Release of Confidential DCFS Case Record Information

0500-501.20 | Revision Date: 07/01/14

Overview

This policy addresses the appropriateness of release of confidential DCFS case record information and how to provide the information to the requestor. 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Policy

Confidentiality of DCFS Records

Protected Information

Access to Confidential Specific Records/Information

Disclosure of the Identity of the Reporting Party

Disclosure of the Suspected Child Abuse Report (SS 8572)

Requests to Inspect or Obtain Copies of DCFS Records

Requests for a Foster Child’s Social Security Number for Tax Purposes

Release of DCFS Case Records to Service Providers

Releasing Case Record Information to Child Welfare Agencies Outside California

Releasing Case Records for the Completion of an Adoption Home Study

Procedure

A JV-570 Has Been Filed

CSW Responsibilities

Law Enforcement/Attorneys/Out-of-County Agencies Request Records

CSW Responsibilities

The Identity of a CSW is Requested

CSW Responsibilities

A State Agency Requests Information

CSW Responsibilities

DCFS Risk Management Section Requests Records

CSW Responsibilities

A Caregiver Requests a Foster Child’s Social Security Number for Tax Purposes

CSW Responsibilities

Family Law or Probate Court Authorized Persons Request Information

Juvenile Court Services Liaison Responsibilities

CSW Responsibilities

Sharing Case Information/Records with a Caregiver

CSW Responsibilities

A Service Provider or Court Ordered 730 Evaluator Requests Information

CSW Responsibilities

Releasing Case Record Information to Child Welfare Agencies Outside California

Chief Grievance Review Officer Section Responsibilities

Approvals

Helpful Links

Forms

Referenced Policy Guides

Statutes

Version Summary

This policy was updated from the 08/09/10 version as part of the Policy Redesign, in accordance with the DCFS Strategic Plan.  This policy merges Policy Guide 0500-302.10, Suspected Child Abuse Report: Release of Information Pursuant to Penal Code Section 11167(d) and 11167.5, 0500-501.15, Releasing Case Record Information to Child Welfare Agencies Outside California, and 0500-501.10, Releasing DCFS Case Record Information; thereby, cancelling those policy guides.

POLICY

Confidentiality of DCFS Records

All DCFS case records are confidential irrespective of whether or not a petition has been filed in Dependency Court, this includes:

 

All DCFS staff members, including support staff, are charged with the responsibility of maintaining the confidentiality of case records.  Failure to adequately protect the confidentiality of the records in DCFS’ control could result in legal action being taken against the individual responsible for the breach of confidentiality as well as DCFS.  All DCFS employees are prohibited from requesting, viewing or obtaining any case record information (written or electronic) for any purpose other than the completion of their assigned work.

 

In order to keep all DCFS case records confidential all partially completed forms, case notes, worksheets, extra copies or photocopies which contain any person and/or case-specific information pertaining to any task and which are no longer needed are to be shredded.  If a shredding machine is not directly available to the CSW, the documents shall be placed in a collection bin expressly designated for material that is to be shredded. 

Protected Information

The confidentiality of information designated as “protected information” is under additional statutory provisions.  Protected information includes:

Access to Confidential Specific Records/Information

Juvenile court records including DCFS records are confidential and shall not be inspected by anyone except those specified in Welfare and institutions Code (WIC) Section 827(a)(1). The exceptions specify that certain persons under specific circumstances may have access to specific records or information.  WIC 827(a) (1) lists the individuals/entities allowed to inspect the case file.  WIC 827(a) (5) permits specific individuals/entities to receive copies of the case file and a Blanket Order by the Presiding Judge of the Juvenile Court from July 11, 2006, provides that those persons entitled to inspect juvenile case records are also entitled to receive copies.  A procedure has been set up with the Presiding Judge's office whereby those individuals/entities who are permitted to inspect the case file pursuant to Section 827(a)(1) may file a Declaration in Support of Access (a form generated by the Juvenile Court akin to DCFS 4389).  DCFS, with the assistance of County Counsel, will redact the requested records and provide copies to the court clerk's office for dissemination to the requestor.  If no exception applies, a court order is needed in order to inspect and release confidential information.

