Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records - Ohio

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Confidentiality of Records

Citation: Rev. Code §§ 2151.421(I); 2151.423; 5101.13; 5101.131; 5101.134; Admin. Code § 5101:2-33-21

Except as provided below, a report made under this section is confidential. The information provided in a report and the name of the person who made the report shall not be released for use and shall not be used as evidence in any civil action or proceeding brought against the person who made the report.

A public children services agency (PCSA) shall disclose confidential information discovered during an investigation conducted pursuant to § 2151.421 or 2151.422 to any Federal, State, or local government entity, including any appropriate military authority, that needs the information to carry out its responsibilities to protect children from abuse or neglect.

Information regarding an investigation is confidential and is not subject to disclosure by the agency to whom the information was disclosed. The agency receiving the information shall maintain the confidentiality of information disclosed pursuant to this section.

The Department of Job and Family Services (DJFS) shall establish and maintain a uniform statewide automated child welfare information system (SACWIS) in accordance with the Federal law and regulation. Information contained in or obtained from SACWIS is confidential and is not subject to disclosure.

Notwithstanding any provision of the revised code that requires confidentiality of information that is contained in the SACWIS, DJFS shall adopt rules regarding a private child placing agency's or private noncustodial agency's access, data entry, and use of information in SACWIS.

In regulation: Each referral, assessment/investigation, and provision of services related to reports of child abuse, neglect, dependency, or family in need of services is confidential. Information contained in SACWIS is confidential. This information may be shared only when dissemination is authorized by this rule.

Persons or Entities Allowed Access to Records

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-33-21

The PCSA shall not release the identities of the referent/reporter or any person providing information during an assessment/investigation.

The PCSA shall release relevant information to the following persons or entities:

  • ODJFS staff with supervisory responsibility
  • Law enforcement officials or county prosecutors who are investigating a report of child abuse or neglect or that a person knowingly made a false report
  • Any PCSA or children services agency assessing/investigating a child abuse or neglect report
  • A guardian ad litem or court-appointed special advocate
  • A coroner to assist in the evaluation of a child's death due to alleged child abuse and/or neglect
  • Child abuse and neglect multidisciplinary team members
  • Public service providers working with a parent, guardian, custodian or caretaker or children of the family about whom the information is being provided, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Probation officers and caseworkers employed by the court or the Department of Youth Services
    • Employees of the local county boards of developmental disabilities and employees of the local county boards of alcohol drug addiction and mental health
  • A school administrator
  • The licensing and supervising authorities of a public or nonpublic out-of-home care setting in which child abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred
  • The approving authority of a kinship care setting in which child abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred
  • Administrators of public out-of-home care settings in which child abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Psychiatric hospitals managed by the Department of Mental Health
    • Institutions managed by county courts for unruly or delinquent children
    • Institutions managed by the Department of Youth Services
    • Institutions or programs managed by the Department of Developmental Disabilities
  • Child abuse citizen review boards or a child fatality review board
  • A grand jury or court
  • A children's advocacy center
  • The superintendent of public instruction when the report involves a person who holds a license issued by the State Board of Education, the agency has determined that child abuse or neglect occurred, and the abuse or neglect is related to the person's duties and responsibilities

Upon request, the PCSA shall promptly disseminate to a mandated reporter who makes a report of child abuse or neglect the following information:

  • Whether the PCSA has initiated an investigation
  • Whether the PCSA is continuing to investigate
  • Whether the PCSA is otherwise involved with the child who is the subject of the report
  • The general status of the health and safety of the child who is the subject of the report
  • Whether the report has resulted in the filing of a complaint in juvenile court or of criminal charges in another court

The PCSA shall promptly disseminate relevant information to the following persons or entities:

  • The noncustodial parent of the alleged child victim or child
  • A physician for a diagnostic assessment
  • A private service provider for diagnostic evaluations of and service provision to the alleged child victim
  • The administrator of a nonpublic out-of-home care setting in which child abuse or neglect is alleged to have occurred
  • A foster, relative, or nonrelative caregiver

At his or her sole discretion, a PCSA director may disseminate information to a researcher in child welfare, if the information is determined to be relevant to the researcher, and the results of the research will be beneficial to the county PCSA in administering child welfare programs/services.

When Public Disclosure of Records is Allowed

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-33-21(I)-(J)

Upon receiving a request for disclosure to the public regarding the findings or information about a case of child abuse or neglect that has resulted in either a child fatality or a near fatality that, as certified by a physician, placed the child in serious or critical condition, the PCSA shall prohibit disclosure of such information if it is determined by the PCSA that any of the following would occur:

  • Harm the child or the child's family
  • Jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding
  • Interfere with the protection of those who report child abuse or neglect

If the PCSA has determined to disclose information to the public, the PCSA shall provide all the following:

  • The cause of and circumstances regarding the fatality or near fatality
  • The age and gender of the child
  • Information describing and the findings of any previous reports of child abuse or neglect assessments or investigations that are pertinent to the child abuse or neglect that led to the fatality or near fatality
  • Any services provided by the PCSA on behalf of the child that are pertinent to the child abuse or neglect that led to the fatality or near fatality
  • Any actions, including, but not limited to, court filings, removals, or implementation of safety plans on behalf of the child that are pertinent to the child abuse or neglect that led to the fatality or near fatality

Use of Records for Employment Screening

Citation: Admin. Code § 5101:2-33-21(N)-(P)

The PCSA shall utilize information obtained from the alleged perpetrator search within SACWIS for the purpose of a background check for any of the following:

  • Foster care licensure
  • An adoption homestudy
  • A relative or nonrelative caregiver approval for placement
  • Child care licensure

The PCSA shall consider reports that meet the following criteria when the information is being used for a background check:

  • Substantiated reports in which the subject of the search was the alleged perpetrator
  • Indicated reports in which the subject of the search was the alleged perpetrator

When conducting a background check, the PCSA shall not release any information pertaining to an unsubstantiated report or an alternative response report.