pursuant to a legitimate State purpose.49
The corresponding federal regulation that the HSS issued provides states with more
specific guidance.50 This regulation requires that states “provide by statute” that all child abuse
records are confidential and “that their unauthorized disclosure is a criminal offense.”51 The
federal regulation grants states the discretion to disclose information in child abuse records to
additional persons, “for the purpose of carrying out background and/or employment-related
screening of individuals who are or may be engaged in specific categories of child related
activities or employment.”52
The regulation also provides that certain parties may access child abuse records or
reports.53 These parties include agencies receiving and investigating child abuse reports, a court,
a grand jury, an agency investigating a report, a person legally able to place a child in protective
custody, a physician suspecting abuse, an agency authorized to “diagnose, care for, treat, or
supervise a child who is the subject of a report,”54 a subject of a report, a child named in the
report, a government official responsible for overseeing the child protective services, and persons
involved in bona fide research.55 These individuals and entities included in the federal regulation
form the baseline for the comparison and analysis of the fifty states’ statutes in the following
III. COMPARATIVE GUIDE TO THE FIFTY STATES
All fifty states have a statutory provision safeguarding the confidentiality of child abuse
records and reports,56 meeting the requirements for funding set by CAPTA57 and the federal HHS
regulation.58 Each state differs, however, on the number of parties and which parties are allowed
to access those records. Most states specifically name the parties to whom the records may be
released, but some states merely have a general statement of confidentiality, leaving disclosure to
the discretion of the courts or the child-welfare agency officials.
This Part of the Article will compare the states’ statutes through a discussion of the
categories of parties enumerated by each of the states. First, Section A will discuss the states that
guarantee confidentiality using a broad, general statement of confidentiality. Section B will then
discuss the state laws that specifically grant access to the parties defined in the federal regulation.
Finally, Section C will discuss parties that states have added under the discretion allowed by the
A. General Statements of Confidentiality
Six states do not include a specific list of parties having access to child abuse records, but
rather have general statements providing confidentiality for all such records.59 These state laws
49 Id. § 5106a(b)(2)(B)(viii).
50 See 45 C.F.R. § 1340.14 (2014).
51 Id. § 1340.14( i)(1).
52 Id. § 1340.14( i)(3).
53 Id. § 1340.14( i)(2).
55 Id. § 1340.14( i)(2)( i)-(xi).
56 CHILD WELFARE INFO. GA TE WA Y, U.S. DEP’T HEA TH & HUMAN SERVS., DISCLOSURE OF CONFIDEN TIAL CHILD ABUSE AND
NEGLECT RECORDS 2 (2013), available at
57 42 U.S.C.A. § 5106a (West 2014).
58 45 C.F.R. § 1340.14( i)(2).
59 The states that have only general statements of confidentiality are Delaware, Hawaii, Idaho, New York, Ohio, and Virginia. See
DEL. CODE ANN. tit. 29, § 9017 (West 2013); HAW. REV. STAT. § 350-1.4 (West 2013); IDAHO CODE ANN. §§ 16-1629, 9-340B (West