2018 Regular Session
To: Judiciary, Division A
By: Senator(s) Fillingane
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 43-21-257, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CLARIFY THE PROVISIONS CREATING THE CENTRAL REGISTRY OF ABUSE AND NEGLECT CASES; TO AMEND SECTION 43-21-261, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PERMIT THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILD PROTECTION SERVICES TO SHARE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION AS NECESSARY TO ALLOW PRIVATE PROVIDERS TO SERVE THE CHILDREN IN DEPARTMENTAL CARE, TO CLARIFY THE RIGHT OF THE DEPARTMENT TO ACCESS YOUTH COURT RECORDS, TO CLARIFY THE DEPARTMENT'S AUTHORITY TO RELEASE INFORMATION RELATED TO CHILD DEATHS TO COMPLY WITH FEDERAL DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS, AND TO AUTHORIZE RELEASE OF INFORMATION TO OTHER OFFICIALS; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 43-21-257, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-21-257. (1) Unless
otherwise provided in this section, any record involving children, including
valid and invalid complaints, and the contents thereof maintained by the
Department of * * *
Child Protection Services, or any other state agency, shall be kept
confidential and shall not be disclosed except as provided in Section 43-21-261.
(2) The Office of Youth Services shall maintain a state central registry containing the number and disposition of all cases together with such other useful information regarding those cases as may be requested and is obtainable from the records of the youth court. The Office of Youth Services shall annually publish a statistical record of the number and disposition of all cases, but the names or identity of any children shall not be disclosed in the reports or records. The Office of Youth Services shall adopt such rules as may be necessary to carry out this subsection. The central registry files and the contents thereof shall be confidential and shall not be open to public inspection. Any person who discloses or encourages the disclosure of any record involving children from the central registry shall be subject to the penalty in Section 43-21-267. The youth court shall furnish, upon forms provided by the Office of Youth Services, the necessary information, and these completed forms shall be forwarded to the Office of Youth Services.
(3) The Department of * * *
Child Protection Services shall
maintain a state central registry * * * of neglect and abuse cases containing
(a) the name, address and age of each child, (b) the nature of the harm
reported, (c) the name and address of the person responsible for the care of
the child, and (d) the name and address of * * * each substantiated perpetrator of
the harm reported. "Substantiated perpetrator" * * * means an individual
who has committed an act(s) of sexual abuse or physical abuse that would
otherwise be deemed as a felony or any child neglect that would be deemed as a
threat to life * * * that has been established
by a criminal conviction * * * , an adjudication as a delinquent
child, or by other order of a youth court judge or court of
competent jurisdiction * * *
ordering that the name of the perpetrator be listed on the central registry, * * * if the perpetrator has received
due process. The Department of * * * Child Protection Services shall
adopt such rules and administrative procedures * * * as may be necessary
to carry out this subsection. The central registry shall be confidential and
shall not be open to public inspection. Any person who discloses or encourages
the disclosure of any record involving children from the central registry
without following the rules and administrative procedures of the department
shall be subject to the penalty in Section 43-21-267. The Department of * * * Child Protection Services and its
employees are exempt from any civil liability as a result of any action taken
pursuant to the compilation and/or release of information on the central
registry under this section and any other applicable section of the code,
unless determined that an employee has willfully and maliciously violated the
rules and administrative procedures of the department, pertaining to the
central registry or any section of this code. If an employee is determined to
have willfully and maliciously performed such a violation, said employee shall
not be exempt from civil liability in this regard.
(4) The Mississippi State Department of Health may release the findings of investigations into allegations of abuse within licensed day care centers made under the provisions of Section 43-21-353(8) to any parent of a child who is enrolled in the day care center at the time of the alleged abuse or at the time the request for information is made. The findings of any such investigation may also be released to parents who are considering placing children in the day care center. No information concerning those investigations may contain the names or identifying information of individual children.
The Department of Health shall not be held civilly liable for the release of information on any findings, recommendations or actions taken pursuant to investigations of abuse that have been conducted under Section 43-21-353(8).
