programs

Other requests come from employment programs that provide work-related skills training and opportunities to individuals who receive or are eligible for services provided by the TANF and child support programs. The Department of Labor’s research projects are related to developing job programs and determining best practices that will provide individuals with the skills they need for gainful employment. OCSE has also received research requests from agencies such as the Office of Policy and Research Evaluation, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Approximately 30 approved research projects currently have access to the NDNH.

For more information about research matches, contact Maureen Henriksen at maureen.henriksen@acf.hhs.gov.

About the Authors

This article was written by members of the Division of Federal Systems Data Access Team. It originally appeared in the October 2019 Child Support Report.

Last Reviewed: November 4, 2019

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