child abuse records include individuals or agencies offering services to the child, such as adoption
administration agencies.127 More than twenty states specifically grant access to attorneys
representing clients involved in child-welfare or other types of juvenile proceedings.128
Some of the additional parties identified in the state laws, however, seem to be an
extension of the persons granted access in the federal laws. For example, the federal regulation
identifies health-care providers as eligible to access child abuse records;129 ten states grant access
to coroners or medical examiners to determine cause of death or to investigate a report of child
abuse that resulted in a fatality.130 The federal regulation also grants access to government
officials responsible for overseeing the child protective services.131 Two states allow child abuse
records to be released for the purpose of administering federal funds or federally funded
programs, including those that aid in the prevention and treatment of child abuse.132 This Section
discusses the persons and entities states grant access to that are most divergent from those
identified in the federal laws, as well as those that offer methods of oversight that can be
important in improving the care provided to children that are in the care of or under investigation
by child protection agencies.
1. Child-Advocacy Centers
Many states have supported the certification and inclusion of child-advocacy centers
(“CACs”). CACs are not-for-profit organizations that work in partnership with state child
welfare agencies to investigate reports of possible abuse.133 CACs generally provide a universal
location for police, social workers, therapists, attorneys, and healthcare providers to conduct one
review boards, law enforcement and corrections departments, licensing/employment agencies, mandatory or adult reporters, news
media and/or public, other states, parents, tribal governments, and miscellaneous categories.
127 The states that grant access to adoption administration agencies are Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida,
Iowa, Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Utah. This category consists of any agency or individuals that administer adoption
proceedings, including permanent placement of a child and screening and certifying prospective adoptive parents. For example, South
Dakota grants access to “a person eligible to submit an adoptive home study report” in order to screen applicants. See S.D. CODIFIED
LAWS § 26-8A-13 (2013). In Iowa, any agency employee or licensed child-placing agency responsible for adoptive placements and
any certified adoption investigator may access child abuse records. See IOWA CODE ANN. § 235A.15(2)(e)(15) (West 2013).
128 The states that allow certain attorneys to access child abuse and neglect records are Alabama, District of Columbia, Florida,
Georgia, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah. This category includes attorneys representing the agency, the accused, or any
other parties involved in child abuse proceedings, such as hearings to terminate parental rights. Twenty-two states and the District of
Columbia specifically allow certain attorneys to access child abuse records. In Georgia, the district attorneys or assistant district
attorneys may access records in connection with their official duties. See GA. CODE ANN. § 49-5-41(a)(4) (West 2013). The attorney
general for the state of Georgia may also access such records through a written request. Id. § 49-5-41(a)(9). In Alabama, an attorney
defending the child or the child’s parents or guardians may access records when involved in a court proceeding relating to the abuse or
neglect of the child. See ALA. CODE § 26-14-8(c)(8) (2013).
129 45 C.F.R. §§ 1340.14( i)(2)(v), (vii) (2014).
130 The states that grant access to coroners and medical examiners are California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan,
Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina, and West Virginia. Five states – California, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, and South Carolina –
permit access to medical examiners when it is necessary to determine the cause of death. See, e.g., CAL. PENAL CODE § 11167.5(b)(8)
(West 2013). Wisconsin has a similar provision, but also specifies pathologists and other physicians as parties that may access child
abuse records when “investigating the cause of death of a child whose death is unexplained or unusual or is associated with
unexplained or suspicious circumstances.” WIS. STAT. ANN. § 48.981(7)(15m) (West 2013). Georgia and Indiana specify that the
coroner or medical examiner must be investigating a reported or known case of child abuse. See GA. CODE ANN. § 49-5-41(a)(8); IND.
CODE ANN. § 31-33-18-2(3) (West 2013). Illinois allows access only to coroners and medical examiners that are responsible for child
abuse investigations or background checks. 325 ILL. COMP. STAT. ANN. 5/11.1(a)(11), (13) (West 2013).
131 45 C.F.R. § 1340.14( i)(2)(x).
132 Pennsylvania provides that federal auditors may access records if the information is required for federal funds to be distributed to
the state agencies, but the auditors may not remove any reports containing identifiable information from the child-welfare agency. 23
PA. CONS. STAT. ANN. § 6340(a)(8) (West 2013). Minnesota’s statute simply states that access to records is provided in order to
“administer federal funds or programs.” MINN. STAT. ANN. § 13.46 subd. 2(6) (West 2013). For more information on federal funding,
see Federal Funding Sources, CHILD WELFARE INFO. GATEWAY,
https://www.childwelfare.gov/management/funding/funding_sources/federal_funding.cfm (last visited Nov. 30, 2013).
133 Child Advocacy Centers, CHILD WELFARE INFO. GATEWAY,
https://www.childwelfare.gov/responding/iia/investigation/advocacy.cfm (last visited Jan. 23, 2014).