SECTION 2. Section 43-21-261, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
43-21-261. (1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, records involving children shall not be disclosed, other than to necessary staff of the youth court or a Court-Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer that may be assigned in an abuse and neglect case, except pursuant to an order of the youth court specifying the person or persons to whom the records may be disclosed, the extent of the records which may be disclosed and the purpose of the disclosure. Such court orders for disclosure shall be limited to those instances in which the youth court concludes, in its discretion, that disclosure is required for the best interests of the child, the public safety or the functioning of the youth court and then only to the following persons:
(a) The judge of another youth court or member of another youth court staff;
(b) The court of the parties in a child custody or adoption cause in another court;
(c) A judge of any other court or members of another court staff;
(d) Representatives of a public or private agency providing supervision or having custody of the child under order of the youth court;
(e) Any person engaged in a bona fide research purpose, provided that no information identifying the subject of the records shall be made available to the researcher unless it is absolutely essential to the research purpose and the judge gives prior written approval, and the child, through his or her representative, gives permission to release the information;
(f) The Mississippi Department of Employment Security, or its duly authorized representatives, for the purpose of a child's enrollment into the Job Corps Training Program as authorized by Title IV of the Comprehensive Employment Training Act of 1973 (29 USCS Section 923 et seq.). However, no records, reports, investigations or information derived therefrom pertaining to child abuse or neglect shall be disclosed;
(g) To any person pursuant to a finding by a judge of the youth court of compelling circumstances affecting the health, safety or well-being of a child and that such disclosure is in the best interests of the child or an adult who was formerly the subject of a youth court delinquency proceeding.
Law enforcement agencies may disclose information to the public concerning the taking of a child into custody for the commission of a delinquent act without the necessity of an order from the youth court. The information released shall not identify the child or his address unless the information involves a child convicted as an adult.
(2) Any records involving children which are disclosed under an order of the youth court or pursuant to the terms of this section and the contents thereof shall be kept confidential by the person or agency to whom the record is disclosed unless otherwise provided in the order. Any further disclosure of any records involving children shall be made only under an order of the youth court as provided in this section.
(3) Upon request, the parent, guardian or custodian of the child who is the subject of a youth court cause or any attorney for such parent, guardian or custodian, shall have the right to inspect any record, report or investigation which is to be considered by the youth court at a hearing, except that the identity of the reporter shall not be released, nor the name of any other person where the person or agency making the information available finds that disclosure of the information would be likely to endanger the life or safety of such person. The attorney for the parent, guardian or custodian of the child, upon request, shall be provided a copy of any record, report or investigation, that is to be considered by the youth court at a hearing, but the identity of the reporter must be redacted and the name of any other person must also be redacted if the person or agency making the information available finds that disclosure of the information would be likely to endanger the life, safety or well-being of the person. A record provided to the attorney under this section, must remain in the attorney's control and the attorney may not provide copies or access to another person or entity without prior consent of a court with appropriate jurisdiction.
(4) Upon request, the child who is the subject of a youth court cause shall have the right to have his counsel inspect and copy any record, report or investigation which is filed with the youth court or which is to be considered by the youth court at a hearing.
(5) (a) The youth court prosecutor or prosecutors, the county attorney, the district attorney, the youth court defender or defenders, or any attorney representing a child shall have the right to inspect and copy any law enforcement record involving children.
(b) The Department of Human Services shall disclose to a county prosecuting attorney or district attorney any and all records resulting from an investigation into suspected child abuse or neglect when the case has been referred by the Department of Human Services to the county prosecuting attorney or district attorney for criminal prosecution.
(c) Agency records made confidential under the provisions of this section may be disclosed to a court of competent jurisdiction.
(d) Records involving children shall be disclosed to the Division of Victim Compensation of the Office of the Attorney General upon the division's request without order of the youth court for purposes of determination of eligibility for victim compensation benefits.
(6) Information concerning an investigation into a report of child abuse or child neglect may be disclosed by the Department of Human Services without order of the youth court to any attorney, physician, dentist, intern, resident, nurse, psychologist, social worker, family protection worker, family protection specialist, child caregiver, minister, law enforcement officer, public or private school employee making that report pursuant to Section 43-21-353(1) if the reporter has a continuing professional relationship with the child and a need for such information in order to protect or treat the child.
(7) Information concerning an investigation into a report of child abuse or child neglect may be disclosed without further order of the youth court to any interagency child abuse task force established in any county or municipality by order of the youth court of that county or municipality.
(8) Names and addresses of juveniles twice adjudicated as delinquent for an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult or for the unlawful possession of a firearm shall not be held confidential and shall be made available to the public.
(9) Names and addresses of juveniles adjudicated as delinquent for murder, manslaughter, burglary, arson, armed robbery, aggravated assault, any sex offense as defined in Section 45-33-23, for any violation of Section 41-29-139(a)(1) or for any violation of Section 63-11-30, shall not be held confidential and shall be made available to the public.
(10) The judges of the circuit and county courts, and presentence investigators for the circuit courts, as provided in Section 47-7-9, shall have the right to inspect any youth court records of a person convicted of a crime for sentencing purposes only.
(11) The victim of an offense committed by a child who is the subject of a youth court cause shall have the right to be informed of the child's disposition by the youth court.
(12) A classification hearing officer of the State Department of Corrections, as provided in Section 47-5-103, shall have the right to inspect any youth court records, excluding abuse and neglect records, of any offender in the custody of the department who as a child or minor was a juvenile offender or was the subject of a youth court cause of action, and the State Parole Board, as provided in Section 47-7-17, shall have the right to inspect such records when the offender becomes eligible for parole.
