2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 938. Juvenile justice code.
938.78 Confidentiality of records.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 938.78 (2017)

938.78 Confidentiality of records.

(1) Definition. In this section, unless otherwise qualified, “agency" means the department of children and families, the department of corrections, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency.

(2)Confidentiality; exceptions.

(a) No agency may make available for inspection or disclose the contents of any record kept or information received about an individual who is or was in its care or legal custody, except as provided under sub. (2m) or (3) or s. 48.396 (3) (bm) or (c) 1r., 938.371, 938.38 (5) (b) or (d) or (5m) (d), 938.396 (2m) (c) 1r., 938.51, or 938.57 (2m) or by order of the court.

(ag) Paragraph (a) does not prohibit an agency from making available for inspection or disclosing the contents of a record, upon the request of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the juvenile who is the subject of the record or upon the request of the juvenile, if 14 years of age or older, to the parent, guardian, legal custodian, or juvenile, unless the agency finds that inspection of the record by the juvenile, parent, guardian, or legal custodian would result in imminent danger to anyone.

(am) Paragraph (a) does not prohibit an agency from making available for inspection or disclosing the contents of a record, upon the written permission of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian of the juvenile who is the subject of the record or upon the written permission of the juvenile, if 14 years of age or older, to the person named in the permission if the parent, guardian, legal custodian, or juvenile specifically identifies the record in the written permission, unless the agency determines that inspection of the record by the person named in the permission would result in imminent danger to anyone.

(b)

1. Paragraph (a) does not apply to the confidential exchange of information between an agency and another agency, a social welfare agency, a law enforcement agency, the victim-witness coordinator, a fire investigator under s. 165.55 (15), a health care provider, as defined in s. 146.81 (1) (a) to (p), a public school district or a private school regarding an individual in the care or legal custody of the agency. A social welfare agency that obtains information under this paragraph shall keep the information confidential as required under this section and s. 48.78. A law enforcement agency, victim-witness coordinator, or fire investigator, that obtains information under this paragraph shall keep the information confidential as required under ss. 48.396 (1) and 938.396 (1). A health care provider that obtains information under this paragraph shall keep the information confidential as provided under s. 146.82. A public school that obtains information under this paragraph shall keep the information confidential as required under s. 118.125, and a private school that obtains information under this paragraph shall keep the information confidential in the same manner as is required of a public school under s. 118.125. Paragraph (a) does not apply to the confidential exchange of information between an agency and officials of a tribal school regarding an individual in the care or legal custody of the agency if the agency determines that enforceable protections are provided by a tribal school policy or tribal law that requires tribal school officials to keep the information confidential in a manner at least as stringent as is required of a public school official under s. 118.125.

1m. An agency may enter into an interagency agreement with a school board, a private school, a tribal school, a law enforcement agency, or another social welfare agency providing for the routine disclosure of information under subd. 1. to the school board, private school, tribal school, law enforcement agency, or other social welfare agency.

2. On petition of an agency to review pupil records, as defined in s. 118.125 (1) (d), other than pupil records that may be disclosed without court order under s. 118.125 (2) or (2m), for the purpose of providing treatment or care for an individual in the care or legal custody of the agency, the court may order the school board of the school district, or the governing body of the private school, in which an individual is enrolled to disclose to the agency the pupil records of the individual as necessary for the agency to provide that treatment or care. The court may request the governing body of the tribal school in which an individual is enrolled to disclose to the agency the pupil records of the individual as necessary for the agency to provide that treatment or care. The agency may use the pupil records only for the purpose of providing treatment or care and may make the pupil records available only to employees of the agency who are providing treatment or care for the individual.

