Can Medical Records Be Released in Child Abuse Cases?

July 17, 2023
A Moorestown DCPP Lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Can Work With You During a DCPP Investigation
A Moorestown DCPP Lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Can Work With You During a DCPP Investigation

An investigation starts whenever a report of alleged child abuse or neglect is reported to the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP). During the process, the agency’s representative must gather certain information, sometimes including medical records.

State child protective agencies like the DCPP gather and maintain specific information about the investigated cases. This usually starts with basic identifying information about the child and their family members. A report will also have details about the child’s injuries or other abuse, the home environment conditions, photographs, and other assessments.

DCPP investigators also find out when either parent or anyone living in the home has a criminal record. The child’s teachers, coaches, counselors, and others who interact with them may also be contacted. Often, these investigators also reach out to the children’s physicians. Anyone with personal knowledge about the allegations might be contacted and interviewed.

Will the DCPP Investigator Ask Me to Sign a Medical Release?

A DCPP investigator may ask you to sign an open authorization medical release when they want to talk to your child’s physicians. There is no legal obligation to do this; it can be unwise, especially when you do not know what is there. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects sensitive health data, so you are within your right to say “no,” but consulting with a DCPP lawyer is recommended.

The DCPP may accept a physician’s letter summarizing your child’s treatment history and medications. Another option is to look at the records for yourself first to see what they contain. Remember that the DCPP follows strict confidentiality laws, so any information they get cannot be released. The reports are used in investigations, treatments, and child abuse and neglect prevention. The databases are also needed for staffing, funding, and statistical purposes.

Do Medical Records Provide Legal Evidence?

Yes, a DCPP investigator might use this information to support a case of negligent parenting, so it is essential to know what the records contain. They could help or refute an alleged child abuse or neglect claim when well-documented, or there could be misinformation that could damage a defense.

How Can I Obtain My Child’s Medical Records?

State laws vary, but in New Jersey, parents and guardians can request copies of medical records for children under age 18 from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families. This can also be handled through your lawyer, the Department of Labor’s Division of Disability Determination Services or a probation officer. If the DCPP case has been started, the assigned caseworker can help.

A Moorestown DCPP Lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker Can Work With You During a DCPP Investigation

If you need trusted legal guidance with any aspect of a DCPP case, contact a Moorestown DCPP lawyer at the Law Offices of Theodore J. Baker. Call us at 856-210-9776 or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in South Jersey, including Haddonfield, Marlton, Medford, Moorestown, Mount Laurel, and Voorhees.

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