In general, states broadly recognize review boards as entities that may access child abuse
records. 161 Some states, however, restrict these panels’ access to information. For example,
Nebraska specifies that its Foster Care Review Office may access the records when they relate “to
a child in a foster care placement” and the records will “not include the name or identity of any
person making a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.” 162 These review panels serve an
important purpose of providing key oversight to agencies providing for the safety and welfare of
children. Releasing information to the these kinds of review panels in certain cases has proved
helpful. For example, in Florida, the formation of a new task force assisted in identifying
children under the care of the state who had gone missing. 163 The release of case files to review
committees also revealed flaws in the Florida agency’s record keeping and system of care
provided to children in need. 164
Review panels’ access to records created by these child welfare agencies should be
unfettered as these records can reveal problems with case workers or sytem procedures. 165
Restricting the content available to these panels defeats the purpose of robust and comprehensive
oversight. A better approach to limiting the disclosure of sensitive information would be to place
confidentiality requirements on members of the panels, 166 so that they may not publicly disclose
personally identifiable information about subjects of the records. These types of agreements
make restricting the information that can be disclosed to members of these panels an unnecessary
limitation on accountability mechanisms.
5. Law Enforcement and Corrections
The federal regulation allows for disclosure to any agency authorized to investigate
reports of abuse or neglect. 167 This would include traditional law-enforcement agencies, such as
police and sheriff departments. However, states have seemingly interpreted this to include
additional investigative or correctional facilities, such as juvenile-justice employees, and parole
and probation boards. 168 These agencies often participate in the investigation and treatment of
child abuse victims and perpetrators. 169
161 See, e.g., ALA. CODE § 26-14-8(c)(10); IOWA CODE ANN. § 235A.15(2)(e)(7); MISS. CODE ANN. § 43-21-261(19).
162 NEB. REV. STAT. ANN. § 28-726(6) (West 2013).
163 See, e.g., DCF Chief Says Progress Made in Finding Kids, GAINESVILLE SUN (Sept. 13, 2002),
164 See, e.g., Foster Care Case Files Incomplete, GAINESVILLE SUN (July 1, 2002),
http://www.gainesville.com/article/20020701/NEWS/207010304/0/search (reporting systemic problems including: improper filing,
such as some chidlren's records being filed with other children's; most reports missing current addresses for children in state custody;
and "mostly blank reports of visits to foster homes"); see also Richard Lezin Jones & Leslie Kaufman, New Jersey Opens Files
Showing Failures of Child Welfare System, N. Y. TIMES (Apr. 15, 2003), http://www.nytimes.com/2003/04/15/us/new-jersey-opens-
files-showing-failures-of-child-welfare-system.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm (detailing the “mistakes, missed opportunities, and
other missteps” of New Jersey’s child welfare system that were documented in over 2,000 pages of confidential files released to the
165 See, e.g., Jones & Kaufman, supra note 164. In April 2003, more than a dozen New Jersey child welfare records were made public.
Id. Included in the released documents were social workers’ notes made during family visitations, medical records, interoffice emails
and memos, and interviews with siblings of a child who had died as a result of abuse. Id. The interoffice communication, which
revealed gaps in public reporting and a general lack of oversight, serves as particularly strong support for citizen review of child abuse
records. One e-mail released as part of these records included an admission to consistent errors and showed severe resignation, if not
apathy, by a child-welfare worker. Id. The e-mail, which referred to a recently discovered error in the computer system, read, “Have
those corrections made, do your own, or do nothing. I’ve accepted that most of what we put on SIS is wrong, and I’ll get over it.” Id.
166 Many states do apply confidentiality requirements to the review panels.
167 45 C.F.R. § 1340.14( i)(2)(iv) (2014).
168 The states that allow access to any agency authorized to investigate reports of abuse or neglect are Alabama, Arizona, California,
Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana,
Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota,
Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
169 Parole and probation officers are often mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse and neglect. See Child Abuse and Neglect
Reporting State Statute Overview, NAT’L CONF. ST. LEGISLATURES, http://www.ncsl.org/research/human-services/child-abuse-and-neglect-reporting-statutes.aspx (last visited Jan. 30, 2014).