(13) The youth court shall notify the Department of Public Safety of the name, and any other identifying information such department may require, of any child who is adjudicated delinquent as a result of a violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Law.
(14) The Administrative Office of Courts shall have the right to inspect any youth court records in order that the number of youthful offenders, abused, neglected, truant and dependent children, as well as children in need of special care and children in need of supervision, may be tracked with specificity through the youth court and adult justice system, and to utilize tracking forms for such purpose.
(15) Upon a request by a youth court, the Administrative Office of Courts shall disclose all information at its disposal concerning any previous youth court intakes alleging that a child was a delinquent child, child in need of supervision, child in need of special care, truant child, abused child or neglected child, as well as any previous youth court adjudications for the same and all dispositional information concerning a child who at the time of such request comes under the jurisdiction of the youth court making such request.
(16) The Administrative Office of Courts may, in its discretion, disclose to the Department of Public Safety any or all of the information involving children contained in the office's youth court data management system known as Mississippi Youth Court Information Delivery System or "MYCIDS."
(17) The youth courts of the state shall disclose to the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER) any youth court records in order that the number of youthful offenders, abused, neglected, truant and dependent children, as well as children in need of special care and children in need of supervision, may be tracked with specificity through the youth court and adult justice system, and to utilize tracking forms for such purpose. The disclosure prescribed in this subsection shall not require a court order and shall be made in sortable, electronic format where possible. The PEER Committee may seek the assistance of the Administrative Office of Courts in seeking this information. The PEER Committee shall not disclose the identities of any youth who have been adjudicated in the youth courts of the state and shall only use the disclosed information for the purpose of monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of programs established to assist adjudicated youth, and to ascertain the incidence of adjudicated youth who become adult offenders.
(18) In every case where an abuse or neglect allegation has been made, the confidentiality provisions of this section shall not apply to prohibit access to a child's records by any state regulatory agency, any state or local prosecutorial agency or law enforcement agency; however, no identifying information concerning the child in question may be released to the public by such agency except as otherwise provided herein.
(19) In every case where
there is any indication or suggestion of either abuse or neglect and a child's
physical condition is medically labeled as medically "serious" or
"critical" or a child dies, * * *
the following information may be
released by the Mississippi Department of * * * Child Protection Services: (a) the
child's name, age and gender; (b) * * * a description of any
previous reports or investigation of child abuse or negligence that are
pertinent to the indicated or suggested child abuse or neglect that led to the
child's death or physical condition and the result of the investigations;
(c) verification from the Department of * * * Child Protection Services of the
child's case status (no case or involvement, case exists, open or active
case, case closed); (d) if a case exists, the type of report or case (physical
abuse, neglect, etc.), date of intake(s) and investigation(s), and case
disposition (substantiated or unsubstantiated); and (e) the services
provided by and actions of the State of Mississippi on behalf of the child that
are pertinent to the indicated or suggested child abuse or neglect that led to
the child's death or physical condition. Notwithstanding the aforesaid,
the confidentiality provisions of this section shall continue if there is a
pending or planned investigation by any local, state or federal governmental
agency or institution.
(20) Any member of a foster
care review board designated by the Department of * * *
Child Protection Services shall
have the right to inspect youth court records relating to the abuse, neglect or
child in need of supervision cases assigned to such member for review.
(21) Information concerning
an investigation into a report of child abuse or child neglect may be disclosed
without further order of the youth court in any administrative or due process
hearing held, pursuant to Section 43-21-257, by the Department of * * *
Child Protection Services for individuals
whose names will be placed on the central registry as substantiated
(22) The Department of Child Protection Services shall have access to all records involving a child who is the subject of a report of abuse or neglect.
(23) The Department of Child Protection Services may disclose records involving children to the following:
(a) A foster home, residential child-caring agency or child-placing agency to the extent necessary to provide such care and services to a child;
(b) An individual, agency or organization that provides services to a child or the child's family in furtherance of the child's permanency plan;
(c) Health and mental health care providers of a child to the extent necessary for the provider to properly treat and care for the child;
(d) The school where the child is enrolled or where enrollment is anticipated to the extent necessary for the school to provide appropriate services to the child;
(e) Any other state agency if doing so will aid the Department in performing its duties;
(f) An individual, agency or organization that contracts with the Department to arrange, perform or assist in the functions or activities of the department, if the individual, agency or organization agrees to maintain the confidentiality of any records involving children; and
(g) The Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or federal or State Senator or Representative of the district in which the child resides, when requested by such official pursuant to a legitimate state purpose. An official who receives information pursuant to this paragraph (g) shall keep such information confidential and shall not disclose it to any other person.
SECTION 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2018.