March 5, 1998
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 the State Case Registry and the Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders under sections 453(h) and 454A(e) of the Social Security Act (Act).
BACKGROUND:The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) amended the Act to require States to include in their automated systems a State case registry that contains records regarding each case with respect to which services are being provided by the State IV-D agency and each support order established or modified in the State on or after October 1, 1998.
PRWORA also amended the Act to require that no later than October 1, 1998, the Department of Health and Human Services establish and maintain in the Federal Parent Locator Service an automated registry, to be known as the "Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders."
The Office of Child Support Enforcement has received numerous inquiries from States and individuals regarding the interpretation of the provisions pertaining to the State Case Registry and the Federal Case Registry. The purpose of this Action Transmittal is to inform the States and other interested individuals and organizations of OCSE’s policy responses to questions regarding these provisions.
ATTACHMENT:Series of Questions and Answers regarding the State Case Registry and Federal Case Registry provisions added by the "Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996".
INQUIRIES:Office of Child Support Enforcement, Department of Health and Human Services, 370 L’Enfant Promenade, SW, Washington, D.C. 20447, Attention: Director, Policy and Planning Division.
David Gray Ross /s/
Office of Child Support Enforcement
Provisions in the Social Security Act Added by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA)* Pertaining to State Case Registries and the Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders
I. STATE CASE REGISTRY**
*The provisions relating to the State Case Registry are contained primarily in section 311 of PRWORA, Pub. L. No. 104-193. Section 311 added a new section 454A(e) of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. Provisions relating to the establishment of the Federal Case Registry are contained in section 453(h) of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. 653(h), as added by section 316 of PRWORA. Both sections 453(h) and 454A(e) of the Act were further amended by the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, Pub. L. 105-33. Unless otherwise specified, references or citations are to the provisions of the Social Security Act.
** The specific requirements for States which are to be specified by the Secretary will be presented for public comment in a forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
A. CONTENT OF THE STATE CASE REGISTRY
Question 1: What is the State Case Registry (SCR)?
Answer 1: The State Case Registry is designed to be an electronic repository of case records and orders. Section 454A(e)(1) of the Social Security Act (the Act) provides " the automated system required by this section shall include a registry (which shall be known as the "State case registry") that contains records with respect to:
a)each case in which services are being provided by the State agency under the State plan approved under this part; and
b)each support order established or modified in the State on or after October 1, 1998.
Question 2: What information is the SCR required to contain ?
Answer 2: The SCR is required to contain information on both IV-D cases and non IV-D orders. Case record information for all cases and orders contained in the SCR must include standardized data elements for both parents, such as names, social security numbers and other uniform identification numbers, dates of birth,case identification numbers, and other such information (such as case status) as may be required by the Secretary. In addition, as a result of the Taxpayer Relief Act, P.L. 105-32, the records must contain the birth date, and beginning not later than October 1, 1999, the social security number of any child for whom the order requires the provision of support.
Where a support order has been established for a IV-D case contained in the SCR, the case record must also include;
a)a record of the amount of monthly (or other periodic) support owed under the order, and other amounts (including arrearages, interest or late payment penalties, and fees) due or overdue under the order;
b)any amounts owed which have been collected;
c)the distribution of the collected amounts; and
d)the amount of any lien imposed with respect to the order.
Question 3: Is the information contained in the SCR required to be used to conduct information comparisons?
Answer 3: Yes. The State is required to use the automated system (of which the SCR is an integral part), to extract information from, to share and compare information with, and to receive information from, other data bases and information comparison services, in order to obtain or provide information necessary to enable the State agency, the Secretary, or other State or Federal agencies to carry out the information comparison activities required by the Act (§454A(f)). The SCR is one of the databases contained in the Statewide automated system whose information will be used to carry out the requirements of section 454A as well as other provisions of the Act.
Question 4: What are the data bases and information comparison services with which the SCR must be able to share and compare information and from which the SCR must be able to receive information?
Answer 4: The Statewide automated system is required to conduct information comparisons and to share, compare, and receive information from other databases and information comparison services. As an essential part of the Statewide automated system, information contained in the SCR database must be capable of being extracted from the State’s system, and shared with and compared to information contained in other databases. Section 454A(f) of the Act requires information comparison activities conducted by the Statewide automated system to include the following:
(1) Furnishing information on child support cases to the Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders, which is established under §453(h) of the Act, and updating that information as necessary;
(2) Exchanging information with the Federal Parent Locator Service for the purposes of the Federal Parent Locator Service.
