The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 U.S.C. Section 552, is a law that gives you the right to access information from the federal government. It is often described as the law that keeps citizens in the know about their government.
FOIA provides that any person has a right, enforceable in court, to obtain access to federal agency records, except to the extent that such records (or portions of them) are protected from public disclosure by one of nine exemptions or by one of three special law enforcement record exclusions. A FOIA request can be made for any agency record. For further information about FOIA, visit the Department of Justice Office of Information Policy website.
The FOIA pertains to existing federal records that exist and can be located in agency files. FOIA requests must be made in writing and clearly outline the record that is sought. The FOIA Office at the Administration of Children and Families (ACF) accepts requests via email, fax, postal service, and FedEx. A FOIA request also can be submitted online.
Prior to making your FOIA request, we encourage you to visit ACF’s Electronic Reading Room for frequently requested documents and information routinely available to the public under FOIA. You may find the documents you want in the Reading Room without having to file a FOIA request.
When you do submit a FOIA request, follow these key points to ensure the fastest response:
- State that your request is a Freedom of Information Act request.
- Be as specific as possible about the documents you are requesting.
- Describe the records you are seeking in a clear and precise way.
- Include a document date range to help narrow the scope of the search.
- State one of the following fee arrangements:
- Agreement to pay the applicable fees
- A specific fee limit you do not want to exceed
- Justification to support a fee waiver
- Include your name, address, daytime telephone number, and email address.
The requested records will be provided to you within 20 business days. Exceptions to this timeframe may occur if a request presents unusual circumstances, such as a large volume of material sought. In such cases, you will be notified and offered a chance to limit the scope of your request to speed its processing.
If some information must be deleted from a record before the record is released, or if an entire document is withheld, you will be informed of the amount of material that has not been released to you. You have the right to file an appeal to obtain access to any withheld material.
Last Updated: July 26, 2021