How to Get CPS Files

Truly a Work in Progress. If you have been successful in getting your files, Please Let Us Know



Write a Letter

Automatic letters generated within each State with criteria on laws for such.  You can also ask for specific agencies:

Student Press Law Center

Letter generator as well as great information  about privacy issues:

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press


Flyer that explains the Privacy issues of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996)

http://www.hhs. gov/ocr/hipaa/ consumer_ summary.pdf 


This website details what the caseworker is documenting & why.  One can possibly obtain portions of CPS files if it is known exactly what to ask for:

 Child Protective Services: A Guide for Caseworkers : Chapter Twelve: Effective Documentation


The following site outlines that the criminal background check for foster parenting is part of the “home study” portion of the huge load of caseworker files.
Criminal Background Checks for Prospective Adoptive and Foster Parents

... of data collection systems called the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS). The challenge for CPS is not only to use data like this to set goals and outcomes, but also to ...Below are results

Supervising Child Protective Services Caseworkers : Chapter Seven : Results-oriented Management

This link is designed to provide agencies with the address/contact person to request records.  It is listed by state.   Interesting that New York will only release information to the person rather than an agency. 
http://www.dhs. state.or. us/policy/ childwelfare/ im/2007/cw_ im_07_010att3. pdf

You can contact the Michigan State Police for a copy of your records..  see link: 
http://www.michigan legalaid. org/library_ client/resource. 2005-09-13. 4094590966/ file0/at_ download


Group Advice


VicKY states she cannot get copies of her foster child’s medical records.....(Kentucky) That is exactly why I always got them when the services were rendered.  I simply asked the Dr. at the time of the visit to photocopy his notes for me....and I kept them all.  Yet another point that might be worth noting in the "Book".  {member}  


Somewhere I was told that in Maine you can get access to the "second" file.  Was told that if you request a copy of your records that you specifically had to ask for both files (I forget what they call them...)..In fact, I know of one woman who got access to both files.  Would be interesting to know if this issue is addressed in the statutes anywhere?  I'll have to ask around and find out what that separate file is called here.  And how to go about getting a copy of it.  {member}


It is difficult to get CPS files because of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).   CPS says that the files are about the kids, not ourselves, so we are not entitled to them as they contain confidential information on the children.  If the kids are in the System, they are wards of the State and bio parents are not allowed this information.  If foster parents are trying to obtain these files, the foster parents of removed foster children have no rights whatsoever regarding another person’s children.  Please see the eGuidebook “Getting Our Kids Back!”   There are three points of law that can be pursued for ex-foster parents to be heard by the court in getting their kids back…  However, there is a form online for checking the Central Registry.  It is aimed at prospective employers doing a background check, but supposedly anyone could submit the form…  {member}


In the state of Ohio you can get a background check anytime and do not have to give a reason. They have a form we fill out and take to the Sheriff's department and they do the check.  We can also get it done at our probate court.  The other thing is we have an address to send to our state capital to request our central registry.  You may want to check into that also.  One thing our attorney did tell us if our name is not removed in the given time lines that he would be willing to take legal action then because it is unlawful for it to remain on the registry after the given timelines.  Just my thoughts.  GOD IS GOOD. . . ALL THE TIME!!  (member’s page)   {member}

 In searching the internet for info in Ohio, I happened upon the following link which sheds quite a bit of info relevant to your discussion.. .food for thought.      http://codes.ohio.gove/oac/5101:2-35   {member}

Hello All, I am new to the group and I have been reading many of the threads. I am from Ohio, so this thread is of interest to me. First, let me say that even an Unsubstantiated  finding causes a hit in the registry.   An UNSUB remains in the system for the shortest amount of time (months), but it is entered just the same. Please refer to the Ohio Adminsitrative Code (OAC) online….   My name is on the OH registry. The investigation was closed as UNSUB and I spent two days in jail, spent thousands if dollars I cannot afford and worried what my adopted son would do if anything ever happened to me. Later that day I found out that the county CPS workers interroagted my kid at school THAT MORNING without our permission and tried to see if he had been abused. Illegal? Yes. Rotten? Yes. And it never stops. I will never foster another kid. My name and reputation are ruined. Our agency did nothing despite the fact that our regional direction found the allegations baseless and unfounded. No apologies. No check to cover my legal fees and lost wages. Nothing.  My advice: don't foster withou a good attorney on retainer. Bettter yet, don't foster at all. The adoption of my son was the happiest moment of my life. This experience with CPS has been my biggest nightmare. If you are under investigation: get an attorney immediately; they will not treat you fairly. It IS guilty until proven innocent. Say nothing to anyone except your attorney. Expect the worst and hope for the best. Do not trust or rely on any private agencies to help you. Ours was told (by their legal counsel!) to tell us that they are "innocent bystanders."  There is no such thing.   Protect yourself and inform yourself FIRST  {member}


