The 2022 Florida Statutes (including 2022 Special Session A and 2023 Special Session B)
There are some limited statutory exceptions to the nondisclosure of, and non-access to, these confidential records. For example, chapter 39 allows for disclosure of documents to the parent of the child. In addition, a court may order disclosure of confidential records where the court finds "that access to such records may be necessary for the determination of an issue before the court." § 39.202(2)(f). However, importantly, "such access shall be limited to inspection in camera, unless the court determines that public disclosure of the information contained therein is necessary for the resolution of an issue then pending before it." Id.
The relevant Florida statute in child abuse or neglect cases is § 39.202(2)(f), which authorizes access to DCF records to: "A court upon its finding that access to such records may be necessary for the determination of an issue before court; however, such access shall be limited to inspection in camera, unless the court determines that public disclosure of the information contained therein is necessary for the resolution of an issue then pending before it." Fla. Stat. § 39.202(2)(f).
The Court agrees with Bogle's interpretation of the "necessity" standard set forth in § 39.202(2)(f). Relevancy is an inherent consideration in whether the Court should order the disclosure of the DCF records. But Bogle's conclusion that the standard set forth in Florida Statute § 39.202(2)(f) requires more than just relevancy squares with the Statute's plain language requiring a showing of "necessity."
Subdivision (d)(1)(B)(i) of rule 2.420 currently lists "[c]hapter 39 records relating to dependency matters, termination of parental rights, guardians ad litem, child abuse, neglect, and abandonment" as information the clerk must designate and maintain as confidential and cites to sections 39.0132(3) and 39.0132(4)(a), Florida Statutes. The amendment to subdivision (d)(1)(B)(i) adds a reference to section 39.202, Florida Statutes, which prohibits the release of "the name of, or identifying information with respect to, any person reporting child abuse, abandonment, or neglect" to anyone not listed in the statute, without the written consent of the reporting person. See ch. 2019-49, §§ 1, 3, Laws of Fla. (amending § 39.202(2), (5), Fla. Stat., effective July 1, 2019, to add italicized language).
See, e.g., Fla. Stat. § 39.202(1) ("[A]ll records held by the department concerning reports of child abandonment, abuse, or neglect . . . shall be confidential and exempt from the provisions of s. 119.07(1)); Fla. Stat. § 119.071(2)(h)(1)(a), (j)(1) (exempting information identifying victims of child abuse from Florida's public records law); Fla. Stat. § 744.3701 ("A court record relating to the settlement of a . . . minor's claim, including . . . a report of a Guardian ad Litem relating to a pending settlement . . . is confidential and exempt" from Florida's public records law.) (emphasis added).
There are several instances recognized by Florida law which allow the identity of a person reporting abuse to remain confidential. Fla. Stat. §§ 39.201(b), 39.205(3) (reports of child abuse or neglect); Fla. Stat. § 415.107(3), (6), 415.111(2) (reports of vulnerable adult abuse); Fla. Stat. § 17.0401 (consumer complaint regarding financial investigations). None of these relate to animal abuse, and in any case, the confidentiality allowed by these statutes does not create an absolute privilege against disclosure. A court, for example, can compel disclosure of the source's identity and can order that it become public record. Fla. Stat. § 39.202(f) (reporter of child abuse). Additionally, even where a private confidentiality agreement is otherwise proper, it will not be enforced where its effect becomes obstructive of the rights of non-parties. See, e.g., Nestor v. Posner–Gerstenhaber, 857 So.2d 953, 955 (Fla. 3rd DCA 2003); Scott v. Nelson, 697 So.2d 1300, 1301 (Fla. 1st DCA 1997).
DCF shares all positive drug tests for controlled substances with the Florida Abuse Hotline. Berner Aff. ¶ 9 (Dkt. 19–1 at 4.) After receiving a positive drug test, a hotline counselor enters a Parent Needs Assistance referral into a child welfare database known as the Florida Safe Families Network. Berner Aff. ¶ 9 (Dkt. 19–1 at 4.) A referral is then prepared so that the adult who tested positive may receive a list of substance abuse treatment programs and so that “other appropriate response to the referral in the particular county of residence of the applicant” may be taken. Berner Aff. ¶ 9 (Dkt. 19–1 at 4.) The statute governing the Florida Abuse Hotline authorizes the disclosure of records from the abuse hotline to “[c]riminal justice agencies of appropriate jurisdiction,” as well as “[t]he state attorney of the judicial circuit in which the child resides or in which the alleged abuse or neglect occurred.” Fla. Stat. § 39.202( 2)(b)(c). Law enforcement officials may access the Florida Safe Families Network and make such use of the data as they see fit. Preliminary Injunction Hearing at 10:58 A.M. (Drew Parker, attorney for DCF); see also Fla. Stat. § 39.202…
39.202 Confidentiality of reports in case of child abuse or neglect. —
§ 39.202, Fla. Stat. (2004) (Emphasis added). A general provider of child care is not included in the list of authorized persons who may receive such access.
Because Plaintiff Beruyah Silas seeks, inter alia, "to recover damages for injuries allegedly suffered by her minor son, K.F., while he was in the custody of DCF[,]" Unopposed Motion at 1, it is argued "any and all records and other information obtained, created or compiled by DCF and its agent, Family Support Services of North Florida, Inc., pertaining to K.F. while he was in DCF's care and custody are both discoverable . . . and needed" by Movants. Id. at 2. They seek "an order under relevant provisions of Florida law directing" four entities to disclose the material. Id. at 1. Still, they advise "[s]uch information is . . . confidential and may only be disclosed by DCF to persons authorized under Chapter 39, Florida Statutes, to receive such information `except upon order of the court.'" Id. at 2 (quoting Section 39.0132(4)(a)(1), Florida Statutes). Although not arguing the information is irrelevant or undiscoverable, DCF suggests, based on Section 39.202(2)(f), Florida Statutes, "failure to conduct an in camera review of the records at issue to determine if good cause exists for disclosure would be an abuse of discretion." Request at 3.
