CHILD WELFARE MANUAL

Section 5, Chapter 3 (Record Access), Subsection 5 – Other Persons/Agencies Entitled to Case Record Information

Effective Date:  5-1-19

 

Release of Information is Prohibited Except as Applied in the Following Guidelines:

3.5.1 Individuals

CA/N investigation records:

Section 210.150(3), RSMo, allows the subject of a report access to the family record, and allows the subject to designate an attorney or name a designee in his/her behalf.  The name of the CA/N reporter must not be released.  A written authorization from the subject is required to share information with an attorney or designee unless the information falls under Supreme Court Rule 123.08 which requires the Children’s Division and the juvenile officer to provide access to records and information within specific time frames without a formal discovery request.  Within ten (10) days of the protective custody hearing or within fourteen (14) days of the filing of the petition or motion to modify, the Children’s Division and juvenile officer must allow for certain records to be made available to all parties.  The records may include the following and should be relevant to the allegations in the petition:

  • Medical records of the juvenile;
  • Law enforcement records, including incident reports. If information regarding an active investigation is requested, CD staff should request permission from law enforcement to release the information. If law enforcement will not approve the release due to an active investigation, CD should notify all parties that the information cannot be released at this time;
  • Written statements, videotapes, and audiotapes regarding the juvenile and/or parents/guardians;
  • Reports and affidavits submitted by the Children’s Division to the juvenile office recommending protective custody or a petition to be filed;
  • Completed CD reports and safety plans;
  • Written service agreements; and
  • Completed hotline reports, redacted as required by law. If the hotline report is not completed by the timeframes set forth in the initial court hearing, the report should be made available upon completion.

CD must also make available to all parties any new relevant information related to the allegations obtained within ten (10) days of receipt of the request. This rule only requires CD to make available completed documents in their case record. The rule does not require CD to request additional records not currently in its possession for any other party.

The Supreme Court rule expressly does not supersede HIPAA and other statutes and regulations which govern the confidentiality of information in the hands of the Children’s Division. Information which may be confidential and may need to be redacted may include:

  • Information which would identify the reporter of a hotline call;
  • Protected health information of persons other than the child in CD’s custody, such as parents, grandparents, and other third parties (e.g. medical records, therapy records);
  • Investigative reports prepared by law enforcement of active criminal investigations;
  • Federally protected, confidential information relating to the testing, diagnosis, and treatment for substance abuse.

It is therefore very important to make certain that any information provided under this rule is reviewed and appropriate redactions made before the information is released. If staff have any concerns about what information needs to be redacted they should contact the Children’s Division’s privacy officer. If the privacy officer is unable to resolve the question a referral for legal advice should be made to the Division of Legal Services (DLS).

Staff are not required to have a release of information form signed by the parents to release information related to the allegations pursuant to a request made under this rule as long as there is an order of appointment by the court or entry of appearance made by the attorney. However, a signed release of information form is required to release confidential materials regarding the parents’ protected health information or materials not covered in the rule.

Section 210.150(3), RSMo, also provides that “a parent or guardian” of a child who is the subject of a CA/N report has access to the information about the child with the limitation that the name of the reporter cannot be released.

When a Child is in Custody or Under Supervision of the Division:

Under Section 211.321, RSMo, persons having a legitimate interest in securing information about a specific child in the custody or under the supervision of the Division must secure the permission of the juvenile court holding jurisdiction for the information to be released.

Treatment Cases:

The subject for whom the record exists must provide written authorization to share the contents of the treatment record except for the stipulations listed in Supreme Court Rule 123.08 as explained above.

3.5.2  Courts and Law Enforcement

Juvenile Courts:

Information is shared without a subpoena with appropriate juvenile court personnel and attorneys who represent the court.  However, Section 509.520 RSMo. went into effect on August 28, 2009.  The law states that any pleadings, attachments, or exhibits filed with the court in any case, should not include: the full Social Security number, the full credit card number, or other financial account number of any party or any child who is the subject to an order of custody or support.

We may share criminal history results with the juvenile court if the reason for sharing matches the purpose stated on the criminal history report, i.e. for the purpose of finalizing an adoption or guardianship.

We may also share results with the court on criminal history background checks completed on biological parents/legal guardians for the purpose of reunification as long as that is the stated purpose. Parents may also obtain records themselves; however, the court may question their validity.

The Guardian ad Litem, when appointed to appear for and represent the child, and with proper identification, may have access to the same information as the juvenile court.

Volunteer advocates, who are designated by the court, shall be provided with all reports relevant to the family and shall have access to all records relating to the child or his family members.

Courts in Missouri Other Than Juvenile Courts:

Staff shall appear in courts outside juvenile court if a subpoena has been served for the person and/or the record.  (Subpoenas for the record are addressed to the Circuit Manager)

Upon being called to testify, staff should state to the judge the following:  “The information in the record is confidential as provided by Section 210.150 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri and I may only disclose it if ordered to do so by the court.”

If there are any questions about how to respond to a non-juvenile court subpoena, staff should seek assistance from the Division of Legal Services through supervisory lines.

When the person is subpoenaed, the individual may take the record and/or notes to court with a subpoena, but must be aware that the judge and/or the attorneys may view the record and/or notes and cross-examine on the entire contents.

The family record or a copy of it may be left with the court upon verbal order of the judge.

Upon return to the local office, the Children’s Service Worker should complete an Inter-Office Communication (IOC) to the Circuit Manager with a copy for the family file including the following information:

  • Identifying information;
  • Date of the hearing; and
  • A statement that the record was retained by the court upon its order in the hearing.