 

WIC 827.10 also has provisions that state that notwithstanding Section 827, the child welfare agency is authorized to permit its files and records relating to a minor, who is the subject of either a family law or a probate guardianship case involving custody or visitation issues, or both, to be inspected by, and to provide copies to, the following parties if they are actively participating in the family law or probate case.

Disclosure of the Identity of the Reporting Party

The identity of all persons who report under the Child Abuse and Reporting Act shall be confidential and disclosed only among, per Penal Code Section 11167(d):

 

  1. Agencies receiving or investigating mandated reports.

 

  1. An attorney appointed to represent the child.

 

  1. The District Attorney in a criminal prosecution or in an action initiated under WIC 602 arising from alleged child abuse.

 

  1. The County Counsel or District Attorney in a proceeding under Part 4 (commencing with Section 7800) of Division 12 of the Family Code or WIC Section 300.

 

  1. A licensing agency, when abuse in out-of-home care is reasonably suspected.

 

  1. When those persons waive confidentiality, or by court order.

 

No agency or person listed in Penal Code Section 11167(d) shall disclose the identity of any person who reports under this article to that person's employer, except with the employee's consent or by court order.

Disclosure of the Suspected Child Abuse Report (SS 8572)

The SS 8572, Suspected Child Abuse Report (with the exception of the identities/names of the reporting parties) and the BCIA 8583, Child Abuse or Severe Neglect Indexing Form may be disclosed only to the persons and/or agencies listed in Penal Code Section 11167.5.

Requests to Inspect or Obtain Copies of DCFS Records

All requests to inspect and/or have copies of juvenile records (both from individuals listed as exceptions and those that are not) must be immediately directed for handling to the CSW'S out-stationed attorney, or if there is no out-stationed attorney, the supervising county counsel assigned to oversee issues regarding confidentiality.  At no time shall records requests be handled by a DCFS employee without the assistance of county counsel.

 

During the processing of a records request, the CSW automatically accepts the responsibility for identifying the person making the request and verifying his or her right to the requested information (i.e. being one of the persons listed as an exception under the WIC 827).  A signed DCFS 4389 shall be received by the CSW anytime records are requested so that the dissemination of the records is properly recorded.

 

If the case is closed, the Redacting and Subpoena Section will pull the case and send it to the Office of the County Counsel who will review the record, confer with the most recent CSW or his/her SCSW or the designated Juvenile Court Services staff responsible for processing such requests and prepare the records to be sent to court.

Requests for a Foster Child’s Social Security Number for Tax Purposes

Under specific circumstances caregivers may claim foster children on their tax returns.  It is incumbent upon the caregiver to meet the specific requirements that allow this.  DCFS does not determine whether or not the caregiver has met the requirements.  DCFS does not provide social security numbers of foster youth to anyone for security purposes, therefore, if a caregiver asks DCFS for a foster youth’s social security number for tax purposes, the CSW shall ask the court to decide whether or not to grant the caregivers request.

Release of DCFS Case Records To Service Providers

All service providers (this includes caregivers, doctors, dentists, psychologists, and therapists/counselors) are entitled to access all case records/information necessary to assist service providers in the development and implementation of the child’s and family’s service plan improving their ability to provide children with competent and comprehensive care and support the Department's efforts for reunification and permanence, per WIC Section 827, Los Angeles Superior Court and Administratively Unified Courts Court Rules 17.1, and the Blanket Order re: Confidentiality of Juvenile Case Files and Public and Media Access dated July 11, 2006.

 

A medical or mental health service provider may need to have access to juvenile case information, including the child's psychological records, medical/dental records, school records, court ordered visitation plan with family members, as well as family and placement information.  Such information may be provided where it is determined that a medical or mental health service provider is providing treatment or supervision of a child.  For instance, selected portions of a child's school records may be considered for release to a medical doctor where the child’s school performance is being monitored in order to adjust a medication regimen.  A medical or mental health service provider may not have access to any child abuse reports or the identity of the reporting party, attorney-client privileged information or any information regarding unrelated children contained in any case record documentation. 