…have been told repeatedly that I have no right to see my file because it is their file on me not my file.  They do not have to share file with me or even tell me what is in it.  Member Susan in CA


In Virginia, anyone can request a background check through the State Police Department and most of the steps can be completed online.  You can also request a National Fingerprint check through our local State Police office.  You don't have to offer any reason.  We can walk into our local Social Services office to obtain the form the the Child Protective Services Registry.  In our state these checks cost a very small amount of money, but as a child care home and foster home, we have to get these done annually.  It might be a little different in each state but can't be too inaccessible because of the large demand by the child care industry.    {member}


Susan, Vickie, Robin, As you all know every state has different statutes regarding this and guidelines that they follow. Like someone else said check your agencies manual on this too, take a copy of that paragraph with you.. But if the file is about you by law you have a right to copies of that file. Getting it however is another matter. Sometimes it takes an attorney to obtain copies of the file, or in some states you have to file a motion to obtain information found in the agencies files. Some states it is called a "motion of discovery", or a "writ of disclosure.”  It is in essence a demand for an attorney to discover what evidence they have in an investigative file on a foster parent. This is logical considering your attorney has been retained to prepare your defense he/she needs to be aware of what evidence, if any, they have against you in order to do so. But this is an investigative file.

It also applies to a normal file in any court hearing or court procedure where an attorney is involved in your case. This tells us that we do have a right to the information contained within those files but many times they refuse a foster parent access to those files because again no one calls them on it. Usually if you tell them that you attorney wants copies of the file they will make copies of them.

I usually recommend that you have a form typed up with a place to sign for whoever is refusing to make copies for you, most of the time this scares a secretary or receptionist to death and they go and get a supervisor to sign it. They are not usually called on this...remember most FP's are timid, meek and do what they are told......they usually do not challenge them when they say they cannot have copies of their file. I would just tell them "Fine I will tell my attorney what you said, and of course that you refused, then I will have him send a "Writ of Disclosure" right away, by the way would you sign this statement saying that you refused my lawful Right to copies of my files? My attorney asked me to have someone sign it for court.”

Something to that effect anyway. Most of the time it works. They panic and call their supervisor.  There has been a few cases that it hasn't worked, but most of the time it works. marilyn fpls



Susan Marsh wrote:

When I ask in writing to see the file or have a written refusal I was  told verbally by phone, due to confidentiality and privacty issues  they would not share the file with me. When I asked for this in  writing a very rude woman said "you have your answer" and hung up the > phone. Yes, I filed a complaint with the county. Never heard anything  about it again.

Vickie great letter, should do the trick*. If they refuse to comply* then you need to have a place at the bottom of this letter for someone to sign it stating they are refusing your
lawful right to copies of said file as requested. You will need this for court....later on.  If you send it certified or registered with a return receipt requested that person who is
accepting the delivering will then be held responsible for _*noncompliance* _. You can also NAME A supervisors for acceptance. marilyn fpls

Vickie Keith wrote:

This is just a quick sample letter that I have drafted for those that > may be trying to request a copy of their files. I hope the format > will not be messed up, as I did it in word, and I am simply pasting it > here. If it is messed up, email me privately with FPA in the subject > line....I will send you the word document.>

Your Name
Your Address
City, State, Zip
February 19, 2008

Attn: Agency Director

Agency Name
Agency Address
City, State, Zip

Re: Copy of my file(s)

Dear Agency Director:

 On February 18, 2008, I called your agency and requested a copy of my file.  I spoke with Jane Know-nothing.  According to Ms. Know-nothing, I am not entitled to receive or review a  copy of my file(s) due to confidentiality.

