Florida Senate - 2024                                    SB 7036
       By the Committee on Children, Families, and Elder Affairs
       586-02178-24                                          20247036__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to a review under the Open Government
    3         Sunset Review Act; amending s. 39.202, F.S., which
    4         provides a public records exemption for identifying
    5         information of persons reporting child abuse,
    6         abandonment, or neglect; abrogating the scheduled
    7         repeal of the exemption and the reversion of specified
    8         statutory text; providing an effective date.
   10  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   12         Section 1. Section 39.202, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   13  read:
   14         39.202 Confidentiality of reports and records in cases of
   15  child abuse or neglect; exception.—
   16         (1) In order to protect the rights of the child and the
   17  child’s parents or other persons responsible for the child’s
   18  welfare, all records held by the department concerning reports
   19  of child abandonment, abuse, or neglect, including reports made
   20  to the central abuse hotline and all records generated as a
   21  result of such reports, shall be confidential and exempt from
   22  the provisions of s. 119.07(1) and shall not be disclosed except
   23  as specifically authorized by this chapter. Such exemption from
   24  s. 119.07(1) applies to information in the possession of those
   25  entities granted access as set forth in this section.
   26         (2) Except as provided in subsection (4), access to such
   27  records, excluding the name of, or other identifying information
   28  with respect to, the reporter which shall be released only as
   29  provided in subsection (5), shall be granted only to the
   30  following persons, officials, and agencies:
   31         (a) Employees, authorized agents, or contract providers of
   32  the department, the Department of Health, the Agency for Persons
   33  with Disabilities, the Agency for Health Care Administration,
   34  the Department of Education, or county agencies responsible for
   35  carrying out:
   36         1. Child or adult protective investigations;
   37         2. Ongoing child or adult protective services;
   38         3. Early intervention and prevention services;
   39         4. Healthy Start services;
   40         5. Licensure or approval of adoptive homes, foster homes,
   41  child care facilities, facilities licensed under chapters 393
   42  and 394, family day care homes, providers who receive school
   43  readiness funding under part VI of chapter 1002, or other homes
   44  used to provide for the care and welfare of children;
   45         6. Employment screening for caregivers in residential group
   46  homes and facilities licensed under chapters 393, 394, and 409;
   47  or
   48         7. Services for victims of domestic violence when provided
   49  by certified domestic violence centers working at the
   50  department’s request as case consultants or with shared clients.
   52  Also, employees or agents of the Department of Juvenile Justice
   53  responsible for the provision of services to children, pursuant
   54  to chapters 984 and 985.
   55         (b) Criminal justice agencies of appropriate jurisdiction.
   56         (c) The state attorney of the judicial circuit in which the
   57  child resides or in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.
   58         (d) The parent or legal custodian of any child who is
   59  alleged to have been abused, abandoned, or neglected, and the
   60  child, and their attorneys, including any attorney representing
   61  a child in civil or criminal proceedings. This access shall be
   62  made available no later than 60 days after the department
   63  receives the initial report of abuse, neglect, or abandonment.
   64  However, any information otherwise made confidential or exempt
   65  by law shall not be released pursuant to this paragraph.
   66         (e) Any person alleged in the report as having caused the
   67  abuse, abandonment, or neglect of a child. This access shall be
   68  made available no later than 60 days after the department
   69  receives the initial report of abuse, abandonment, or neglect
   70  and, when the alleged perpetrator is not a parent, shall be
   71  limited to information involving the protective investigation
   72  only and shall not include any information relating to
   73  subsequent dependency proceedings. However, any information
   74  otherwise made confidential or exempt by law shall not be
   75  released pursuant to this paragraph.
   76         (f) A court upon its finding that access to such records
   77  may be necessary for the determination of an issue before the
   78  court; however, such access shall be limited to inspection in
   79  camera, unless the court determines that public disclosure of
   80  the information contained therein is necessary for the
   81  resolution of an issue then pending before it.
   82         (g) A grand jury, by subpoena, upon its determination that
   83  access to such records is necessary in the conduct of its
   84  official business.
