2015 South Carolina Code of Laws
Title 63 - South Carolina Children's Code
CHAPTER 7 - CHILD PROTECTION AND PERMANENCY
Section 63-7-1990. Confidentiality and release of records and information.

SC Code § 63-7-1990 (2015) What's This?

(A) All reports made and information collected pursuant to this article maintained by the Department of Social Services and the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect are confidential. A person who disseminates or permits the dissemination of these records and the information contained in these records except as authorized in this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, must be fined not more than one thousand five hundred dollars or imprisoned not more than one year, or both.

(B) The department is authorized to grant access to the records of indicated cases to the following persons, agencies, or entities:

(1) the ombudsman of the office of the Governor or the Governor's designee;

(2) a person appointed as the child's guardian ad litem, the attorney for the child's guardian ad litem, or the child's attorney;

(3) appropriate staff of the department;

(4) a law enforcement agency investigating or prosecuting known or suspected abuse or neglect of a child or any other crime against a child, attempting to locate a missing child, investigating or prosecuting the death of a child, or investigating or prosecuting any other crime established in or associated with activities authorized under this article;

(5) a person who is named in a report or investigation pursuant to this article as having abused or neglected a child, that person's attorney, and that person's guardian ad litem;

(6) a child fourteen years of age or older who is named in a report as a victim of child abuse or neglect, except in regard to information that the department may determine to be detrimental to the emotional well-being of the child;

(7) the parents or guardians of a child who is named in a report as a victim of child abuse or neglect;

(8) county medical examiners or coroners who are investigating the death of a child;

(9) the State Child Fatality Advisory Committee and the Department of Child Fatalities in accordance with the exercise of their purposes or duties pursuant to Article 19, Chapter 11;

(10) family courts conducting proceedings pursuant to this article;

(11) the parties to a court proceeding in which information in the records is legally relevant and necessary for the determination of an issue before the court, if before the disclosure the judge has reviewed the records in camera, has determined the relevancy and necessity of the disclosure, and has limited disclosure to legally relevant information under a protective order;

(12) a grand jury by subpoena upon its determination that access to the record is necessary in the conduct of its official business;

(13) authorities in other states conducting child abuse and neglect investigations or providing child welfare services;

(14) courts in other states conducting child abuse and neglect proceedings or child custody proceedings;

(15) the director or chief executive officer of a childcare facility, child placing agency, or child caring facility when the records concern the investigation of an incident of child abuse or neglect that allegedly was perpetrated by an employee or volunteer of the facility or agency against a child served by the facility or agency;

(16) a person or agency with authorization to care for, diagnose, supervise, or treat the child, the child's family, or the person alleged to have abused or neglected the child;

(17) any person engaged in bona fide research with the written permission of the state director or the director's designee, subject to limitations the state director may impose;

(18) multidisciplinary teams impaneled by the department or impaneled pursuant to statute;

(19) circuit solicitors and their agents investigating or prosecuting known or suspected abuse or neglect of a child or any other crime against a child, attempting to locate a missing child, investigating or prosecuting the death of a child, or investigating or prosecuting any other crime established in or associated with activities authorized under this article;

(20) prospective adoptive or foster parents before placement;

(21) the Division for the Review of the Foster Care of Children, Office of the Governor, for purposes of certifying in accordance with Section 63-11-730 that no potential employee or no nominee to and no member of the state or a local foster care review board is a subject of an indicated report or affirmative determination;

(22) employees of the Division for the Review of the Foster Care of Children, Office of the Governor and members of local boards when carrying out their duties pursuant to Article 7 of Chapter 11; the department and the division shall limit by written agreement or regulation, or both, the documents and information to be furnished to the local boards;

(23) the Division of Guardian ad Litem, Office of the Governor, for purposes of certifying that no potential employee or volunteer is the subject of an indicated report or an affirmative determination;

(24) the designated authorities at the military installation where the active duty service member, who is the sponsor of the alleged abused or neglected child, is assigned. The authorities are designated in the memorandum of understanding or agreement between county protective services and the military installation's command authority; and

(25) a South Carolina Children's Advocacy Medical Response System child abuse health care provider or his designee for the evaluation of a child for suspected abuse or neglect.

(C) The department may limit the information disclosed to individuals and entities named in subsection (B)(13), (14), (15), (16), (17), (18), and (20) to that information necessary to accomplish the purposes for which it is requested or for which it is being disclosed. Nothing in this subsection gives to these entities or persons the right to review or copy the complete case record.

(D) When a request for access to the record comes from an individual identified in subsection (B)(5), (6), or (7) or that person's attorney, the department shall review any reports from medical care providers and mental health care providers to determine whether the report contains information that does not pertain to the case decision, to the treatment needs of the family as a whole, or to the care of the child. If the department determines that these conditions exist, before releasing the document, the department shall provide a written notice identifying the report to the requesting party and to the person whose treatment or assessment was the subject of the report. The notice may be mailed to the parties involved or to their attorneys or it may be delivered in person. The notice shall state that the department will release the report after ten days from the date notice was mailed to all parties and that any party objecting to release may apply to the court of competent jurisdiction for relief. When a medical or mental health provider or agency furnishes copies of reports or records to the department and designates in writing that those reports or records are not to be further disclosed, the department must not disclose those documents to persons identified in subsection (B)(5), (6), or (7) or that person's attorney. The department shall identify to the requesting party the records or reports withheld pursuant to this subsection and shall advise the requesting party that he may contact the medical or mental health provider or agency about release of the records or reports.