Criminal Charges:

Criminal charges may be brought against a person with whom CD is working. In the course of prosecution, a CD record and/or worker may be subpoenaed.

The CD worker will fully cooperate with the court and testify if ordered to do so. See above for statement to be given to court before testifying.

Courts in Other States:

Honor the subpoena only after consultation with the Division of Legal Services through supervisory lines.

Grand Jury Investigations:

Section 210.150.2(6), RSMo. provides that information contained in CA/N records is available to Grand Juries.

Child Custody Proceedings:

Section 210.150.2(6), RSMo., provides that the juvenile court or other court conducting abuse or neglect or child proceedings or child custody proceedings shall have access to investigation records contained in the central registry.

Medical Examiner or Coroner:

In the event a child has died as a result of CA/N, a copy of the CA/N investigative report will be made available to the medical examiner or coroner.

Law Enforcement Officials or Prosecuting Attorney:

Section 210.150.2(6), RSMo. provides that information contained in investigation records is available to a Grand Jury, juvenile officer, prosecuting attorney, law enforcement officer involved in the investigation of child abuse/neglect, juvenile court, or other court conducting abuse/neglect, child protective proceedings or child custody proceedings, and other federal, state, and local government entities, or any agent of such entity, with a need for such information in order to carry out its responsibilities under the law to protect children from abuse or neglect”

Section 210.145.4, RSMo. dictates that the “local office shall contact the appropriate law enforcement agency immediately upon receipt of a report which Division personnel determine merits an investigation and provide such agency with a detailed description of the report received.  In such cases the local Division office shall request the assistance of the local law enforcement agency in all aspects of the investigation of the complaint.  The appropriate law enforcement agency shall either assist the Division in the investigation or provide the Division, within twenty-four (24) hours, an explanation in writing detailing the reasons why it is unable to assist.”

The local CD office may report a child’s injuries or disabilities from abuse or neglect to the juvenile officer.  Each county office (at the direction of the Circuit Manager or designee) shall decide to whom such reports will be made, i.e., the local prosecuting attorney, law enforcement officials, or juvenile court.

3.5.3 CA/N Reporters

Mandated Reporters

The Division may share only the following information:

  • Status and conclusion of the investigation;
  • The fact that the Division is providing services or referring the family to other community services; and
  • The fact that a referral is being made to the juvenile court, if applicable.

Other Reporters

The Division may only share the fact that the report is being/has been investigated.

3.5.4 Physicians

Section 210.150, RSMo., allows information to be made available to “a physician or his designee who has before him a child whom he reasonably believes may be abused or neglected.”

When a physician calls the Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline Unit (CANHU) or local office for information, staff will call back and verify identity.  They may then provide information regarding the child before him, and siblings of that child.

3.5.5 Researchers

Section 210.150, RSMo., allows information to be made available to “any person engaged in a bona fide research purpose with the permission of the Director.”  No identifying information shall be shared.

Any inquiries regarding proposed research projects are to be referred to the Division Director. Proposals must be submitted in writing for the Director’s approval in coordination with the local office in which the project would take place. Pre-planning with the local office is appropriate prior to submission of the final proposal to state office.

3.5.6 News Media, Legislators, Students, and the Public

The Division receives many inquiries regarding specific situations or for general information.

It is appropriate to share statistics, theory, policy, and practice with anyone. This is general information with no identifying information regarding any specific client.

The Division does not share specific information regarding any family situation with the news media, legislators, public, or community groups (unless an individual is named as a designee by a subject) except relating to specific child recruitment for the purpose of finding an adoptive family. This sharing must be authorized by the juvenile court having jurisdiction over the child.

3.5.7 Interdisciplinary Teams

Section 210.150(2), RSMo., allows information to be made available to interdisciplinary teams which are formed to assist the Division in investigation, evaluation, and treatment of child abuse and neglect cases.  This includes multidisciplinary providers under contract with the Division Children’s Treatment Services (CTS) for a child referred to the provider.

Such individuals, officials, and agencies will be advised that the information they provide to the Division may become available to the family or its designee if they seek access to the family record.

3.5.8 Interstate Requests

Share appropriate information from final determination Preponderance of Evidence or Probable Cause records without consent of subject with an out-of-state protective service agency if it can be determined that the information has been requested as the result of a report of CA/N and is necessary to determine the disposition of the investigation.

Unsubstantiated and Family Assessment records may not be shared without an authorization for release of information signed by the client.

Family histories or information regarding an individual’s treatment requires an authorization for release of information by the client. This does not apply to requests for studies for family resource providers or when the requesting agency shows that they have legal custody of the child.

3.5.9 Other Division Employees

Information may be shared with appropriate Division staff, consultants, licensing representatives, monitoring, and legal staff.

Case record information may be shared with Division staff as part of a Peer Record Review (PRR), Practice Development Review (PDR), or any other review that may be part of the Continuous Quality Improvement process (CQI).

It must also be remembered that the Division and its employees have not only legal responsibility for confidentiality, but also ethical responsibility. The responsible handling of information dictates not only “what” we share and “to whom,” but also “where.”  It is not to be done over lunch, coffee breaks, or in halls or elevators where names may be overheard by others. It must be remembered that the professional reputation of an agency is a collective reputation to which each individual contributes.

3.5.10 Minor Children

Information in the family record will be shared with minor children in accordance with the following guidelines:

  • If the child is in the custody of CD, we have a right to determine if the child should see the record. We may want to request guidance from the court if there is a particular concern.
  • If the child is in the legal custody of another person (i.e., parent, guardian), then we should ask that person whether or not they want the child to view the record.
  • If the child is an emancipated minor, then we should, under the law, share the record.