(3) Exchanging information with State agencies (of the State and other States) administering programs funded under Title IV-A, and programs operated under a State plan approved under Title XIX, and other programs designated by the Secretary, as necessary to perform State agency responsibilities under this part and under such programs; and
(4) Exchanging information with other agencies of the State, agencies of other States, and interstate information networks, as it is necessary and appropriate to carry out (or assist other States to carry out) the purposes of the State plan for child and spousal support.
Question 5: Are there any information comparison activities involving the SCR that are specifically identified in the statute?
Answer 5: The Act specifies two particular comparisons that must be done using SCR data. They are:
Location: Section 453A(f)(1) of the Act states ". . . an agency designated by the State shall, directly or by contract, conduct automated comparisons of the social security numbers reported by employers [to the State Directory of New Hires] and the social security numbers appearing in the records of the State case registry for cases being enforced under the State plan." The Act explicitly authorizes the use of information derived from such data comparisons "to locate individuals for purposes of establishing paternity, and establishing, modifying, and enforcing child support obligations . . . ." (§453A(h)(1))
In addition to the use of data derived from comparisons of new hire reports and cases in the State Directory of New Hires for location purposes, summarized above, the data contained in the SCR, as part of the State’s automated system, shall also be used to generate and transmit an income withholding notice to an employer for the purpose of collecting child support payments. (§453A(g))
Paternity Establishment: The Act requires each State to have in effect laws requiring the use of "procedures under which voluntary acknowledgments and adjudications of paternity by judicial or administrative processes are filed with the State registry of birth records for comparison with information in the State case registry." (§466(a)(5)(M))
Question 6: What other child support enforcement activities will involve the use of SCR data?
Answer 6: Section 454A(e) of the Act, requiring the establishment of the SCR should be read and interpreted in conjunction with several provisions in the Act. Establishment of the SCR has implications for virtually every stage in the child support enforcement process. Information contained in the SCR may also be used to enhance the following processes which the State is required to conduct. Unless otherwise stated, the following functions apply only to IV-D cases.
Disbursement of Child Support Payments: The Act requires each State to establish and operate a State disbursement unit for the collection and disbursement of payments under support orders in all IV-D cases and non-IV-D cases in which the support order was initially issued in the State on or after January 1, 1994, and in which the income of the NCP is subject to withholding under §466(a)(8)(B) which is intended to be operated in coordination with the State's automated system. Data in the SCR, as part of the State’s automated system, must be used to facilitate the collection and disbursement of child support payments through the State disbursement unit. (§454A(g), §454B(a),(b))
Child Support Enforcement: Data from case records contained in the SCR may be matched against other data bases to collect child support arrearages and take other enforcement actions. Some examples of the data bases that may be matched using data from the SCR for enforcement purposes include records held by financial institutions, records concerning real and personal property, and records of occupational and professional licenses. (§466(a)(17), 466(c)(1)(D)(i)(III), 466(c)(1)(D)(i)(IV) and 466(a)(16)).
Asset Seizure: Expanding upon prior law, the Act requires each State to have in effect laws requiring "procedures under which liens arise by operation of law against real and personal property for amounts of overdue support owed by a noncustodial parent who resides or owns property in the State; and the State accords full faith and credit to liens . . . arising in another State . . . ." (§466(a)(4)(A) and (B)).
Data in the SCR will indicate the amount of monthly (or other periodic) support owed under the order, and other amounts (including arrearages, interest or late payment penalties, and fees) due or overdue under the order the amount of any lien imposed with respect to the order. The existence of a lien can serve as a "trigger" for enforcement action, including the securing of assets to satisfy any support obligation and the arrearage by;
"(i) intercepting or seizing periodic or lump-sum payments from 150(I) a State or local agency, including unemployment compensation, workers' compensation, and other benefits;
(II) judgments, settlements, and lotteries;
(ii) attaching and seizing assets of the obligor held in financial institutions;
(iii) attaching public and private retirement funds; and
(iv) imposing liens... and, in appropriate cases, to force the sale of property and distribution of proceeds". (§466(c)(1)(G)).
Medical Support Enforcement: The Act provides that each State must have in effect laws requiring the use of "procedures under which all child support orders enforced [pursuant to this part] shall include a provision for the health care coverage of the child, and in the case in which a noncustodial parent provides such coverage and changes employment, and the new employer provides health care coverage, the State agency shall transfer notice of the provision to the employer, which notice shall operate to enroll the child in the noncustodial parent's health plan, unless the noncustodial parent contests the notice." (§466(a)(19)).