 

The Department of Mental Health is entitled to all case record information.

 

If a CSW or SCSW has any questions or concerns regarding the release of information to any service provider, (s)he must confer with the County Counsel assigned to the case.

Releasing Case Record Information To Child Welfare Agencies Outside California

Penal Code Section 11167.5 allows the release of case record information to staff of another state’s child welfare agency responsible for approving prospective foster or adoptive parents or relative caregivers for placement of a child.

 

All County Letter 07-54 requires the Department of Justice (DOJ) to process all requests from another state child welfare agency for information contained on California’s Child Abuse Central Index (CACI).  The DOJ will verify the identity of the requestor.  If CACI indicates a history of child abuse or neglect, DOJ will notify the county CWS/Probation agency that maintains the underlying record in accordance with current procedures.  If a DCFS employee receives a request from an outside child welfare agency, inform the caller to contact the Department of Justice at (916) 227-2173.  Staff must not provide any case record information to the requesting party.

 

The notification from DOJ will request information regarding whether the county CWS/Probation agency has maintained the underlying case record and if the disposition remains “substantiated” or “inconclusive”.  If the response is affirmative, DOJ will refer the staff of the requesting state to the appropriate designee of the local CWS/Probation agency and will fax or e-mail the CWS/Probation point-of-contact a letter with the name and agency of the person authorized by DOJ to receive such information.

 

DCFS has designated the Department’s Appeals Management Section, as the DOJ’s point of contact.  It will be the responsibility of the Chief Grievance Review Officer and his or her staff to process all requests and provided requested information to the other State.  

Releasing Case Records for the Completion of an Adoption Home Study

For purposes of completing adoption home studies the Department shall utilize only adoption agencies that are licensed by the state in which they provide services. 

 

All identifying information regarding the birth parents shall be withheld unless a consent to release form (an AD 100 or equivalent), authorizing release of their identities and signed by both parents, is filed in the case record.  If only one parent signs the consent form all identifying information regarding the other parent must be withheld. 

 

The adopting family must also provide a signed release form (an AD 100 or equivalent) allowing the Department to release information about their family to the adoption agency providing the service.

 

In order to complete an accurate and comprehensive adoptive home study the adoption agency completing the home study must be provided with the information given to the adopting parents regarding the child.  The following information shall be considered for release:

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PROCEDURE

A JV-570 Petition Has Been Filed

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Upon receipt of a notice of hearing regarding the JV-570 petition contact and confer with County Counsel regarding the advisability of allowing access to the records. 
  1. Ask County Counsel to file an objection if it is not in the best interest of the child to allow the petitioner access to the records.
  1. File the notice in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.

 

  1. Process the request for records by completing the following:
  1. Photocopy the documents named in the JV-570 petition. 
  2. Black out any attorney client-privileged information. 
  3. Photocopy the altered copy.
  4. Immediately forward the documents to County Counsel.
  5. Shred the initial redacted copy.

 

  1. Document the following information in the Contact Notebook:
  1. Date;
  1. Name, title and agency of requestor;
  1. Address and phone number of requestor;
  1. Information requested; and
  1. Reason for the request.

Law Enforcement/ Attorneys/Out-of-County Agencies Request Records

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Request and obtain a signed DCFS 4389 and a written request on letterhead, if applicable, from requestor.
  1. File the DCFS 4389 in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.

 

  1. Provide the DCFS 4389 to County Counsel for processing.

 

  1. Document the following information in the Contact Notebook:
  1. Date;
  2. Name, title and agency of requestor;
  3. Address and phone number of requestor;
  4. Information requested; and
  5. Reason for the request.

 

  1. Assist County Counsel to process the request.  The DCFS 4389 gives the requestor access to the information as listed below, access does not include siblings of the child.  If other information is needed, the agency must file a JV-570.