This letter is to inform you that I have spoken with my attorney who  has advised me of my rights in this matter, and in fact, I do have
the legal right to inspect and review the information contained within  your files.

Further, I have also been advised of my legal right to submit in writing, any objection or clarification that I may feel is necessary,
with regard to any discrepancies that I do not feel are accurate or  complete.

Kindly forward to me a copy of any and all pages contained within the > above mentioned file. I will be happy to reimburse a reasonable fee for the photocopying charges.

Your prompt attention to this matter is appreciated.


John Q. Citizen

Note for Below:  The Appendix A on Crime Compensation is included for your information in the link provided in this paragraph.  When convicted of child abuse, the alleged perpetrator can be ordered to pay for counseling for the victim.  It is not known if this information is useful to a person on the Central Registry, or not – specifically, can the file be obtained from the “State Victims of Crimes Programs” and/or expunged from it.


Appendix A =  is from:



The Role of Mental Health Professionals in the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect
User Manual Series (1993)

Author(s):  U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Peterson, Urquiza

Year Published:  1993


Guidelines for Sharing Information About Youth

Information sharing among juvenile justice and other youth-serving agencies is an essential tool for improving services to at-risk and delinquent youth and their families, but it requires a significant shift in the practices of many agencies. To assist in this process, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention has developed Guidelines for Juvenile Information Sharing, a report that suggests a course of action for key agency and organization stakeholders involved in juvenile information sharing (JIS). The guidelines integrate collaboration, confidentiality, and technology into an effective developmental framework in the following areas:

The full report can be downloaded from the National Criminal Justice Reference Service website: (409 - KB)

These guidelines were developed as part of the Information Sharing to Prevent Juvenile Delinquency National Technical Assistance and Training Project. Learn more about the project:


Requesting Government Records

 Open Government Guide

  Published by The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

  Purchase a print or electronic copy • Jump to front page

The Open Government Guide is a complete compendium of information on every state's open records and open meetings laws. Each state's section is arranged according to a standard outline, making it easy to compare laws in various states. If you're a new user of this guide, be sure to read the Introductory Note and User's Guide.
Background: • IntroductionUser's Guide Credits


Read through the outline for one state.




New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
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Rhode Island
South Carolina
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West Virginia





Redact It With Redact-It

By Sean Doherty technology editor

The primary purpose of redaction for lawyers is to remove information from documents that you do not want others to see -- because they would use it against you or your client. That is a simple enough concept, but many "miss" redacting important data. They are either not using the right tools or using the right tools in the wrong way.


Sloppy Redaction: To Err Is Automated

By Jason Krause
Special to
August 7, 2009

A few years ago, a federal agency was having problems with an individual who requested a large number of public records. Despite the fact that the agency took pains to edit, or redact classified information, this frequent requester had an alarming ability to read words that had been censored and publish them online. "They called us and said, 'this guy must have some high-tech scanners or something, because he can read words we have clearly redacted,'" says Richard Huff, who served as one of two co-directors of the Federal Office of Information and Privacy from 1982 until his recent retirement. "We tried everything we could to figure out what sort of high-tech wizardry he was using."

Huff has seen every imaginable issue with public records, but the case had his department baffled until public information officials went to investigate the situation in person. It turns out that the agency (Huff won't say which, for the sake of former colleagues) was using old-fashioned grease pens to block out confidential and classified information, which, even when photocopied, could still be read with the naked eye. "Sure enough, all you had to do was hold them up to the light and you could read right though," says Huff.

Redacting information is a necessary but frustrating task for many legal professionals. Huff says documents with failed redaction attempts came past his desk at least once a month. Advances in technology can help the redaction process, but the move from paper to electronic records has made the issue more difficult. "We have all kinds of personal information in our court records, Social Security numbers, bank records and so on," says David Ellspermann, clerk of the Circuit Court for Marion County, Fla. "We do everything we can to protect it because you can't bring that kind of information back once it's let out."


Redaction is challenging to good records management practice. A litigation or document management system must be able to designate that some pieces of information are private while state and federal governments are mandating that more information needs to be accessible by the public. In particular, the Open Government Act of 2007 and increased government transparency under the Obama administration have put more records into the public sphere. At the same time, many state governments have ordered court systems to make court filings available online.

