Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records - Montana

Date: February 2022

Confidentiality of Records

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-3-205

The case records of the department and its local affiliate, the local office of public assistance, the county attorney, and the court concerning actions taken under this chapter and all records concerning reports of child abuse and neglect must be kept confidential except as provided by this section.

A person who is authorized to receive records under this section shall maintain the confidentiality of the records and may not disclose information in the records to anyone other than the persons described below. However, this subsection may not be construed to compel a family member to keep the proceedings confidential.

Persons or Entities Allowed Access to Records

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-3-205

Records may be disclosed to the following persons or entities in this State and any other State or country:

  • A department, agency, ombudsman, or organization, including a Federal agency, military enclave, or Indian Tribal organization, that is authorized to receive, inspect, or investigate reports of child abuse or neglect
  • A licensed youth care facility or child-placing agency that is providing services to the family or child who is the subject of a report for determining the best interests of a child with respect to an adoptive placement
  • A health or mental health professional who is treating the family or child
  • A parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, brother, sister, guardian, mandatory reporter, person designated by a parent or guardian, or other person responsible for the child's welfare
  • A child named in the records or the child's legal guardian or legal representative, including the child's guardian ad litem, attorney, or special advocate
  • The State protection and advocacy program
  • Approved foster and adoptive parents who are or may be providing care for a child
  • A person named in a report and that person's attorney
  • An agency, including a probation or parole agency, that is legally responsible for the supervision of an alleged perpetrator of child abuse or neglect
  • A person, agency, or organization that is engaged in bona fide research or evaluation
  • The members of an interdisciplinary child protective team or a family group engagement meeting
  • The coroner or medical examiner
  • A child fatality review team, including the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Commission
  • An employee of the department or other State agency if disclosure of the records is necessary for administration of its programs
  • An agency of an Indian Tribe or the relatives of an Indian child, if disclosure of the records is necessary to meet requirements of the Federal Indian Child Welfare Act
  • A youth probation officer who is working in an official capacity with the child who is the subject of a report
  • An attorney who represents the department
  • A foster care review committee or a citizen review board
  • A school employee participating in an interview of a child by a child protection specialist, county attorney, or peace officer
  • A member of a county or regional interdisciplinary child information team and school safety team
  • Members of a local interagency staffing group
  • A member of a youth placement committee
  • A principal of a school or other employee of the school district with respect to a student of the district who is a client of the department
  • A member of the United States congress or the Montana legislature

The confidentiality provisions of this section must be construed to allow a court of this State to share information with other courts of this State or of another State when necessary to expedite the interstate placement of children.

Case records must be promptly released to any of the following individuals upon a written request to the department:

  • The attorney general
  • A county attorney or deputy county attorney of the county in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred
  • A peace officer in the jurisdiction in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred
  • The Office of the Child and Family Ombudsman

Case records must be promptly disclosed by the department to an appropriate individual described above or to a county interdisciplinary child information team upon the department's receipt of a report indicating that any of the following has occurred:

  • The death of the child as a result of child abuse or neglect
  • A sexual offense against the child
  • Exposure of the child to a violent offense
  • Child abuse or neglect due to exposure of the child to the criminal manufacture or distribution of dangerous drugs

When Public Disclosure of Records is Allowed

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-3-205

Records may be disclosed to a court for an in-camera inspection if it is relevant to an issue before it. The court may permit public disclosure if it finds disclosure to be necessary for the fair resolution of an issue before it.

Records may be disclosed to the news media, if disclosure is limited to confirmation of information regarding how the case was handled and if disclosure does not violate the privacy rights of the child or the child's parent or guardian, as determined by the department. A news organization or its employee, including a freelance writer or reporter, is not liable for reporting facts or statements made by an immediate family member if the news organization, employee, writer, or reporter maintains the confidentiality of the child who is the subject of the proceeding.

Use of Records for Employment Screening

Citation: Ann. Code § 41-3-205

Records may be disclosed to the following:

  • A department or agency investigating an applicant for a license or registration that is required to operate a youth care facility, daycare facility, or child-placing agency
  • A person or entity that is carrying out background, employment-related, or volunteer-related screening of current or prospective employees or volunteers who have or may have unsupervised contact with children through employment or volunteer activities