(E) A disclosure pursuant to this section shall protect the identity of the person who reported the suspected child abuse or neglect. The department also may protect the identity of any other person identified in the record if the department finds that disclosure of the information would be likely to endanger the life or safety of the person. Nothing in this subsection prohibits the department from subpoenaing the reporter or other persons to court for the purpose of testimony if the department determines the individual's testimony is necessary to protect the child; the fact that the reporter made the report must not be disclosed.

(F) The department is authorized to summarize the outcome of an investigation to the person who reported the suspected child abuse or neglect if the person requests the information at the time the report is made. The department has the discretion to limit the information disclosed to the reporter based on whether the reporter has an ongoing professional or other relationship with the child or the family.

(G)(1) The state director of the department or the director's designee may disclose to the media information contained in child protective services records if the disclosure is limited to discussion of the department's activities in handling the case including information placed in the public domain by other public officials, a criminal prosecution, the alleged perpetrator or the attorney for the alleged perpetrator, the party in interest, or other public judicial proceedings. For purposes of this subsection, information is considered "placed in the public domain" when it has been reported in the news media, is contained in public records of a criminal justice agency, is contained in public records of a court of law, or has been the subject of testimony in a public judicial proceeding.

(2) The director or his designee shall disclose information in records required to be kept confidential pursuant to subsection (A) to respond to an allegation made by the alleged perpetrator, the attorney for the alleged perpetrator, the party in interest, or other public officials in public testimony before a committee or subcommittee of the Senate or the House of Representatives or a joint committee of the General Assembly, which is engaged in oversight or investigating the activities of the department. The department's response is limited to discussion of the department's activities in handling the case relating to the allegation made in public testimony.

(3) For all other information not subject to disclosure pursuant to subsection (G)(2), the director or his designee shall disclose information in records required to be kept confidential pursuant to subsection (A) to respond to an inquiry from a committee or subcommittee of the Senate or the House of Representatives or a joint committee of the General Assembly, which is engaged in oversight or investigating the activities of the department. The information must be reviewed in a closed session and kept confidential. Notwithstanding the provisions of Chapter 4, Title 30, meetings to review information disclosed pursuant to this item must be held in closed session and any documents or other materials provided or reviewed during the closed session are not subject to public disclosure.

(H) The state director or the director's designee is authorized to prepare and release reports of the results of the department's investigations into the deaths of children in its custody or receiving child welfare services at the time of death.

(I) The department is authorized to disclose information concerning an individual named in the Central Registry of Child Abuse and Neglect as a perpetrator when screening of an individual's background is required by statute or regulation for employment, licensing, or any other purposes, or a request is made in writing by the person being screened. Nothing in this section prevents the department from using other information in department records when making decisions concerning licensing, employment, or placement, or performing other duties required by this act. The department also is authorized to consult any department records in providing information to persons conducting preplacement investigations of prospective adoptive parents in accordance with Section 63-9-520.

(J) The department is authorized to maintain in its childcare regulatory records information about investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect occurring in childcare facilities.

(1) The department must enter child abuse or neglect investigation information in its regulatory record from the beginning of the investigation and must add updated information as it becomes available. Information in the regulatory records must include at least the date of the report, the nature of the alleged abuse or neglect, the outcome of the investigation, any corrective action required, and the outcome of the corrective action plan.

(2) The department's regulatory records must not contain the identity of the reporter or of the victim child.

(3) The identity of the perpetrator must not appear in the record unless the family court has confirmed the department's determination or a criminal prosecution has resulted in conviction of the perpetrator.

(4) Nothing in this subsection may be construed to limit the department's authority to use information from investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect occurring in childcare facilities to pursue an action to enjoin operation of a facility as provided in Chapter 13.

(5) Record retention provisions applicable to the department's child protective services case records are not applicable to information contained in regulatory records concerning investigations of suspected child abuse or neglect occurring in childcare facilities.

(K) All reports made available to persons pursuant to this section must indicate whether or not an appeal is pending on the report pursuant to Subarticle 9.

(L) The department may disclose to participants in a family group conference relevant information concerning the child or family or other relevant information to the extent that the department determines that the disclosure is necessary to accomplish the purpose of the family group conference. Participants in the family group conference must be instructed to maintain the confidentiality of information disclosed by the agency.

(M) Nothing in this section may be construed to waive the confidential nature of the case record, to waive any statutory or common law privileges attaching to the department's internal reports or to information in case records, to create a right to access under the Freedom of Information Act, or to require the department to search records or generate reports for purposes of the Freedom of Information Act.

(N) The department is authorized to provide a summary of referrals and the outcome of the referrals made to a contracted service agency or program addressing identified risks affecting the stability of the family to a South Carolina Children's Advocacy Medical Response System child abuse health care provider or his designee.

(O) The department shall notify and share information relating to the outcome of an indicated investigation or other contracted services and programs addressing identified risks affecting the stability of the family with the physicians involved in the ongoing primary or specialty health care of the child.

HISTORY: 2008 Act No. 361, Section 2; 2014 Act No. 291 (H.3124), Section 3, eff June 23, 2014; 2015 Act No. 62 (H.3548), Section 3, eff June 4, 2015; 2015 Act No. 75 (S.250), Sections 2, 3, eff June 8, 2015.

Code Commissioner's Note

At the direction of the Code Commissioner, the paragraph additions to (B) made by 2015 Act No. 62 and 2015 Act No. 75 were read together.

Effect of Amendment

2014 Act No. 291, Section 3, in subsection(G), added the paragraph designator (1); in subsection (G)(1), inserted "the party in interest,"; and added subsections (G)(2) and (G)(3).

2015 Act No. 62, Section 3, added (B)(24).

2015 Act No. 75, Section 2, added (B)(25).

2015 Act No. 75, Section 3, added (N) and (O).

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