The Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) is open to opportunities to work with external partners to advance knowledge and to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare system and adults that may have experienced abuse and/or neglect. However, the Agency, by law, must protect the confidentiality of information about the children, families, and adults it serves and ensure that the information shared respects the rights of clients. DFPS as a public entity wants to advance practices and knowledge regarding services for the most vulnerable individuals and works with researchers to advance the field of human and social services. As part of the application process, each application is evaluated on its individual merit on a case-by-case basis.

The guidelines below pertain to external research requests for information that is not publicly available through reports on the Agency's website. All other requests should be in accordance with the Public Information Act.

Initial Requests For Approval to Conduct Research

Statewide Intake, Child Protective Investigations (CPI), and Child Protective Services (CPS)

External research requests must be submitted to the DFPS Records Portal. After the submission has been made, the request will be evaluated. Please check back to the DFPS Records Portal for updates on the status of your submission and to communicate with DFPS.

Adult Protective Services (APS)

For research proposals and data requests concerning Adult Protective Services, email the APS Program Support mailbox or call (512) 929-6995.

Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI)

For research inquiries concerning Prevention and Early Intervention, email the PEI Data mailbox or call (512) 944-3740.

Additional General Guidelines for Research Requests

DFPS generally consents to methodologically sound research addressing an important issue regarding child abuse or neglect of children families involved in the child welfare system or adults involved with Adult Protective Services (APS), if it meets the following criteria:

  1. The request is not unduly intrusive to and does not unduly compromise the confidentiality of children and families currently or formerly involved in the Child welfare system. Similarly, the request may not be unduly intrusive or unduly compromise the confidentiality of an adult involved in the APS system. DFPS generally does not consent to requests requiring personal participation of children and families in the CPS system, the release of medical, school or CPS or CPI records, or the identification of children and families formerly involved in the CPS system.
  2. The request does not unduly compromise the confidentiality or privacy rights of DFPS staff.
  3. The request is not unduly burdensome on DFPS staff or resources.
  4. DFPS generally only releases information or data in a de-identified form, unless there is a compelling need for identifying information. 

Consent Requirements for CPS

Once DFPS has approved the research project, you may be required to obtain consent from certain individuals who will be involved in or impacted by the study. You may also have to comply with any consent protocols required by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), if applicable.   DFPS will decide for each research study on a case-by-case basis which individuals will need to provide consent before participating.

Generally, the following guidelines will apply:

  • Caseworker consent - The Caseworker is a CPS staff person who has been assigned by DFPS to provide casework services to the child. In most cases, the consent of a child’s caseworker will be required for a child in DFPS conservatorship to participate in a study. If the child was participating in a study before the child entered DFPS managing conservatorship, consent from the DFPS caseworker (in addition to approval of the department) will be required for the child to continue in the study once the child is in conservatorship.
    • Note: DFPS approves the study but individual caseworkers sign the guardian consent form for the child on their caseload. The caseworker is not giving approval of the study – the Commissioner does that – they are providing consent on behalf of the Agency for the individual child
  • Child - If appropriate, the approval of the child may be required.
  • Caregiver - The caregiver is a relative, foster parent, or facility staff responsible for the day-to-day care of the child.  If the research study will require the participation of the child’s caregiver, the consent of the caregiver will be necessary. 
  • Medical Consenter - The medical consenter is the caregiver, caseworker, or other individual who is designated by DFPS and/or authorized by a court to oversee and consent to the medical care of the child. In rare instances, a child over the age of 16 may be authorized as his or her own medical consenter. If participation of the child will involve the child’s current medical care, the consent of the medical consenter may be required.
  • Legal/biological parent - In some cases, DFPS may require the researcher to get the consent of the child’s biological or legal parent for a child in DFPS conservatorship, if the Agency deems it appropriate. If a child is no longer in DFPS conservatorship, consent to continue to participate in an approved research study must be obtained from the child’s biological or legal parent.  

Exception - when DFPS approval or consent is not required

DFPS approval or consent is not required for Institutional Review Board-approved research involving de-identified retrospective data of children currently or formerly in conservatorship if the de-identified data is obtained from health system or hospital records and consent would not be required for children not currently or formerly involved in DFPS conservatorship or services. Research entities shall follow the consent procedures, if any, of their institution, funding source, and/or IRB.

Review and Approval Process

The DFPS research request review and approval process applies to research involving the use of individual level data obtained from databases or case records maintained by DFPS, Single Source Continuum Contractors (SSCCs), or from clients themselves through interviews, surveys, or observations.

The purposes of the DFPS research approval process are:

  1. to protect the safety of human subjects involved in research;
  2. to protect the confidentiality of data;
  3. to protect the security of data used in research projects from unauthorized use or release;
  4. to foster research that meets prevailing methodological standards and is relevant to the Agency’s mission or furthers knowledge in the field of study;
  5. to contribute to DFPS system improvement efforts and inform solutions to agency priorities.

DFPS has a multi-phase process for reviewing and approving research proposals.

The proposal is first reviewed by DFPS’s Office of Data and Systems Improvement based on the following standards:

  1. relevance to the DFPS mission or contribution to the body of literature in the field;
  2. methodological adequacy;
  3. procedures for ensuring confidentiality of subject data;
  4. human subjects protections, including the potential risks of the research and procedures to ensure the safety of participants;
  5. adherence to DFPS data security requirements;
  6. availability and feasibility of data requests;

The proposal is then reviewed by DFPS program leadership based on the above standards and additionally considers the:

  1. impact on DFPS or local agency operations;
  2. support from involved parties;
  3. relevance to current agency priorities and system improvement efforts.

The proposal may be reviewed by the DFPS Legal department for compliance with applicable statutes, polices, and procedures.

Please note once a complete research request is received, the approval process may take up to 90 days depending on the volume of requests and/or the complexity. At any time you may check on the status of your request through the DFPS Records Portal.