. . . . § 39.202(f) (reporter of child abuse). . . .
. . . . § 39.202(2)(b)(c). . . . Stat. § 39.202(2)(b)-(c). . . .
. . . Additionally, section 39.202 of the Florida Statutes (2010) states: 39.202 Confidentiality of reports . . . of s. 119.07(1) and shall not be disclosed except as specifically authorized by this chapter.... § 39.202 . . .
. . . KID”) had no duty to disclose the perpetrator’s history of engaging in sexual abuse, because section 39.202 . . . within the class of persons and entities permitted to receive such information pursuant to section 39.202 . . . Section 39.202 provides for the confidentiality of reports and records maintained by the DCF of cases . . . and the information contained therein to the principal of the elementary school pursuant to section 39.202 . . . They rely on section 39.202(2)(s), Florida Statutes, which authorizes the dissemination of the Department . . .
. . . The court found that an information based on a violation of section 39.202(5) is “invalid and must be . . . Section 39.202(1), Florida Statutes (2004), provides that all calls to' the central abuse hotline are . . . Section 39.202(5) provides for limited release of the name of the person reporting the abuse to certain . . . Sections 39.202(8) and 39.205(3) make it a second-degree misdemeanor to knowingly and willfully disclose . . . See § 39.202(8), Fla. Stat. (2006). . . .
. . . Section 39.202, Florida Statutes, governs confidentiality of reports and records in cases of child abuse . . . that access to such records may be necessary for the determination of an issue before the court.” § 39.202 . . .
. . . However, under section 39.202, Florida Statutes, all unfounded reports of child abuse (until September . . .
. . . See § 39.202(5). . . . .
. . . See § 39.202(5), Fla. Stat. (2004). The report was investigated immediately. . . .
. . . . §§ 39.202 and 39.0132; (2) hearsay; and (3) failure to authenticate (DE # 699). . . . Stat. §§ 39.202 and 39.0132. , These sections provide for the confidentiality of reports and information . . . Section 39.202, entitled “Confidentiality of reports and records in cases of child abuse or neglect,” . . . The documents in the Appendix that Defendants specifically seek to exclude under Florida Statute §§ 39.202 . . . Pursuant to section 39.202(2)(f), the undersigned finds that access to these records “may be necessary . . .
. . . It makes just as little sense to interpret section 39.202(2) to mean that parents will likely gain access . . . To be sure, section 39.202(2)(d) provides that access to DCF records “shall be granted” to a specific . . . Section 39.202(2) does not, however, require DCF to notify a minor’s parent or legal custodian that a . . . Section 39.202(1) provides that "[i]n order to protect the rights of the child and the child’s parents . . . For purposes of section 39.202(d), the term "abuse” is defined to mean acts that result in “injury or . . .
. . . the motion and ordered that all questions and answers disclosing information protected under section 39.202 . . . Section 39.202(1) requires the Department to maintain the confidentiality of the records of children . . . Section 39.202(2)(f) provides: (2) Access to such records, excluding the name of the reporter which shall . . .
. . . . § 39.202(2)(a). . . . Section 39.202 lists the other limited circumstances in which child abuse records may be disclosed. . . . Ann. § 39.202(2). . . . .
. . . petitioner to DCF, any information received by DCF is required to be kept confidential under section 39.202 . . . Section 39.202(1) provides that "[i]n order to protect the rights of the child and the child’s parents . . .
. . . Section 39.202(1), Florida Statutes (2001), provides that “[i]n order to protect the rights of the child . . . Section 39.202(2)(o) provides, however, that child abuse records other than information identifying the . . . Notwithstanding the exemption from disclosure afforded by section 39.202(1), records in child abuse cases . . . However, this subsection does not con travene [s.] 39.202 ..., which protect[s] the name of any person . . .
. . . Petersburg Police Department acted illegally and violated section 39.202(4) by making an audiotape of . . . Section 39.202(1) provides that all calls to the hotline are confidential. . . . Section 39.202(4) provides for limited release of the name of the person reporting the abuse. . . . . § 39.202(4). . . . . §§ 39.202(7), 39.205(3). . . .
. . . See § 39.202, Fla. Stat. (2002). . . . .
. . . Section 39.202(1), Florida Statutes (2002), generally provides that “all records held by the department . . . First, section 39.202(2)(e) provides that such records shall be released to “[a]ny person alleged in . . . Second, section 39.202(2)(f) provides that such records shall be released to a court upon its finding . . . As can be seen, the right of access under section 39.202(2)(e) is unfettered by any restriction on the . . . In contrast, the access granted to a court under section 39.202(2)(f) is unrestricted as to content, . . .
. . . See, e.g., §§ 14.28, 39.202(5), 119.07(3), 240.2996(6), 288.075(2), 397.50 l(7)(a)5:, 828.30(5), 985.04 . . .
. . . Although it appears that Elders has a clear right to obtain any report by Williams, see § 39.202(2)(e . . . to conduct an in camera inspection to determine the postconviction issues pending before it, see § 39.202 . . .
. . . Florida Rules of Juvenile Procedure, provided such discovery does not violate the provisions of s. 39.202 . . .
. . . than I.C. and that requiring DCF to provide the records of those other children would violate sections 39.202 . . . information contained therein is necessary for the resolution of an issue then pending before it. § 39.202 . . .
. . . See examples under Section 39.202-1 (a) (b) Federal Tax Regulations of 1956. . . .