(d) Paragraph (a) does not prohibit the department of health services or a county department from disclosing information about an individual formerly in the legal custody or under the supervision of that department under s. 48.34 (4m), 1993 stats., or formerly under the supervision of that department or county department under s. 48.34 (4n), 1993 stats., or s. 938.34 (4d) or (4n) to the department of corrections, if the individual is at the time of disclosure any of the following:

1. The subject of a presentence investigation under s. 972.15.

2. Under sentence to the Wisconsin state prisons under s. 973.15.

3. Subject to an order under s. 938.183 and placed in a state prison under s. 938.183.

4. On probation to the department of corrections under s. 973.09.

5. On parole under s. 302.11 or ch. 304 or on extended supervision under s. 302.113 or 302.114.

(e) Notwithstanding par. (a), an agency shall, upon request, disclose information to authorized representatives of the department of corrections, the department of health services, the department of justice, or a district attorney for use in the prosecution of any proceeding or any evaluation conducted under ch. 980, if the information involves or relates to an individual who is the subject of the proceeding or evaluation. The court in which the proceeding under ch. 980 is pending may issue any protective orders that it determines are appropriate concerning information disclosed under this paragraph. Any representative of the department of corrections, the department of health services, the department of justice, or a district attorney may disclose information obtained under this paragraph for any purpose consistent with any proceeding under ch. 980.

(g) Paragraph (a) does not prohibit an agency from disclosing information about an individual in its care or legal custody on the written request of the department of safety and professional services or of any interested examining board or affiliated credentialing board in that department for use in any investigation or proceeding relating to any alleged misconduct by any person who is credentialed or who is seeking credentialing under ch. 448, 455 or 457. Unless authorized by an order of the court, the department of safety and professional services and any examining board or affiliated credentialing board in that department shall keep confidential any information obtained under this paragraph and may not disclose the name of or any other identifying information about the individual who is the subject of the information disclosed, except to the extent that redisclosure of that information is necessary for the conduct of the investigation or proceeding for which that information was obtained.

(h) Paragraph (a) does not prohibit the department of children and families, a county department, or a licensed child welfare agency from entering the content of any record kept or information received by that department, county department, or licensed child welfare agency into the statewide automated child welfare information system established under s. 48.47 (7g) or the department of children and families from transferring any information maintained in that system to the court under s. 48.396 (3) (bm). If the department of children and families transfers that information to the court, the court and the director of state courts may allow access to that information as provided in s. 48.396 (3) (c) 2.

(i) Paragraph (a) does not prohibit an agency from disclosing information to a relative of a juvenile placed outside of his or her home only to the extent necessary to facilitate the establishment of a relationship between the juvenile and the relative or a placement of the juvenile with the relative or from disclosing information under s. 938.21 (5) (e), 938.355 (2) (cm), or 938.357 (2v) (d). In this paragraph, “relative" includes a relative whose relationship is derived through a parent of the juvenile whose parental rights are terminated.

(L)

1. In this paragraph, “ qualified independent researcher" means a faculty member of a university who satisfies all of the following:

a. The faculty member has an approved protocol from an institutional review board for human subjects research to work with data containing personal information for the purposes of evaluating the program under s. 119.23.

b. The faculty member has received from the state and properly managed data containing personal information for the purposes of evaluating the program under s. 119.23 before January 1, 2016.

2. Notwithstanding par. (a), the department of children and families shall permit a qualified independent researcher to have access to any database maintained by the department of children and families for the purpose of cross-matching information contained in any such database with a database that both is in the possession of the qualified independent researcher and contains information regarding pupils participating in the program under s. 119.23. The department of children and families may charge a fee to the qualified independent researcher for the information that does not exceed the cost incurred by the department of children and families to provide the information.

(2m)Release of information when juvenile is missing.

(a) If an agency that has responsibility for the placement, care, or supervision of a juvenile, as determined by the department of children and families under par. (d), determines that the juvenile is missing, the agency shall do all of the following:

1. Within 8 hours after making that determination, report that determination to a local law enforcement agency for entry of that information into the national crime information databases, as defined in 28 USC 534 (f) (3) (A).

2. Within 24 hours after making that determination, report that determination to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

3. Share information about a missing juvenile reported under subds. 1. and 2. with law enforcement agencies, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and other agencies that are involved in efforts to locate the missing juvenile.

