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TENNESSEE COMPILATION OF SELECTED LAWS ON CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, 2011 EDITION

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED

Title 37 Juveniles

Chapter 1 Juvenile Courts and Proceedings

Part 6 Child Sexual Abuse

37-1-612. Confidentiality of records and reports - Violations - Access to records - Confirmation of investigation - Anonymity of abuse reporters.

(a) In order to protect the rights of the child and the child's parents or other persons responsible for the child's welfare, all records concerning reports of child sexual abuse, including files, reports, records, communications and working papers related to investigations or providing services; video tapes; 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 and exempt from other provisions of law, and shall not be disclosed, except as specifically authorized by chapter 5, part 5 of this title, the provisions of this part and part 4 of this chapter.

(b) Except as otherwise provided in § 37-5-107, this part or part 4 of this chapter, it is unlawful for any person, except for purposes directly connected with the administration of this part, to disclose, receive, make use of, authorize or knowingly permit, participate in, or acquiesce to the use of any list or name, or any information concerning a report or investigation of a report of harm under this part, directly or indirectly derived from the records, papers, files or communications of the department or other entities authorized by law to assist the department when such information was acquired in the course of the performance of official duties. Disclosure may be made to persons and entities directly involved in administration of this part, including:

(1) Department employees, medical professionals, and contract or other agency employees who provide services, including those from child advocacy centers, to children and families; and

(2) The attorney or guardian ad litem for a child who is the subject of the records. Information shared with such persons and entities does not lose its character as confidential.

(c) In addition to such other purposes as may be directly connected with the administration of this part, access to such records, excluding the name of the reporter, which shall be released only as provided in subsection (g), shall be granted to the following persons, officials, or agencies for the following purposes:

(1) A law enforcement agency investigating a report of known or suspected child sexual abuse;

(2) The district attorney general of the judicial district in which the child resides or in which the alleged abuse occurred;

(3) A grand jury, by subpoena, upon its determination that access to such records is necessary in the conduct of its official business;

(4) Any person engaged in bona fide research or audit purposes. However, no information identifying the subjects of the report shall be made available to the researcher unless such information is absolutely essential to the research purpose, suitable provision is made to maintain the confidentiality of the data and the department has given written approval;

(5) A court official, probation and parole officer, designated employee of the department of correction or 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;

(6) An attorney or next friend who is authorized to act on behalf of the child, who is the subject of the records, for the purpose of recovering damages or other remedies authorized by law in a civil cause of action against the perpetrator or other person or persons who may be responsible for the actions of the perpetrator;

(7) An attorney or next friend who is authorized to act on behalf of another child, who has been the victim of other abuse by the same perpetrator, for the purpose of recovering damages or other remedies authorized by law in a civil cause of action against the perpetrator or other person or persons who may be responsible for the actions of the perpetrator against such other child; provided, however, that:

(A) The name and identity of such other child shall be revealed only to the attorney or next friend of such other child, to the parties and to their respective counsel in the civil cause of action in which such damages or other remedies are sought, and to the trial judge who presides over the action;

(B) An appropriate protective order must be entered prior to such disclosure; and

(C) Before any attempt is made to introduce into evidence in the civil cause of action either the records or information obtained from the records, written consent must be obtained from:

(i) Each parent or guardian having sole or joint custody of such other child, if the child has not yet attained the age of majority; or

(ii) The former child, if such child has now attained the age of majority; and

(8) Members of the Tennessee claims commission, its staff and employees of the division of claims administration for the purpose of determining if:

(A) A claim filed with the commission based on facts contained in the record constitutes a compensable criminal offense under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act, compiled in title 29, chapter 13;

(B) The offense alleged occurred; and

(C) The claimant's injuries were the result of the offense.

(d) The department may release to professional persons such information as is necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of the child or the person perpetrating the sexual abuse.

(e) The department may confirm whether a child sexual abuse investigation has been commenced, but may not divulge, except as permitted under this part, any details about the case, including, but not limited to, the name of the reporter, the alleged victim, or the alleged perpetrator.

(f) The department shall adopt such rules as may be necessary to carry out the following purposes:

(1) The establishment of administrative and due process procedures for the disclosure of the contents of its files and the results of its investigations for the purpose of protecting children from child sexual abuse; and

(2) For other purposes directly connected with the administration of this chapter, including, but not limited to, cooperation with schools, child care agencies, residential and institutional child care providers, child protection agencies, individuals providing care or protection for the child, medical and mental health personnel providing care for the child and the child's family and the perpetrator of any form of child abuse or neglect, law enforcement agencies, the judicial and correctional systems, and for cooperation with scientific and governmental research on child abuse and neglect.

(g) The name of any person reporting child sexual abuse shall in no case be released to any person other than employees of the department or other child protection team members responsible for child protective services, the abuse registry, or the appropriate district attorney general upon subpoena of the Tennessee bureau of investigation without the written consent of the person reporting. This shall not prohibit the subpoenaing of a person reporting child sexual abuse when deemed necessary by the district attorney general or the department to protect a child who is the subject of a report; provided, that the fact that such person made the report is not disclosed. Any person who reports a case of child sexual abuse may, at the time the person makes the report, request that the department notify such person that a child protective investigation occurred as a result of the report. The department shall mail such a notice to the reporter within ten (10) days of the completion of the child protective investigation.

(h) For purposes directly connected with the administration of this part and part 4 of this chapter, the department may disclose any relevant information to the court, administrative board or hearing officer, the parties, or their legal representatives in any proceeding that may be brought in any court, or before any administrative board or hearing officer, for the purpose of protecting a child or children from child abuse or neglect or child sexual abuse. In the event of any disagreement between the department and any other parties as to what information should be disclosed, the court, administrative board or hearing officer may enter an order allowing access to any information that it finds necessary for the proper disposition of the case. The court, administrative board or hearing officer may order any information disclosed in such proceeding to be placed and kept under seal and not to be open to public inspection to the extent it finds it necessary to protect the child. This provision shall not be construed to allow any person to gain access to any identifying information about a child who is not the subject of the proceeding.

Acts 1985, ch. 478, § 13; 1987, ch. 145, §§ 12-14, 16, 17, 24; 1988, ch. 953, § 10; 1998, ch. 1049, § 5; 1999, ch. 522, §§ 1, 2; 2000, ch. 981, §§ 51, 74; 2001, ch. 401, § 3; 2007, ch. 476, § 1; 2008, ch. 1146, § 2.

Compiler's Notes. Acts 2001, ch. 401, § 4 provided that the act, which added subdivisions (c)(6) and (7), shall apply to any investigation or any civil cause of action pending or filed on or after June 19, 2001.

Acts 2007, ch. 476, § 2 provided that the act, which added subdivision (c)(8), shall apply to claims for compensation filed on or after January 1, 2006.

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