 

Requestor

Required Documentation

Access to Information

Law Enforcement*

DCFS 4389

  • Suspected Child Abuse Report, including name of reporting party

 

  • General information in the legal records & DCFS records

Probation

DCFS 4389

  • General information in the legal records & DCFS records

Prosecuting Attorneys*

DCFS 4389 and Written request on letterhead

  • Suspected Child Abuse Report, including name of reporting party

 

  • General information in the legal records & DCFS records

Out-of-County Agencies

DCFS 4389 and Written request on letterhead

  • Suspected Child Abuse Report, including name of reporting party

 

  • General information in the legal records & DCFS records

 

  • Medical & psychological reports if they are required for placement purposes

Child and/or their attorney

DCFS 4389 and Written request on letterhead

  • General information in the legal records & DCFS records

Parent**and/or their attorney

DCFS 4389 and Written request on letterhead

  • General information in the legal records & DCFS records

 

  • If the child is under 12 years of age, their child’s medical, psychological, educational and other records.

 

*Entitled to access specific DCFS records if they are actively participating in criminal or juvenile proceedings involving the child.

 

**Parent includes birth parents, presumed father or legal guardian. It does not include a stepparent; therefore a stepparent must file a JV-570 petition to access records.

The Identity of a CSW is Requested

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Obtain the party’s name and his or her relationship to the child or family.

 

  1. Request the name, date of birth and any other identifying information about the child.

 

  1. Advise the requesting party that a search will be conducted to verify if an open case exists.

 

  1. Conduct a search on CWS/CMS.

 

  1. Within one business day, inform the requesting party:
  1. That no open case/referral exists or
  2. Provide only the name and phone number of the assigned CSW.

 

  1. Document all contacts in the Contact Notebook.

A State Agency Requests Information

For the purpose of this procedure, a State agency includes, Community Care Licensing (CCL), California Department of Social Services (CDSS) and CDSS Office of Insurance and Risk Management.

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Request and obtain a written request for the desired information on the appropriate letterhead and a signed DCFS 4389
  1. File the DCFS 4389 in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.

 

  1. Provide the DCFS 4389 to County Counsel for processing.

 

  1. Forward the request as indicated in the table below.

 

State Agency

Forward Request To

Community Care Licensing (CCL)

Out-of-Home Care Management Division for

  • Group Homes
  • Foster Family Agencies

 

The Resource Assessment Section for

  • Licensed Foster Homes
  • Small Family Homes

California Department Of Social Services (CDSS)

Appeals and State Hearing Section for

  • Funding Related Complaints

 

  1. Document the following information in the Contact Notebook:
  1. Date
  2. Name, title and agency of requestor
  3. Address and phone number of requestor
  4. Information requested
  5. Reason for the request

DCFS Risk Management Section Requests Records

CSW Responsibilities

  1. When a Summons and Complaint is received, immediately inform your ARA and contact the Risk Management Section at (213) 738-2667 or 213-351-7767 or 213-738-3000. 
  1. File the Summons and Complaint in the Additional Services Folder.

 

  1. Print out all segments of the case records contained in CWS/CMS and ensure all additional documents are photocopied. 
  1. Place documents in a sealed envelope or other secure container.

 

  1. Deliver all copies, preferably in person, or via County Messenger, to the Office of Litigation Management, 425 Shatto Place, Room 603, Los Angeles, CA 90020. 
  1. Include a transmittal to be signed by the Risk Management Section and a copy returned to the CSW.

 

  1. File all documents received from the Office of Litigation Management in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.

 

  1. Document all contacts and actions taken in the Case Notes.

A Caregiver Requests A Foster Child’s Social Security Number For Tax Purposes

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Utilize either a Walk-On or an upcoming court report to inform the court of the caregiver’s request.
  1. Ask the court to determine whether or not it wants to release the child’s social security number to the caregiver.

