requiring, for example, that a physician receive records only when necessary to treat a child
before him or her. 221 The resultant benefit is protection against any sensitive information being
shared unnecessarily, such as a grant of blanket access to child abuse records for all physicians.
These purpose and use limitations should be particularly stringent when information is
disclosed to third-parties, such as researchers, who are not directly providing care or services to a
child. Researchers should be required to submit a detailed purpose statement as part of the
request for access. Disclosure should be restricted to the information necessary to serve this
B. Accountability with Non-Personally Identifiable Information
As discussed earlier in this Article, federal and state laws require the information
contained in child abuse records to be compiled into aggregate reports annually. 222 This
information, which includes the number of child abuse reports made and investigated, the
outcomes of those investigations, and the number of children in protective custody, 223 along with
reports of citizen review panel investigations, would likely be sufficient to provide public
oversight of the government agencies responsible for child welfare. To be an effective form of
oversight, however, these reports need to be made more visible and accessible to the public.
Currently, these reports are available online at many of the official state websites224 and the HHS
Children’s Bureau site. 225 This data can provide a rich resource for holding state and private
organizations accountable for the services provided to children in need. Making the data
available more frequently, and in a more timely manner, 226 could help in evaluating the
disposition of reports of suspected abuse and the efficacy of the state agencies. The news media,
which acts as the public’s surrogate for government information, can improve public knowledge
of this information, as it can easily reach a broad audience. In an effort to increase proactive
oversight, news outlets should periodically publish the results of the aggregate reports, even in
times when child abuse tragedies are not in the news.
Community-based care programs that rely on private organizations and child-advocacy
centers may help direct the public’s attention as these programs allow for greater community
involvement and for more funding opportunities. 227 Community-based care programs are created
to tackle unique community challenges and offer diverse solutions across a state. The local
interest, and volunteers' investment of time and energy, may make citizens more diligent in
maintaining a working child-welfare system rather than just fixing it with stopgap measures when
the system breaks. These programs work not only to investigate reports of abuse, but also to help
families cope and transition to a healthier environment through ongoing therapy and community
C. Enhanced Accountability Through Proactive Disclosure
In Florida, a committee’s access to records is bound by confidentiality, and a publicly
disclosed committee-published report shed light on errors in record keeping and other
221 See supra text accompanying notes 78, 114.
222 42 U.S.C.A. § 5106a(d) (West 2014); see also supra text accompanying notes 45-47.
223 42 U.S.C.A. § 5106a(d)(1)-(3).
224 See e.g., FLORIDA, Child and Family Services Annual Progress and Services Reports, http://www.myflfamilies.com/about-us/publications (last visited Feb. 18, 2014); NEW JERSEY, Child Welfare Statistics, http://www.state.nj.us/dcf/childdata/ (last visited
Feb. 18, 2014); PENNSYLVANIA, Child Abuse Reports, http://www.dcyf.state.ri.us
http://www.dpw.state.pa.us/publications/childabusereports/ index.htm (last visited Feb. 18, 2014).
225 Child Welfare Outcomes, CHILD. BUREAU, U.S. DEP’T HEALTH & HUM. SERVS., http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/cwo (last visited Jan. 30, 2014).
226 The latest reports on the HHS website contain data from 2011. See id.
227 CHILD WELFARE INFO. GATEWAY, U.S. DEP’T HEALTH & HUMAN SERVS., COMMUNITY-BASED RESOURCES: KEYSTONE TO THE
SYSTEM OF CARE 1-4 (2009), https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/acloserlook/community/community.pdf.