Disclosure of Confidential Child Abuse and Neglect Records - Wisconsin

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Confidentiality of Records

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981

All reports made under this section and records maintained by an agency and other persons, officials, and institutions shall be confidential.

Persons or Entities Allowed Access to Records

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981

Reports and records may be disclosed only to the following persons:

  • The subject of a report
  • The mandated reporter who made a report of abuse involving the subject child
  • Appropriate staff of an agency or a Tribal social services department
  • A person providing or authorized to provide intake or dispositional services for the court
  • A health-care provider for purposes of diagnosis and treatment
  • A child's parent, guardian, or legal custodian
  • A child's foster parent or other person having physical custody of the child or a person having physical custody of the expectant mother of an unborn child
  • A relative of a child placed outside of his or her home to the extent necessary to facilitate the establishment of a relationship between the child and the relative
  • A professional employee of a county department who is working with the child or the expectant mother of the unborn child
  • A multidisciplinary child abuse and neglect or unborn child abuse team
  • A person employed by a child advocacy center
  • A law enforcement officer, law enforcement agency, or district attorney for purposes of investigation or prosecution
  • The Department of Corrections, the Department of Health Services, a county department, or any other person under contract with those departments to exercise custody or supervision over a person who is subject to community placement for purposes of investigating or providing services
  • A court conducting proceedings in which abuse or neglect of the child or the unborn child who is the subject of the report or record is an issue
  • A Tribal court or other adjudicative body authorized by a Tribe or band to perform child welfare functions
  • The county corporation counsel, district attorney, or agency legal counsel
  • The child's counsel or guardian ad litem
  • An attorney representing the interests of an Indian Tribe or band or Indian child
  • A volunteer court-appointed special advocate (CASA) or person employed by a CASA program
  • A person engaged in bona fide research
  • The department, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency ordered to conduct a screening or an investigation of a stepparent
  • A grand jury when it is necessary for the conduct of its official business
  • A judge conducting proceedings under § 968.26
  • A child fatality review team
  • A citizen review panel
  • A coroner, medical examiner, pathologist, or other physician investigating the cause of death of a child whose death is unexplained or unusual or is associated with unexplained or suspicious circumstances
  • A Federal agency, State agency of this State or any other State, or local governmental unit located in this State or any other State that has a need for a report or record in order to carry out its responsibility to protect children

Either parent of a child may authorize the disclosure of a record for use in a child custody or adoption when the child has been the subject of a report. Any information that would identify a reporter shall be deleted before disclosure of a record.

The subject of a report may authorize the disclosure of a record to the subject's attorney. The authorization shall be in writing. Any information that would identify a reporter shall be deleted before disclosure of a record.

When Public Disclosure of Records is Allowed

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981

If an agency has reason to suspect that an incident of death or serious injury or egregious abuse or neglect has occurred, the agency shall provide within 2 working days the following information to the subunit of the department responsible for statewide oversight of child abuse and neglect programs:

  • Information about the child, including the child's age
  • The date of the incident and the suspected cause of the death, serious injury, or egregious abuse or neglect
  • A brief history of any reports received in which the child, a member of the child's family, or the person suspected of the abuse or neglect was the subject and of any services offered or provided to any of those persons
  • A statement of whether the child was residing in his or her home or was placed outside the home when the incident occurred

Within 2 working days after receiving the information, the department shall disclose to the public:

  • That the information was received
  • Whether the department is conducting a review of the incident
  • Whether the child was residing in the home or was placed in an out-of-home placement at the time of the incident
  • Information about the child, including the child's age

The disclosure of information may not include any of the following:

  • The identity of the child, any member of the child's family, any member of the child's household who is a child, or any caregiver of the child
  • The identity of the person suspected of the abuse or neglect
  • The identity of a reporter
  • Any information the disclosure of which would not be in the best interests of the child, any member of the child's family, any member of the child's household who is a child, or any caregiver of the child
  • Any disclosure that is not authorized by State or Federal law or regulation

Use of Records for Employment Screening

Citation: Ann. Stat. § 48.981

Reports and records may be disclosed to the following:

  • A public or private agency in this State or any other State that is investigating a person for purposes of licensing the person to operate a foster home or placing a child for adoption in the home of the person or for the purposes of conducting a background investigation of an adult congregate care worker
  • A court or administrative agency for use in a proceeding relating to the licensing or regulation of a facility regulated under this chapter

An agency may disclose a determination made before January 1, 2015, that a person has abused or neglected a child for purposes of a background check under § 48.685 or 50.065 only if that determination has not been reversed or modified on appeal. The agency may disclose such a determination made on or after January 1, 2015, for those purposes only if, after any contested case hearing has been held, a final determination has been made that a specific person has abused or neglected a child.