Because of the easy and wide dissemination of digital documents online, once a redaction failure occurs, it is impossible to undo the mistake. And in e-discovery, lawyers are forced to find ways to redact privileged and confidential information from millions of documents in a very short time, or have that information enter into litigation.

Reaction failure often happens when someone uses software features not designed for redaction to cover up information, not realizing there are ways to recover blocked out information. For example, in a 2007 General Electric discrimination suit, words intended to be redacted were shaded black. But when copied and pasted into Microsoft Windows' Notepad or Microsoft Word, the records, which were supposed to be sealed by court order, could suddenly be read.

Many agencies and organizations are replacing grease pencils and outdated software with technology that can effectively redact records. Adobe Acrobat 8 introduced a built-in redaction tool. Alternatively, plug-in software like Redax, manufactured by Appligent, can redact Adobe Acrobat documents. Litigation support systems, like CT Summation, often include redaction tools, while specialized systems like EDAC System VeriDact automate document declassification and redaction for large organizations. These enterprisewide tools can automatically search records and redact specific pieces of information.

Redaction can demand some very specialized records management tools. The FBI built its own document management system with redaction features specific to its needs. For example, Huff says a special tool was built to allow judges to review redacted information in camera, something the FBI often needs to do. And to comply with federal open records laws, the tool notes the initials of the person redacting information in document margins with notes specifying the reason for a redaction. Unfortunately, most federal agencies don't have the resources for such a project, which is why black markers and kludgey software fixes still appear.

But even the best technology cannot entirely solve the redaction problem. "Tools can help, but you can never assume it's foolproof," says Christine Musil, vice president of communication for Informative Graphics Corp., which makes Redact-It, a redaction tool. "Using a redaction tool can help demonstrate a good-faith effort to redact information, but you still need to use it properly."

Automated redaction software can search for words that may need redaction or even automatically find and cover information like Social Security numbers, but human review is still necessary. In particular, optical scanning software used to digitize many paper documents often mangles words, so automated systems can miss information. And embedded items in documents like tables and spreadsheets often cannot be read by bulk redaction tools.

There are other situations where redaction demands more common sense than a machine can bring to bear. For example, Huff points out that certain fonts or typewritten pages have completely regular character sizes, meaning that if someone wants to figure out a specific word that has been redacted, they can simply count the number of spaces that have been blacked out and get a clue to the word underneath. If a confidential witness has a particularly long or short name, the size of a redacted name is a clue to their identity. To combat this, he says reviewers can take steps like redacting words leading up to a name or piece of information or words or spaces afterwards.

If addressed properly, it is possible to get a handle on the issue, although there will always be a chance something can slip through. Florida, where David Elspermann works, has some of the most liberal open records laws in the nation. State courts were given a 2002 deadline to make records available electronically to the furthest extent technically possible, while protecting personal information in those records.

Elspermann says that more than 7 million records dating back to 1990 have been made accessible by his Marion County court, and that roughly 6 percent of those records needed scrubbing. To date, he is not aware of any information that has been erroneously released through its online records system, which was built by Computing Systems Innovations. However, he believes that human review has been and will continue to be a necessary last line of defense. "If our system can't process a document, then it gets kicked out for human intervention," he says. "I think redaction will always demand that you intelligently use technology and people to get things right."


• Just because something is covered doesn't mean it's gone. Putting a black bar over text in an electronic record does not remove it from the file. A simple copy and paste can often reveal the text underneath. On paper records, check to make sure words cannot be read through ink or tape.

• Be aware of metadata. The hidden information about a file, or metadata, carries a lot of information that cannot be seen. Turning a file into a PDF or using a metadata-stripping tool strips out most (but not all) metadata including data associated with a "track changes" feature or comments.

• Photocopying and scanning a poorly redacted document only duplicates the original error. Hold a document up to the light to see if anything can be read through a redacted image.

• Redact around words and phrases to minimize the contextual interpretation of the redaction or its typographical reconstruction from font size and spacing techniques.

• Always have a human check the computer's work before a document is published or released to the public. Verify that all text is fully covered and that only the proper information has been redacted.

Jason Krause, is a freelance journalist based in Wisconsin.




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