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State StatuteS SerieS U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau Child Welfare Information Gateway Children’s Bureau/ACYF 1250 Maryland Avenue, SW Eighth Floor Washington, DC 20024 (p) 703.385.7565 or 800.394.3366 Email: email@example.com www.childwelfare.gov Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records The records of child abuse and neglect reports are maintained by State child protection or social ser- vices agencies to aid in the investigation, treatment, and prevention of child abuse cases and to maintain statistical information for staffing and funding pur- poses. In many States, these records and the results of investigations are maintained in databases, often known as central registries. The type of information contained in registry and department records varies from State to State, as does access to the informa- tion maintained. Current Through April 2005 Electronic copies of this publication may be downloaded at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/ laws_policies/statutes/confide.cfm To find statute information for a particular State, go to www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/ laws_policies/search/index.cfm To find information on all the States and territories, order a copy of the full-length PDF by calling 800.394.3366 or 703.385.7565, or download it at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/ laws_policies/statutes/confideall.pdf Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records www.childwelfare.gov This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway. Available online at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/confide.cfm. Under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA),1 in order to receive a Federal grant, States must preserve the confidentiality of all child abuse and neglect reports and records to protect the privacy rights of the child and of the child’s parents or guardians except in certain limited circumstances. Statutory provisions concerning access to central registry and department records are one answer to the question of how to protect family autonomy and privacy rights and yet ensure pro- tection for children. All jurisdictions have confidentiality provi- sions to protect abuse and neglect records from public scrutiny. Confidentiality provisions mandate that such records are con- fidential, and many include specific mechanisms for protecting them from public view. Most jurisdictions permit certain persons access to registry and department records. In general, these are people with a direct interest in a case, in the child’s welfare, or in providing protective or treatment services. Many statutes specifically describe who may access the records and under what circumstances. Typically, persons entitled to access include physicians, researchers, police, judges, and other court personnel. Several States also provide confidential records to any person who is the subject of a report. Under most circumstances, information from child abuse and neglect records may not be disclosed to the public. In approxi- mately2 23 States3 and the District of Columbia, however, some disclosure of information is allowed in cases in which abuse or neglect of the child has resulted in a fatality or near fatality.4 In five States (Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin), the alleged perpetrator of the abuse must be 42 U.S.C.A. §506a(b)(2)(A)(v) (West Supp. 998). 2 The word approximately is used throughout the State Statutes series to stress the fact the States frequently amend their laws, so this information is current only through April 2005. Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, and South Dakota. 4 A “near fatality” is usually defined as a serious injury that places the child in critical condition. Confidentiality of Records Persons or Entities Allowed Access to Records Public Disclosure of Records Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records www.childwelfare.gov This material may be freely reproduced and distributed. However, when doing so, please credit Child Welfare Information Gateway. Available online at www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/statutes/confide.cfm. criminally charged with causing the fatality or near fatality before information may be disclosed. Approximately 12 States5 allow disclosure of information for the purpose of clarifying or correcting the record when information has already been made public through another source, such as disclosure by the subject of the report, a law enforcement agency, or the court. In four States (Colorado, Iowa, Montana, and Nevada), public disclosure is allowed when a suspected perpetrator of abuse or neglect has been arrested or criminally charged. In Florida, the name and physical description of a child who is under the supervision of the department must be released when that child is found to be missing from his or her placement. Central registry and department records are increasingly used to screen adults for various employment or volunteer positions. Approximately 29 States6 and the District of Columbia allow or require a check of central registry or department records for individuals applying to be child or youth care providers. Information is made available to employers in the childcare busi- ness, schools, or health care industry. Information, however, is generally limited to whether there are substantiated or indicated reports of child maltreatment for potential employees or volun- teers who will have significant contact with children. 5 Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, New York, South Carolina, and Wisconsin. 6 Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Use of Records for Employment Screening This publication is a product of the State Statutes Series prepared by Child Welfare Information Gateway. While every attempt has been made to be complete, additional information on these topics may be in other sections of a State’s code as well as in agency regulations, case law, and informal practices and procedures.