Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records - Tennessee

Date: February 2022

Confidentiality of Records

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-409; 37-1-612; 37-5-107

Reports of harm and the identity of the reporter are confidential except when the juvenile court in which the investigation report is filed, in its discretion, determines the testimony of the person reporting to be material to an indictment or conviction.

All records concerning reports of child sexual abuse, including files, reports, records, communications, working papers related to investigations or providing services, videotapes, reports made to the abuse registry and to local offices of the department, and all records generated as a result of such processes and reports shall be confidential.

All applications, certificates, records, reports, and all legal documents, petitions, and records made or information received pursuant to this title that directly or indirectly identify a child or family receiving services from the Department of Children's Services or that identify the person who made a report of harm shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed, except as provided by this section.

Persons or Entities Allowed Access to Records

Citation: Ann. Code §§ 37-1-612; 37-5-107

Disclosure may be made to persons and entities having need for the information, including the following:

  • Department employees, medical professionals, and contract or other agency employees, including those from child advocacy centers, who provide services to children and families
  • The attorney or guardian ad litem for a child who is the subject of the records
  • A law enforcement agency investigating a report of known or suspected child sexual abuse
  • The district attorney general of the judicial district in which the child resides or in which the alleged abuse occurred
  • A grand jury when it is necessary in the conduct of its official business
  • Any person engaged in bona fide research or an audit
  • A court official, probation and parole officer, designated employee of the Department of Correction, Board of Probation and Parole, or other similarly situated individual charged with the responsibility of preparing information to be presented in any administrative or judicial proceeding concerning any individual charged with or convicted of any offense involving child abuse or neglect or child sexual abuse
  • An attorney or next friend who is authorized to act on behalf of the child in a civil cause of action against the perpetrator

The department shall release information to the following:

  • A child abuse review team or child fatality review team to evaluate or investigate the cause of injury to or death of a child
  • A law enforcement agency, grand jury, or court upon presentation of an appropriate court order
  • Any Federal, State or local government entity
  • Any person or entity that provides system or program evaluation at the request of the department
  • The Commission on Children and Youth for the purpose of evaluating the delivery of services to children and their families served by the department
  • Any person who is the subject of a report made to the department
  • Any member of the legislature to enable the member to determine whether child protection laws are being complied with

When Public Disclosure of Records is Allowed

Citation: Ann. Code § 37-5-107

The department shall provide for the public disclosure of information about any case that results in a child fatality or near fatality in compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2)(A)(x). The term 'near fatality' means a child had a serious or critical medical condition resulting from child abuse or child sexual abuse, as reported by a physician who has examined the child after the abuse.

When the department investigates a child fatality from abuse or neglect, the department shall release the following information, to the extent known, within 5 business days of the fatality:

  • The child's age and gender
  • Whether the department has had history with the child

Following the closure of an investigation for a child abuse or neglect fatality, the department shall release the final disposition of the case, whether the case meets criteria for a child death review, and the full case file. The case file may be redacted to comply with the confidentiality requirements of this section.

Following the department's final classification of a child abuse or neglect near fatality, the department shall release the full case file. The case file may be redacted to comply with the confidentiality requirements of this section.

Use of Records for Employment Screening

This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.