This provision can serve as the foundation for integrating the enforcement of health care orders into the new hire/wage assignment system. Data derived from comparisons of new hire reports and cases in the SCR could be used not only for purposes of location and income withholding, but also for the purpose of medical support enforcement.
Review and Adjustment: The Act's provisions pertaining to the review and adjustment of child support orders also have implications for the SCR. The Act requires each State tohave in effect laws requiring the use of procedures under which, every 3 years, or upon request as specified in the law, the State is to review and, if appropriate, adjust orders in accordance with the child support guidelines, apply a cost-of-living adjustment, or use automated methods to conduct the review and adjustment process. (§466(a)(10)(A)(i)). Each of these options presents the State with the opportunity to conduct the review and adjustment process by using the data in the SCR.
Interstate Enforcement: Interstate child support enforcement has implications for the SCR as well. The Act requires each State to have laws requiring the State to use procedures under which, in response to another State’s request for assistance in a case involving the enforcement of a support order, the State will "compare the information about the cases to the information in the data bases of the State . . . ." (§466(a)(14)(A)(ii)(I)). See also §454(32).
Question 7: Will there be a requirement that a State include in its case registry an indicator that the State has "reasonable evidence" of domestic violence or child abuse?
Answer 7: The Act requires that the State IV-D plan have in effect certain safeguards designed to protect the privacy rights of the parties, including in appropriate cases "the requirement to notify the Secretary...that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse against a party or the child and that the disclosure of such information could be harmful to the party or the child." (§454(26)(D)). The Act also prohibits the disclosure by the Secretary of information in the Federal Parent Locator Service "if the State has notified the Secretary that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and the disclosure of such information could be harmful to the custodial parent or the child of such parent." (§453 (b)(2)).
The Federal case registry is a component of the FPLS and is data-dependent on the SCR. Thus, we are considering requiring States to include a domestic violence or child abuse indicator as a data element that must be reported to the FCR as the most feasible way to meet the requirements of the Act. Specific requirements for States with regard to the notification of reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse will be presented for public comment in a forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).
Question 8: Must the SCR contain records pertaining to interstate cases?
Answer 8: The SCR must include cases in which the State is providing services under the State plan. In the context of direct income withholding pursuant to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, for example, the State to which an income withholding order is directed is not "providing services under the State plan" - and, in fact, may not know that the direct income withholding order has been to an employer in the State. Also note that §466(a)(14), which pertains to high-volume, automated administrative enforcement (AEI) in interstate cases, explicitly provides in paragraph (iii) that "if the State provides assistance to another State pursuant to this paragraph with respect to a case, neither State shall consider the case to be transferred to the caseload of such other State."
Question 9: Does the Act require States to take measures to ensure the accuracy of data?
Answer 9: Yes. This is because the accuracy of the data in the SCR is essential given the multiple purposes for which the data will be used. The Act addresses this issue in two ways. First, with regard to IV-D cases, the Act stipulates that "The State agency operating the automated system . . . shall promptly establish and update, maintain, and regularly monitor, case records in the State case registry with respect to which services are being provided under the State plan . . . on the basis of --
(A) information on administrative actions and administrative and judicial proceedings and orders relating to paternity and support;
(B) information obtained from comparison with Federal, State, or local sources of information;
(C) information on support collections and distributions;
(D) any other relevant information."(§454A(e)(5))
Second, the Act requires each State to enact laws requiring the use of procedures under which "each party to any paternity or child support proceeding is required (subject to privacy safeguards) to file with the State case registry upon entry of an order, and to update as appropriate, information on location and identity of the party, including social security number, residential and mailing addresses, telephone number, driver's license number, and name, address and telephone number of employer . . . ." (§466(c)(2)(A)(i)).
B. LOCATION OF THE STATE CASE REGISTRY
Question 1: Does the Federal law require that the SCR be a part of the automated system?
Answer 1: Yes. Section 454A(e)(1) of the Act provides that "the automated system required by this section shall include a registry (which shall be known as the "State case registry") ". The SCR must be operated at the State level and directly by the State agency responsible for the State’s automated system. The SCR may be established for non IV-D orders by linking local case registries of support orders through an automated information network, subject to the requirements of §454A of the Act. The SCR is required to use standardized data elements for both parents, such as names, social security numbers and other uniform identification numbers, dates of birth, and case identification numbers, as may be required by the Secretary.
