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

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED

Title 37 Juveniles

Chapter 5 Department of Children's Services

Part 1 General Provisions

37-5-107. Confidentiality of records.

(a) All applications, certificates, records, reports and all legal documents, petitions and records made or information received pursuant to this title that directly or indirectly identify a child or family receiving services from the department or that identify the person who made a report of harm pursuant to § 37-1-403 or § 37-1-605 shall be kept confidential and shall not be disclosed, except as provided by this section and §§ 37-1-131, 37-1-409, 37-1-612 and 49-6-3051.

(b) The department may use or release information in the following circumstances:

(1) The department may utilize any information it has or may acquire to provide services to the child; and

(2) The department may release records to a person or entity that may be providing system or program evaluation.

(c) The department shall release information in the following circumstances:

(1) Upon request, the department shall release records to any child abuse review teams or child fatality review teams that are created or authorized by state law to review the activities of the department or to evaluate or investigate the cause of injury to or death of a child;

(2) Records to any law enforcement agency, grand jury or court upon presentation of an appropriate court order;

(3) Upon written request, records to any federal, state or local government entity or agent of such entity that has a need for the information in order to carry out its responsibilities under law to protect children from abuse and neglect in compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2)(A)(ix);

(4) To provide for the public disclosure of information about any case that results in a child fatality or near fatality in compliance with 42 U.S.C. § 5106a(b)(2)(A)(x). For purposes of this subdivision (c)(4), “near fatality” means a child had a serious or critical medical condition resulting from child abuse or child sexual abuse, as reported by a physician who has examined the child subsequent to the abuse;

(5) Records to any person or entity that provides system or program evaluation at the request of the department;

(6) To the commission on children and youth any and all records requested by the commission that the commission believes necessary to perform its duties and responsibilities pursuant to § 37-3-103, particularly for the purpose of evaluating the delivery of services to children and their families served by the department; and

(7) Upon written request, records to any person who is the subject of a report made to the department, or to the person's parent or legal guardian if the person is a minor and the parent or legal guardian is not the alleged perpetrator of or in any way responsible for the child abuse, child neglect or child sexual abuse against the child whose records are being requested. A person provided access to records pursuant to this subdivision (c)(7) shall maintain the confidentiality of the records except to the extent necessary for proper supervision, care or treatment of the subject of the report.

(d) Pursuant to subdivision (c)(3), the department shall disclose records and information to any member of the general assembly to enable the member to determine whether the laws of this state are being complied with to protect children from abuse and neglect and whether the laws of this state need to be changed to enhance such protection; provided, that the procedures set out in subdivisions (d)(1)-(3) and any other procedures required by law are followed.

(1) If a member of the general assembly receives a written inquiry regarding whether the laws of this state that protect children from abuse and neglect are being complied with or whether the laws of this state need to be changed to enhance protection of children, the member of the general assembly may submit a written request to the department, requesting review of the records and information relating to the inquiry. The member's request shall state the name of the child whose case file is to be reviewed and any other information that will assist the department in locating the information.

(2) The member shall sign a form, before reviewing the records and information, that outlines the state and federal laws regarding confidentiality and the penalties for unauthorized release of the information. All records and information being reviewed by any member shall remain in the department's possession.

(3) After reviewing the records and information, if the member requests additional information, the department shall discuss the circumstances related to the records and information being disclosed.

(e) (1) Any person or entity, including the commission on children and youth, that is provided access to records under this section shall be required to maintain the records in accordance with state and federal laws and regulations regarding confidentiality.

(2) It is an offense for any person who has received or has been provided access to confidential information pursuant to this section to knowingly disclose or knowingly cause to be disclosed the information to any person or entity not otherwise provided access to the records by law.

(3) A violation of this subsection (e) is a Class B misdemeanor.

(f) Upon placement of a child in the custody of the department of children's services, all state, county and local agencies shall, notwithstanding any state laws or regulations to the contrary, grant access to any and all records in their possession that relate to the child for use by the department of children's services to determine a child's condition, needs, treatment or any other area of management; provided, however, that release of health care information must be consistent with the laws and policies of the departments of health, mental health, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. The department of children's services shall comply with federal statutes and regulations concerning confidentiality of records. Any records that are confidential by law upon the enactment of this legislation shall be maintained as confidential by the department of children's services.

(g) Except as otherwise provided pursuant to 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(b)(1), prior to the release of student records, the local education agency must give written notice to the student and parent as required by 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(b)(1), and must provide the parent with a copy of all records released.

(h) Release of drug and alcohol records must comply with federal and state laws and regulations regarding the release of these records.

(i) Except as provided for in subsection (c)(2), nothing in this section shall ever be construed to permit or require the department to release or disclose the identification of the person making a report of harm in accordance with § 37-1-403.

(j) The department, in consultation with the commission on children and youth, shall adopt rules and regulations that may be necessary to establish administrative and due process procedures for the disclosure of records and other information pursuant to this section.

Acts 1996, ch. 1079, § 8; imp. am. Acts 2000, ch. 947, § 6; 2008, ch. 1146, § 1; 2009, ch. 86, §§ 1, 2; 2009, ch. 358, § 4; 2010, ch. 1100, § 62.

Compiler's Notes. Acts 2010, ch. 1100, § 153 provided that the commissioner of mental health and developmental disabilities, the commissioner of mental health, the commissioner of intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the commissioner of finance and administration are authorized to promulgate rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of the act. All such rules and regulations shall be promulgated in accordance with the provisions of the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act, compiled in title 4, chapter 5.

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