June 13, 2016
In late 2014, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division and the Office of the General Counsel’s Criminal Justice Information Law Unit participated in discussions with tribes, state identification bureaus, state social service agencies, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and several offices within the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the emergency placement of tribal children. These discussions uncovered the necessity for federally recognized tribes to have access to the Interstate Identification Index (III) when there is an urgent need to place an at-risk child but the situation does not lend itself to the immediate fingerprinting of potential temporary guardians. This is where Purpose Code X comes into the picture.
How Purpose Code X was Established, and What it Means to our Tribal Partners
In 2001, the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council published the Fingerprint Submission Requirements Rule, providing authorized government agencies with direct access to the III system when there is an urgent need but circumstances prevent immediate fingerprinting of a subject. With an eye to the rule, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services requested approval to conduct preliminary name-based checks of the III system—using Purpose Code X and prior to submitting fingerprints—when there is an urgent need to place children with a custodian.
This same approval has been granted to tribes and will provide them with national crime information before making child placement decisions in crisis situations. Under the BIA program, social service agencies of federally-recognized tribes will be able to view criminal history information in name-based checks accessed through the BIA’s Office of Justice Services. While this approval is not meant to replace existing state laws and procedures governing such checks, it will provide an option to tribes that were previously unable to obtain criminal history information in these circumstances.
Former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin K. Washburn stated, “The Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services’ Purpose Code X program provides a much-needed tool for tribal social service agencies when they must find safe homes to place children during temporary emergency situations.”