   85         (h) Any appropriate official of the department, the Agency
   86  for Health Care Administration, or the Agency for Persons with
   87  Disabilities who is responsible for:
   88         1. Administration or supervision of the department’s
   89  program for the prevention, investigation, or treatment of child
   90  abuse, abandonment, or neglect, or abuse, neglect, or
   91  exploitation of a vulnerable adult, when carrying out his or her
   92  official function;
   93         2. Taking appropriate administrative action concerning an
   94  employee of the department or the agency who is alleged to have
   95  perpetrated child abuse, abandonment, or neglect, or abuse,
   96  neglect, or exploitation of a vulnerable adult; or
   97         3. Employing and continuing employment of personnel of the
   98  department or the agency.
   99         (i) Any person authorized by the department who is engaged
  100  in the use of such records or information for bona fide
  101  research, statistical, or audit purposes. Such individual or
  102  entity shall enter into a privacy and security agreement with
  103  the department and shall comply with all laws and rules
  104  governing the use of such records and information for research
  105  and statistical purposes. Information identifying the subjects
  106  of such records or information shall be treated as confidential
  107  by the researcher and shall not be released in any form.
  108         (j) The Division of Administrative Hearings for purposes of
  109  any administrative challenge.
  110         (k) Any appropriate official of a Florida advocacy council
  111  investigating a report of known or suspected child abuse,
  112  abandonment, or neglect; the Auditor General or the Office of
  113  Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability for the
  114  purpose of conducting audits or examinations pursuant to law; or
  115  the guardian ad litem for the child.
  116         (l) Employees or agents of an agency of another state that
  117  has comparable jurisdiction to the jurisdiction described in
  118  paragraph (a).
  119         (m) The Public Employees Relations Commission for the sole
  120  purpose of obtaining evidence for appeals filed pursuant to s.
  121  447.207. Records may be released only after deletion of all
  122  information which specifically identifies persons other than the
  123  employee.
  124         (n) Employees or agents of the Department of Revenue
  125  responsible for child support enforcement activities.
  126         (o) Any person in the event of the death of a child
  127  determined to be a result of abuse, abandonment, or neglect.
  128  Information identifying the person reporting abuse, abandonment,
  129  or neglect shall not be released. Any information otherwise made
  130  confidential or exempt by law shall not be released pursuant to
  131  this paragraph.
  132         (p) An employee of the local school district who is
  133  designated as a liaison between the school district and the
  134  department pursuant to an interagency agreement required under
  135  s. 39.0016 and the principal of a public school, private school,
  136  or charter school where the child is a student. Information
  137  contained in the records which the liaison or the principal
  138  determines are necessary for a school employee to effectively
  139  provide a student with educational services may be released to
  140  that employee.
  141         (q) An employee or agent of the Department of Education who
  142  is responsible for the investigation or prosecution of
  143  misconduct by a certified educator.
  144         (r) Staff of a children’s advocacy center that is
  145  established and operated under s. 39.3035.
  146         (s) A physician licensed under chapter 458 or chapter 459,
  147  a psychologist licensed under chapter 490, or a mental health
  148  professional licensed under chapter 491 engaged in the care or
  149  treatment of the child.
  150         (t) Persons with whom the department is seeking to place
  151  the child or to whom placement has been granted, including
  152  foster parents for whom an approved home study has been
  153  conducted, the designee of a licensed child-caring agency as
  154  defined in s. 39.01(41), an approved relative or nonrelative
  155  with whom a child is placed pursuant to s. 39.402, preadoptive
  156  parents for whom a favorable preliminary adoptive home study has
  157  been conducted, adoptive parents, or an adoption entity acting
  158  on behalf of preadoptive or adoptive parents.
  159         (3) The department may release to professional persons such
  160  information as is necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of
  161  the child or the person perpetrating the abuse or neglect.
  162         (4) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, when a
  163  child under investigation or supervision of the department or
  164  its contracted service providers is determined to be missing,
  165  the following shall apply:
  166         (a) The department may release the following information to
  167  the public when it believes the release of the information is
  168  likely to assist efforts in locating the child or to promote the
  169  safety or well-being of the child:
  170         1. The name of the child and the child’s date of birth;
  171         2. A physical description of the child, including at a
  172  minimum the height, weight, hair color, eye color, gender, and
  173  any identifying physical characteristics of the child; and
  174         3. A photograph of the child.