 

  1. Upon receipt of the court’s decision, advise the caregiver if the court has granted the caregiver’s request.
  1. Provide the foster child’s social security number to the caregiver, if granted by court.

Family Law or Probate Court Authorized Person Requests Information

Juvenile Court Services Liaison Responsibilities

  1. Request and obtain a signed DCFS 4389

 

  1. Upon receipt of a completed and signed DCFS 4389, take the following steps:
  1. Search CWS/CMS to determine if DCFS services were provided.
  1. Inform the requesting party whether or not services were provided.
  1. If services were provided, inform the requesting party that they may inspect and/or request the records, or as a courtesy be provided with a verbal report, consistent with the case documentation as indicated in the table below.

 

Scenario

Access to Information

Family Court Services is working on a case & the family has a previous Dependency case

  • May view the Dependency Court file
  • Verbally disclose any information contained in the Dependency Court file*

Family Court Services is working on a case and there was a previous investigation by DCFS but no petition was filed

Verbally Disclose:

  • Whether the family has been the subject of a child abuse investigation
  • The disposition of the child abuse investigation regarding a family and
  • The dates the referral was opened and closed

Family Court Services is working on a case and DCFS is simultaneously investigating the family

Verbally Disclose:

  • whether the Department has an active case and the date it was opened
  • the status of the child abuse investigation regarding the family and
  • the name, location, and telephone number of the CSW

 

*Except information that is privileged or confidential

 

  1. If the Family Law Court evaluators/mediators, Probate Investigators or Family Law and Probate Court Hearing officers request further information or to speak with the CSW, forward the DCFS 4389 to the field so that additional verbal information can be provided.
  1. If any requesting party wishes to have copies of case records pursuant to WIC 827.10, forward the request to the appropriate county counsel’s office.
  1. Keep and maintain a log on all DCFS 4389 received.

CSW Responsibilities

  1. If contacted by either Family Law or Probate Court staff for verbal case record information and there has been no signed declaration received by the field, direct the requesting party to contact Juvenile Court Services Liaison at (323) 526-6892.

 

  1. When a signed DCFS 4389 has been forwarded by the Juvenile Court Services Liaison, discuss the matter with your SCSW and County Counsel as to what verbal information you are able to provide as indicated in the chart above.

 

  1. If contacted by either Family Law or Probate Court staff and other entitled parties regarding any other case record information:
  1. Request and obtain a written request on appropriate letterhead and a signed DCFS 4389 for the desired information. 
  2. File the DCFS 4389 and the written request in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.
  3. Once the DCFS 4389 is received, provide it to County Counsel for processing.
  4. Assist County Counsel to process the request.

 

  1. Document the following information in the Contact Notebook:
  1. Date;
  2. Name, title and agency of requestor;
  3. Address and phone number of requestor;
  4. Information requested; and
  5. Reason for the request.

Sharing Case Information/Records with a Caregiver

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Discuss the child’s needs with a potential caregiver in non-identifying terms. 

 

  1. When a placement has been located, provide the caregiver with the DCFS 709 and if necessary, share the following case records with the caregiver about the child placed in their home:
  1. School records
  2. Information about a child's known dangerous past behavior
  3. The child's needs and assessment records
  4. Routine medical/dental records pertinent to maintaining the health and safety of the child while in the caregiver's care
  5. Psychological evaluations and mental health records if pertinent to maintaining the health and safety of the child while in the caregiver's care
  6. HIV/AIDS information if pertinent to maintaining the health and safety of the child while in the caregiver's care.
  7. Family history if pertinent to maintaining the health and safety of the child while in the caregiver's care
  8. Placement history if pertinent to maintaining the health and safety of the child while in the caregiver's care
  9. Treatment plans for the child
  10. Minute orders and court reports, (including the visitation plan for the child with his/her parents/guardians, relatives and siblings)

 

  1. Photocopy only the records authorized for release.
  1. Review carefully, black-out any unauthorized information and photocopy the initial copy. 
  2. Release the second copy
  3. Shred the initial copy.

