to courts and grand juries. South Carolina, for example, specifies that “family courts conducting
procedures” relevant to child abuse and neglect may access child abuse records.70 West Virginia
law requires that records disclosed to the court be “necessary for the determination of an issue”
before the court.71 In reference to grand juries, New Hampshire law requires that, in order to
obtain information in child welfare records, a grand jury must determine that access to the records
“is necessary in the conduct of its official business.”72 Although states may not specifically
include courts or grand juries in the confidentiality statutes, agency policy or practice may allow
for information to be provided to these entities. For example, Hawaii’s administrative rules for
the Department of Human Services specify that the Hawaii DHS can disclose child welfare
records to a court for in camera review and to a grand jury “when connected with the prosecution
of a child abuse or neglect case.”73
Judges and jurors should have access to accurate and reliable information about the cases
before them. The balance between confidentiality and access can be preserved by placing
relevance and necessity requirements on the information provided to the courts. Limits that
restrict access based on relevance or necessity fulfill the needs of the court while preventing
unecessary disclosures to judges or officers of the court.
3. Health-Care Providers and Other Authorized Care Institutions
The federal regulation specifies physicians, as well as “[a]n agency authorized by a
properly constituted authority to diagnose, care for, treat, or supervise a child who is the subject
of a report or record of child abuse or neglect” as parties able to view confidential records.74 The
federal regulation requires that to access child welfare records, physicians must first suspect the
child to have been abused or neglected.75
While the federal regulation mentions only physicians, some states have also recognized
other medical professionals as authorized to have access to child abuse records. Thirty-three
states and the District of Columbia allow child welfare records to be disclosed to physicians,
dentists, nurses, or other hospital or medical personnel.76 Despite this expanded definition of the
category of physician, most states follow the federal regulatory language, specifying that in order
to access child welfare records, the healthcare provider must suspect that a child under his or her
care has been abused or neglected. For example, New Jersey specifies that, in addition to
physicians, “authorized member[s] of the staff of a duly designated regional child abuse
diagnostic and treatment center”77 and “a hospital director or his designate” may inspect child
abuse records for the purpose of determining whether placing the child in protective custody is
needed.78 Some states place even further restrictions on access to child welfare records. For
4008(3)(C) (West 2013); MICH. COMP. LAWS ANN. § 722.627(2)(h) (West 2013); MO. ANN. STAT. § 210. 150(2)(6) (West 2013);
NEV. REV. STAT. ANN. § 432B.290(1)(k) (West 2013); N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 170-G:8-a(II)(a)(7) (West 2013); N.J. STAT. ANN. §
9:6-8.10a(b)(7) (West 2013); S.C. CODE ANN. § 63-7-1990(B)(12) (2013); TENN. CODE ANN. § 37-1-612(c)(3) (West 2013); W. VA.
CODE ANN. § 49-7-1(c)(5) (West 2013); WIS. STAT. ANN. § 48.981(7)(14) (West 2013); WYO. STAT. ANN. § 14-3-214(b)(vi) (West
70 S.C. CODE ANN. § 63-7-1990(B)(10).
71 W. VA. CODE ANN. § 49-7-1(c)(5).
72 N.H. REV. STAT. ANN. § 170-G:8-aII(a)(7); see also ARK. CODE ANN. § 12-18-909(g)(11)(A) (permitting the child welfare agency
to disclose information from reports to grand juries in Arkansas if access to the records “is necessary for the determination of an issue”
before the grand jury).
73 HAW. CODE. R. § 17-1601-6(1), (2) (LexisNexis 2013).
74 45 C.F.R. § 1340.14( i)(2)(vii) (2014).
75 Id. § 1340.14( i)(2)(v).
76 The states that grant access to health-care providers are Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois,
Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New
Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington,
Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
77 N.J. STAT. ANN. § 9:6-8.10a(b)(3) (West 2013).