C. PRIVACY SAFEGUARDS
Question 1: Does the Act require the State to put measures in place to safeguard against the improper disclosure of information?
Answer 1: Yes. Section 454A(d) requires that the State agency "have in effect safeguards on the integrity, accuracy, and completeness of , access to, and use of data in the automated systems required by this section, which shall include....:
1)...written policies concerning access to data by State agency personnel, and sharing of data with other persons, which -
a) permit access to and use of data only to the extent necessary to carry out the State program under this part; 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 strict 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 identifyunauthorized 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... 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."
The State is also required to ensure that safeguards exist which appropriately address the requirements of section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, pertaining to the use of information received from the Internal Revenue Service for child support purposes. Information contained in the SCR will be maintained as part of the State's automated system, and will therefore be subject to the provisions of section 454A(d).
Section 454(26) also requires the State to 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 in child support cases.
D. EFFECTIVE DATE/TIME FRAMES
Question 1: When are States required to submit information contained in the SCR to the Federal Case Registry?
Answer 1: A forthcoming Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will address requirements for States in submitting information to the FCR. The NPRM proposes that States begin submitting information to the FCR effective October 1, 1998, the date on which the FCR is required to be operational. Section 453(h) of the Act provides: " ...Not later than October 1, 1998, ...the Secretary shall establish and maintain in the Federal Parent Locator Service an automated registry (which shall be known as the "Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders") which shall contain abstracts of support orders and other information...with respect to each case and order in each State case registry maintained pursuant to section 454A(e), as furnished (and regularly updated), pursuant to section 454(f), by State agencies administering programs under this part."
Question 2: How often must the State submit case record and order information to the Federal Case Registry?
Answer 2: The Federal Case Registry is intended to be an up to date database, with information being received from the SCR on a recurring basis. In order to ensure that the FCR is as current as possible, information will need to be added or updated on a regular basis. OCSE is currently in the process of developing standard schedules for submission of information from the SCR to the Federal Case Registry.
II.FEDERAL CASE REGISTRY OF CHILD SUPPORT ORDERS
Question 1: What is the Federal Case Registry (FCR)?
Answer 1: Section 453(h)(1) of the Act requires the Secretary to establish and maintain in the Federal Parent Locator Service(FPLS) an automated registry, to be known as the Federal Case Registry of Child Support Orders (FCR), not later than October 1, 1998. The FCR is a federal data base that will contain identifying information on all individuals involved in IV-D child support cases or in non IV-D orders established or modified after October 1, 1998. The FCR shall contain abstracts of support orders and other information described in §453(h)(2) with respect to each case and order in each SCR maintained pursuant to §454A(e) , as furnished and regularly updated pursuant to §454A(f), by State agencies administering programs under under Title IV, Part D of the Social Security Act.
The purpose of the FCR is to assist States in administering Title IV-D programs with approved State plans and programs funded under Title IV-A of the Act. The FCR is intended to be used in conjunction with the National Directory of New Hires to assist States in identifying individuals located or working in other States and is expected to also serve as a "pointer system" that will direct an individual or agency requesting information through the FPLS to sources that may be able to provide more detailed information.
Question 2: Will the FCR interface with the National Directory of New Hires (NDNH)?
Answer 2: Yes. The Act requires 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 will:
(a) compare information in the NDNH against information in the support order and case abstracts in the FCR not less often than every 2 business days; and
(b) within 2 business days after such a comparison reveals a match with respect to an individual, report the information to the State agency responsible for the case. (§453(j)(2)). See also OCSE-AT-97-04, dated March 12, 1997.
Question 1: What information will the FCR contain?
Answer 1: Section 453(h)(1) of the Act requires the FCR to contain abstracts of support orders and other information with respect to each case and order in each State case registry . The information shall be such information as the Secretary may specify in regulations (including the names, social security numbers or other uniform identifiers, and state case identification numbers) to identify the individuals who owe or are owed support (or with respect to or on behalf of whom support obligations are sought to be established) and the State or States which have the case or order. Pursuant to the Taxpayer Relief Act, P.L. 105-32, beginning not later than October 1, 1999, the information shall include the names and social security numbers of the children of such individuals. (§453(h)(2))
C. LOCATION OF THE FEDERAL CASE REGISTRY
Question 1: Where will the FCR be housed?