 

  1. Do not share the following information with the caregiver:
  1. Information regarding any other person, including parents, siblings, and/or other unrelated children contained in the case record
  2. Court-ordered 730 psychological/medical evaluations (unless ordered by the court)
  3. Child abuse reports and the identity of the reporting party if the caregiver does not meet the requirement of WIC 18951
  4. Any attorney/client privileged information.

A Service Provider or Court Ordered 730 Evaluator Requests Case Records Information

For this procedural section, a service provider includes: a mental health provider and a medical and dental doctor.

CSW Responsibilities

  1. Discuss the child’s needs with the SCSW.

 

  1. Discuss the child’s needs in non-identifying terms with a potential mental health provider.

 

  1. Obtain a signed DCFS 4389 from the potential mental health service provider if identifying information is requested and from the selected provider before releasing any requested information. 
  1. File the DCFS 4389 in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.

 

  1. Document the following information in the Contact Notebook:
  1. Date;
  2. Name, title and agency of requestor;
  3. Address and phone number of requestor;
  4. Information requested; and
  5. Reason for the request.

 

  1. Discuss and obtain SCSW written approval for the release of records. 
  1. Document SCSW's approval in the Case Notes. 
  2. Print a hard copy of the documented written approval and give it to the SCSW for signature. 
  3. File it in the Additional Services Documentation Folder.

 

  1. Photocopy only the records authorized for release. 
  1. Review carefully, black-out any unauthorized information and photocopy the initial copy. 
  2. Release the second copy
  3. Shred the initial copy.

Releasing Case Record Information To Child Welfare Agencies Outside California

Chief Grievance Review Officer Section Responsibilities

  1. Upon receipt of the notification from the Department of Justice of a request for information, file the notification in the designated office file.

 

  1. When contacted by state requesting case record information, check the office file to verify that the DOJ has authorized the requesting party to receive case record information. 

 

  1. If the agency/individual did not obtain authorization from DOJ, direct the requesting party to contact the DOJ to obtain such authorization.

 

  1. If the requesting party obtained authorization from the DOJ, provide the requesting party a written or verbal summary of the results of the investigation and what if any action was taken.

Back to Procedure

APPROVALS

SCSW Approval

HELPFUL LINKS

Forms

CWS/CMS

JV-570, Petition for Access to Juvenile Court Records

LA Kids

AD 100, Authorization for Use And/Or Disclosure Of Information Independent Adoption Program

DCFS 4389, Declaration in Support of Access to Juvenile Records

DCFS 709, Foster Child’s Needs and Case Plan Summary

Referenced Policy Guides

0200-509.20, Pre-Placement Process

0600-502.20, HIV/AIDS Testing and Disclosure of HIV/AIDS Information

Statutes

Blanket Order re: Confidentiality of Juvenile Case Files and Public and Media Access, dated July 11, 2006

 

Family Code (FC) 8706 - Allows the release of certain information for a child that will be adopted.

 

FC 9200 - States the process of requesting to inspect court documents, the requestor must pay the fee and information that must be deleted from the documents.

 

FC 9201 - States the confidentiality of adoption case records.

 

PC 11167.5 - States that child abuse investigative reports and the identities of mandated reporters are confidential and under what specific circumstances disclosure is permitted. 

 

Los Angeles Superior Court Rules 7.2, Confidentiality Of Juvenile Case Files-describes and defines confidentiality of and access to Juvenile Court Case files including DCFS and Probation records that are part of the Juvenile Case file.

 

Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) 827 - States that all DCFS Case Records are confidential and sets forth requirements and exceptions for sharing DCFS Case Records.

 

WIC 16002 (e) (2) - Allows child welfare agencies and licensed county adoption agencies to provide prospective adoptive parents with information about siblings to facilitate ongoing sibling contact.

 

WIC 16010 (a) & (c) - A child’s case plan must provide a summary of the health and education information or records, including mental health information or records.  The summary may be maintained in the form of a health and education passport.

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