was in state custody at the time of the abuse that resulted in fatality or near fatality. 184 Fourteen
states allow limited release of information when information has already become public
knowledge through another source, such as someone involved in the investigation or the media. 185
Kansas permits disclosure in those situtations, but limits disclosure to only confirmation of
procedural details, 186 such as the disposition of the investigation. Kansas also permits the
disclosure of additional information with the written consent of the individuals involved. 187
Public disclosure can facilitate accountability within child welfare agencies. In 2013,
New Jersey proposed changing disclosure laws to limit the information released following the
death of a child under the care or investigation of the state's child welfare agency. 188 Directors at
Advocates for Children of New Jersey argued that this may curtail access to the “trail of
investigations by a child’s caseworker that precedes a death from abuse or neglect.” 189 The
directors added that disclosure “is an effective means to improve case practice, which can result
in keeping New Jersey’s children safer.” 190 Maintaining public access in cases of fatality is
integral to evaluating and improving the child welfare system.
Public access to information contained in child abuse records in cases other than fatalities
may also be imperative to protecting children under the care of the states. Too restrictive privacy
protections have been cited as obstructing the process of finding missing children. 191 Although
citizen review panels can be an effective regular oversight mechanism, giving agencies the
discretion to release certain types of information to the public and the news media can be in the
best interest of the child. Therefore, solutions to allow greater public access to inspect records
need to be explored.
8. Other States’ Investigative Agencies
The ability to access information from other state agencies is sometimes imperative to
determining the safety of a child’s placement. Families move from one state to another, children
are adopted across state lines, and foster parent applicants have not always lived in one place.
But this interstate access is not always easy. Twelve states allow disclosure of child abuse
records to agencies and officials of other states that are investigating suspected child abuse or
neglect. 192 Although these states may identify child welfare agencies or other government entities
as eligible to access the records, the process may be burdensome due to various state processes
and requirements. For example, three states only allows access to case report information from
“founded reports,” those cases in which investigators found evidence supporting allegations of
To address the potential for barriers of communication across state lines, in 2006,
Congress passed a law directing HHS to develop a national child abuse registry that would allow
184 GA. CODE ANN. § 49-5-186(b)(2) (West 2013); S.C. CODE ANN. § 63-7-1990(H) (2013) (permitting disclosure after the death of a
child in the state's custody at the time of death).
185 The states that allow for disclosure when the information has become public knowledge are Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois,
Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, and South Carolina.
186 KAN. STAT. ANN. § 38-2212(d)(3)(B) (West 2013).
187 Id. § 38-2212(d)(3)(A).
188 Susan K. Livio, N.J. Child Welfare Agency Proposes Less Disclosure in Fatal Child Abuse Cases, NJ.COM (June 12, 2013),
191 Sarah Netter, Finding Missing Foster Children: Kids Who Disappear from State Care Often at Disadvantage, ABC NEWS (July 27,
192 The states that grant access to other state agencies and officials are Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma,
Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Wisconsin.
193 IOWA CODE ANN. § 235A.15(2)(e)(4) (West 2013); R.I. GEN. LAWS ANN. § 42-72-8(b)(10) (West 2013); S.C. CODE ANN. § 63-7-