example, Wyoming law permits disclosure to mental health professionals only when the child
welfare agency “determines the information is necessary to provide appropriate … therapeutic
In contrast, Florida law provides broader access, allowing the state child welfare agency
(Florida Department of Children and Family Services)80 to release any information necessary for
“professional persons” to diagnose and treat not only a child abuse victim, but also a child abuse
perpetrator.81 The statute does not further define this category of persons to whom records may
be released.82 And, although the law limits this access to information necessary for diagnosis and
treatment,83 further safeguards should be put in place to protect the privacy interests of the child
or children involved. Just as judges and grand juries must prove relevance or necessity before
gaining access to information, only necessary information should be disclosed for the purpose of
treating the perpetrator of child abuse. For example, only information about abuse of the child
attributed to the perpetrator should be released, whereas information about the treatment or
placement of the child should not be made available to the perpetrator’s health care providers.
In addition to mental-health professionals, agencies authorized to care for children are
interpreted in this Article to include mental-health facilities and educational institutions. Twenty-seven states identify these institutions as agencies eligible to view child welfare records.84 As
with the expanded inclusion of a variety of physicians and medical personnel, the states restrict
this access to that required for the treatment or care of a child. For example, New Mexico allows
school personnel to access records, but only when “the records concern the child’s social or
educational needs.”85 Likewise, Arizona provides that a school may access child abuse records in
order to “meet its duties to provide for the safety, permanency and well-being of a child.”86 This
kind of disclosure is seemingly intended as a response to the unique needs that a child may have
while under the care or investigation of the department of child services. School officials should
be made aware of information necessary to meet those needs, such as counseling or medical
attention. However, broad permission of access may lead to too much disclosure. Department
policy should therefore limit information disclosure to the bare minimum required for services.
4. Investigating and Service-Providing Authorities
The federal regulation allows states to provide confidential information to a variety of
entities that investigate reports of abuse or provide services to children and families, including a
person who is legally authorized to place a child in protective custody, such as a child welfare
agent.87 Each state defines the scope of these agencies and the individuals authorized to place
children in custody. Twenty-eight states sanction disclosure to the individuals and entities with
Much of this authority is vested in state and local agencies. For example, Montana law
specifically grants access to records for federal agencies, military enclaves, and Indian tribal
79 WYO. STAT. ANN. § 14-3-214 (b)(viii) (West 2013). The Wyoming statute grants access to both a mental health professional and an
education professional “serving the child.” See id.
80 FLA. STAT. ANN. § 39.01(21) (West 2013).
81 Id. § 39.202(3).
84 The states that grant access to authorized agencies are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa,
Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.
85 N.M. S TA T. ANN. § 32A-4-33(B)(12) (West 2013).
86 ARIZ. REV. S TA T. ANN. § 8-807(B)(1) (West 2013).
87 45 C.F.R. § 1340.14( i)(2)(vi) (2014).
88 The states that grant access to investigating or service-providing agencies are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New
Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.