(b) An agency that has responsibility for the placement, care, or supervision of a juvenile may photograph the juvenile and maintain the photograph in the statewide automated child welfare information system. A report under par. (a) 1. or 2. shall be accompanied by a recent photograph of the missing juvenile, if available.

(c) If permitted under s. 48.47 (7g), an agency may use the statewide automated child welfare information system to provide electronic information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children under par. (a) 2. or 3.

(d) The department of children and families shall provide guidance to agencies as to the scope of the juveniles to whom this subsection applies. Notwithstanding s. 227.10 (1), that guidance need not be promulgated as rules.

(e) The department of children and families, the department of corrections, and the department of health services may promulgate rules to implement this subsection.

(3)Release of information when escape or absence; rules. If a juvenile adjudged delinquent under s. 48.12, 1993 stats., or s. 938.12 or found to be in need of protection or services under s. 48.13 (12), 1993 stats., or s. 48.13 (14), 1993 stats., or s. 938.13 (12) or (14) on the basis of a violation of s. 943.23 (1m) or (1r), 1999 stats., or s. 941.10, 941.11, 941.20, 941.21, 941.23, 941.231, 941.235, 941.237, 941.26, 941.28, 941.295, 941.298, 941.30, 941.31, 941.32, 941.325, 943.02, 943.03, 943.04, 943.10 (2) (a), 943.23 (1g), 943.32 (2), 948.02, 948.025, 948.03, 948.05, 948.055, 948.085 (2), 948.60, 948.605, or 948.61 or any crime specified in ch. 940 has escaped from a juvenile correctional facility, residential care center for children and youth, inpatient facility, as defined in s. 51.01 (10), juvenile detention facility, or juvenile portion of a county jail, or from the custody of a peace officer or a guard of such a facility, center, or jail, or has been allowed to leave a juvenile correctional facility, residential care center for children and youth, inpatient facility, juvenile detention facility, or juvenile portion of a county jail for a specified time period and is absent from the facility, center, home, or jail for more than 12 hours after the expiration of the specified period, the department of corrections or county department, whichever has supervision over the juvenile, may release the juvenile's name and any information about the juvenile that is necessary for the protection of the public or to secure the juvenile's return to the facility, center, home, or jail. The department of corrections shall promulgate rules establishing guidelines for the release of the juvenile's name or information about the juvenile to the public.

NOTE: Sub. (3) is shown as affected by 2015 Wis. Acts 55 and 149 and as merged by the legislative reference bureau under s. 13.92 (2) (i).

History: 1995 a. 27 s. 9126 (19); 1995 a. 77, 230, 352; 1997 a. 205, 207, 283; 1999 a. 9; 2001 a. 38, 59, 109; 2003 a. 292, 321; 2005 a. 25, 277, 293, 344, 406, 434; 2007 a. 20 ss. 3834, 9121 (6) (a); 2007 a. 97; 2009 a. 79, 302, 338; 2011 a. 32, 270; 2013 a. 20, 334; 2015 a. 55, 149, 368; 13.92 (2) (i).

As a juvenile has a constitutional right to both inspect and reply to a hearing examiner's report on the revocation of aftercare supervision, s. 48.78 does not prevent a juvenile from having access to the report. State ex rel. R.R. v. Schmidt, 63 Wis. 2d 82, 216 N.W.2d 18 (1974).

NOTE: The above annotation cites to s. 48.78, the predecessor statute to s. 938.78.

The juvenile court must make a threshold relevancy determination by an in camera review when confronted with: 1) a discovery request under s. 48.293(2); 2) an inspection request of juvenile records under ss. 48.396 (2) and 938.396 (2); or 3) an inspection request of agency records under ss. 48.78 (2) (a) and 938.78(2) (a). The test for permissible discovery is whether the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Courtney F. v. Ramiro M.C. 2004 WI App 36, 269 Wis. 2d 709, 676 N.W.2d 545, 03-3018.

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