Answer 1: The Act requires that the FCR be established and maintained in the Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) (§453(h)(1)).
D. INFORMATION IN THE FEDERAL PARENT LOCATOR SERVICE
Question 1: In a case where information in the FPLS is requested for the purposes of establishing parentage, establishing, setting the amount of, modifying or enforcing child support obligations what information will be available from the FPLS under the Act?
Answer 1: Three types of information are generally available from the FPLS for the purpose of establishing parentage, establishing, setting the amount of, modifying, or enforcingchild support obligations. The three types of information as specified in §453 (a) are:
(1) information on, or facilitating the discovery of, the location of any individual:
(a) who is under an obligation to pay child support;
(b) against whom such an obligation is sought;
(c) to whom such an obligation is owed; and
(d) who has or may have parental rights to a child;
(2)information on the individual’s wages (or other income) from, and benefits of, employment (including rights to or enrollment in group health coverage); and
(3) information on the type, status, location, and amount of any assets of, or debts owed by or to, any such individual).
Question 2: In a case where information in the FPLS is requested for the purposes of making or enforcing child custody or visitation orders, what information will be available from the FPLS under the Act?
Answer 2: The Act specifically permits the use of the FPLS services by a State or the United States for the purpose of enforcing any State or Federal law with respect to the unlawful taking or restraint of a child or the making or enforcing of a child custody or visitation determination pursuant to an agreement which all States will have entered into with the Secretary (§463(a)). However, section 463(c) of the Act restricts the information which may be provided to the most recent address and place of employment of the parent or child. Although PRWORA amended §453 to address some custody and visitation issues within that Section of Title IV, Part D, subsequent technical amendments included in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, P. L. 105-33, clarify that §463 of the Social Security Act is the primary statutory provision governing the use of the FPLS for custody and visitation.
E. NONDISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION IN THE FCR
Question 1: What steps will be taken to prevent the FPLS from disclosing information on a case contained in the FCR if the State has notified the Secretary that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and the disclosure of such information could be harmful to the custodial parent or the child of such parent?
Answer 1: Notification by the State will result in the imposition of an indicator on the person contained in the FCR which will prevent release of the information. However, where the State has notified the Secretary that there is reasonable evidence of domestic violence, and that the disclosure of that information could be harmful to the custodial parent or the child of such parent, the information may still be disclosed to a court or agent of the court if: upon receipt of information from the Secretary, the court determines whether disclosure to any other person of that information would be harmful to the parent or the child; and if the court determines that disclosure of such information to any other person could be harmful, the court and its agents shall not make any such disclosure. (§§453(b)(2)(A), 453(b)(2)(B))
F. PRIVACY SAFEGUARDS
Question 1: Given the expanded purposes of the FPLS what measures will be taken to safeguard against the improper disclosure of information on cases contained in the FCR?
Answer 1: The Act safeguards against the improper disclosure of information in the following ways:
Authorized Persons: Information may only be disclosed to authorized persons and for authorized purposes as defined in §§453 (a)(2), 453(b)(2), 453(c), 453(j), 453(h)(3), 453(i)(3), and to authorized persons and for the purposes specified in §§463(a)(1 & 2), 463(d).
Information Integrity and Security: The Secretary is required to establish and implement safeguards with regard to the entities established under the FPLS which are designed to restrict access to confidential information in the FPLS to authorized persons, and restrict use of such information to authorized purposes.(§453(l) and §453(m))
Prohibitions on Disclosure: No information will be disclosed if;
(1) the disclosure of the information would contravene the national policy or security interests of the United States or the confidentiality of census data;
(2) the State has notified the Secretary that the State has reasonable evidence of domestic violence or child abuse and that the disclosure of such information could be harmful to the custodial parent or the child of that parent (subject to the application of the provisions of §453(b)(2)).
We intend to develop guidance on access to the FPLS under §§453 and 463, including to whom information may be disclosed, what information may be disclosed and for what purpose.
The States are also required, as a requirement of their State plans, to have procedures in place which ensure the non disclosure of information obtained from the FPLS under the above circumstances. (§454(8), §454(16), §454(26), §454A(d))
G. EFFECTIVE DATE
Question 1: What is the effective date for the establishment of the FCR ?
Answer: Pursuant to §453(h)(1) of the Act , the FCR must be operational by October 1, 1998.