Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records - North Carolina

Date: February 2022

Confidentiality of Records

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-311

The data in the central registry shall be furnished by county directors of social services to the Department of Health and Human Services and shall be confidential, subject to policies adopted by the Social Services Commission providing for its use for study and research and for other appropriate disclosure.

Persons or Entities Allowed Access to Records

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-2901

The clerk shall maintain a complete record of all juvenile cases filed in the clerk's office alleging abuse, neglect, or dependency. The records shall be withheld from public inspection and, except as provided below, may be examined only by order of the court. The record shall include the summons, petition, custody order, court order, written motions, the electronic or mechanical recording of the hearing, and other papers filed in the proceeding.

The following persons may examine the juvenile's record and obtain copies of written parts of the record without an order of the court:

  • The person named in the petition as the juvenile
  • The guardian ad litem
  • The county Department of Social Services
  • The juvenile's parent, guardian, or custodian, or the attorney for the juvenile or his or her parent, guardian, or custodian

The director of the Department of Social Services shall maintain a record of the cases of children under protective custody by the department or under placement by the court, including family background information; reports of social, medical, psychiatric, or psychological information concerning a child or the child's family; interviews with the child's family; or other information that the court finds should be protected from public inspection in the best interests of the child. These records may be released to the following:

  • The child's guardian ad litem or the child, including a juvenile who has reached age 18 or been emancipated, who is authorized to review the record and request all or part of the record unless prohibited by Federal law
  • A district or superior court judge presiding over a civil matter in which the department is not a party
  • A district or superior court judge presiding over a criminal or delinquency matter who shall conduct an in-camera review before releasing to the defendant or child any confidential records maintained by the department
  • A parent, guardian, custodian, or caregiver in accordance with § 7B-700

In the case of a child victim, the court may order the sharing of information among such public agencies as the court deems necessary to reduce the trauma to the victim.

When Public Disclosure of Records is Allowed

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-2902

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a public agency shall disclose to the public, upon request, the findings and information related to a child fatality or near fatality if the following apply:

  • A person is criminally charged with having caused the child fatality or near fatality.
  • The district attorney has certified that a person would be charged with having caused the child fatality or near fatality but for that person's prior death.

Nothing herein shall be deemed to authorize access to the confidential records in the custody of a public agency; the disclosure to the public of the substance or content of any psychiatric, psychological, or therapeutic evaluations or like materials or information pertaining to the child or the child's family unless directly related to the cause of the child fatality or near fatality; or the disclosure of information that would reveal the identities of persons who provided information related to the suspected abuse, neglect, or maltreatment of the child.

Within 5 working days from the receipt of a request for findings and information related to a child fatality or near fatality, a public agency shall consult with the appropriate district attorney and provide the findings and information unless the agency has a reasonable belief that the following apply to the release of the information:

  • It is not authorized by State law.
  • It is likely to cause mental or physical harm or danger to a minor child residing in the deceased or injured child's household.
  • It is likely to jeopardize the State's ability to prosecute the defendant.
  • It is likely to jeopardize the defendant's right to a fair trial.
  • It is likely to undermine an ongoing or future criminal investigation.
  • It is not authorized by Federal law and regulations.

Use of Records for Employment Screening

Citation: Gen. Stat. § 7B-311

The department may provide information from its list of individuals responsible for child abuse or neglect to child-caring institutions, child-placing agencies, group home facilities, and other providers of foster care, child care, or adoption services that need to determine the fitness of individuals to care for or adopt children.