  175         (b) With the concurrence of the law enforcement agency
  176  primarily responsible for investigating the incident, the
  177  department may release any additional information it believes
  178  likely to assist efforts in locating the child or to promote the
  179  safety or well-being of the child.
  180         (c) The law enforcement agency primarily responsible for
  181  investigating the incident may release any information received
  182  from the department regarding the investigation, if it believes
  183  the release of the information is likely to assist efforts in
  184  locating the child or to promote the safety or well-being of the
  185  child.
  187  The good faith publication or release of this information by the
  188  department, a law enforcement agency, or any recipient of the
  189  information as specifically authorized by this subsection shall
  190  not subject the person, agency or entity releasing the
  191  information to any civil or criminal penalty. This subsection
  192  does not authorize the release of the name of the reporter,
  193  which may be released only as provided in subsection (5).
  194         (5) The department may not release the name of, or other
  195  identifying information with respect to, any person reporting
  196  child abuse, abandonment, or neglect to any person other than
  197  employees of the department responsible for child protective
  198  services, the central abuse hotline, law enforcement, the Child
  199  Protection Team, or the appropriate state attorney, without the
  200  written consent of the person reporting. This does not prohibit
  201  the subpoenaing of a person reporting child abuse, abandonment,
  202  or neglect when deemed necessary by the court, the state
  203  attorney, or the department, provided the fact that such person
  204  made the report is not disclosed. Any person who reports a case
  205  of child abuse or neglect may, at the time he or she makes the
  206  report, request that the department notify him or her that a
  207  child protective investigation occurred as a result of the
  208  report. Any person specifically listed in s. 39.201(1) who makes
  209  a report in his or her official capacity may also request a
  210  written summary of the outcome of the investigation. The
  211  department shall mail such a notice to the reporter within 10
  212  days after completing the child protective investigation.
  213         (6) All records and reports of the Child Protection Team of
  214  the Department of Health are confidential and exempt from the
  215  provisions of ss. 119.07(1) and 456.057, and shall not be
  216  disclosed, except, upon request, to the state attorney, law
  217  enforcement, the department, and necessary professionals, in
  218  furtherance of the treatment or additional evaluative needs of
  219  the child, by order of the court, or to health plan payors,
  220  limited to that information used for insurance reimbursement
  221  purposes.
  222         (7) Custodians of records made confidential and exempt
  223  under this section must grant access to such records within 7
  224  business days after such records are requested by a legislative
  225  committee under s. 11.143, if requested within that timeframe.
  226         (8) The department shall make and keep reports and records
  227  of all cases under this chapter and shall preserve the records
  228  pertaining to a child and family until the child who is the
  229  subject of the record is 30 years of age, and may then destroy
  230  the records. Within 90 days after the child leaves the
  231  department’s custody, the department shall give a notice to the
  232  person having legal custody of the child, or to the young adult
  233  who was in the department’s custody, which specifies how the
  234  records may be obtained.
  235         (9) A person who knowingly or willfully makes public or
  236  discloses to any unauthorized person any confidential
  237  information contained in the central abuse hotline is subject to
  238  the penalty provisions of s. 39.205. This notice shall be
  239  prominently displayed on the first sheet of any documents
  240  released pursuant to this section.
  241         (10) The expansion of the public records exemption under
  242  this section to include other identifying information with
  243  respect to any person reporting child abuse, abandonment, or
  244  neglect is subject to the Open Government Sunset Review Act in
  245  accordance with s. 119.15 and shall stand repealed on October 2,
  246  2024, unless reviewed and saved from repeal through reenactment
  247  by the Legislature. If the expansion of the exemption is not
  248  saved from repeal, this section shall revert to that in
  249  existence on June 30, 2019, except that any other amendments
  250  made to this section, other than by this act, are preserved and
  251  continue to operate to the extent that such amendments are not
  252  dependent upon the portions of text that expire under this
  253  subsection.
  254         Section 2. This act shall take effect October 1, 2024.