This is a reminder: reports that clinicians make of suspected abuse are highly confidential. Under California law, reports of suspected child abuse and information contained in those reports may only be disclosed to persons or agencies who coordinate the investigation of these reports.
This makes sense. But here’s the potential problem: most clinicians keep the reports that they make in the patient’s file. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing, were it not for the fact that most clinicians also forget about or overlook these reports in the pile of paperwork that constitutes “the file.” This is problematic when we are asked to produce a copy of the file, usually for some other reason.
For example, if “Therapist A,” in the course of treatment with Patient X, makes a child abuse report concerning Patient X’s parenting, Therapist A cannot then disclose the contents of that report to Patient X (or anyone else not coordinating or investigating the report). The law specifically prohibits the disclosure of the report, so when Patient X asks Therapist A to release his file, Therapist A has to make sure that the report isn’t included in the released materials.
In fact, the improper disclosure of these reports to anyone not authorized to view them is a crime. It is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.
This is why it is a good idea to keep any reports you make pursuant to a mandatory reporting statute (e.g., elder abuse/neglect, child abuse/neglect, dependent adult abuse/neglect) in a separate file. That way they aren’t accidentally released.
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