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SECTION 496
Confidentiality
Social Services (SOS) CHAPTER 55, ARTICLE 11
§ 496. Confidentiality. 1. Unless an investigation of a report
conducted pursuant to this article has been substantiated, all
information, including information identifying the subject of the report
and other persons named in the report, shall be sealed forthwith by the
vulnerable persons' central register, the state oversight agency and the
facility or provider agency. Such reports may only be unsealed and made
available, consistent with any other applicable state or federal law,
to:

(a) the state agency operating, licensing or certifying a facility or
program for the purpose of monitoring or licensing such facility or
program;

(b) any state agency operating, licensing, or certifying a facility or
provider agency when investigating a report of suspected abuse or
neglect involving the subject of a previously sealed report accepted by
the vulnerable persons' central register;

(c) the subject of the report;

(d) a court of relevant jurisdiction or a law enforcement official
when such court or official verifies that the report is necessary to
conduct an active investigation or prosecution of a violation of
subdivision four of section 240.50 of the penal law;

(e) the justice center medical review board, for the purposes of
preparing a fatality report pursuant to section five hundred fifty-six
of the executive law;

(f) the independent agency designated pursuant to subdivision (b) of
section five hundred fifty-eight of the executive law, provided that
such information is relevant to a matter within the legal authority of
such agency; or

(g) other persons named in the report, as defined in subdivision
thirteen of section four hundred eighty-eight of this article which
includes, but is not limited to, the service recipient's parent,
guardian or other person legally responsible for such person; provided,
however, that the names and other personally identifying information of
custodians and other service recipients shall not be included unless
such custodians and service recipients authorize disclosure.
Notwithstanding the prohibitions on non-redisclosure set forth in the
closing sentence of this subdivision, the service recipient, and such
service recipient's parent, guardian or other person legally responsible
for such service recipient may disclose information and reports made
available pursuant to this paragraph to an attorney, who shall not
further disclose except as is necessary for use by such attorney in
rendering advice, assistance and representation.
When a report is unsealed, persons given access to it shall not
redisclose such reports except as necessary to conduct such appropriate
investigation or prosecution and shall request that the court redact any
copies of such reports produced in any court proceeding to remove the
names of those persons irrelevant to the proceeding such as the source
of the report, the name of the subject, and other persons named in the
reports; or that the court issue an order protecting the names of the
subjects and other persons named in the reports from public disclosure.

2. Reports made pursuant to this article and found to be substantiated
as well as any other information obtained, reports written or
photographs taken concerning such reports in the possession of the
justice center, a state oversight agency, a delegate investigatory
entity, facility or provider agency covered by this article shall be
confidential and shall not be disclosed to any other party unless
authorized pursuant to this section or any other applicable state or
federal law. In the event that other applicable state or federal law
provisions are more restrictive than the provisions of this section, the
provisions of such other state or federal law shall apply. In accordance
with this section, such information shall be made available only to:

(a) a person who is the subject of the report;

(b) other persons named in the report, which includes, but is not
limited to, the service recipient's parent, guardian or other person
legally responsible for such person. Notwithstanding the prohibitions on
non-redisclosure set forth in subdivision four of this section, the
service recipient, and such service recipient's parent, guardian or
other person legally responsible for such service recipient may disclose
information and reports made available pursuant to this paragraph to an
attorney, who shall not further disclose except as is necessary for use
by such attorney in rendering advice, assistance and representation;

(c) the justice center;

(d) the applicable state oversight agency, the director or operator of
the applicable facility or provider agency and, as appropriate, the
local social services commissioner, the commissioner of the office of
children and family services, or the school district placing the service
recipient, or an agency providing adult protective services to the
service recipient;

(e) a physician who has before him or her a service recipient whom he
or she reasonably suspects may be or may have been abused or neglected;

(f) a court, upon a finding that the information in the record is
relevant to the determination of an issue before the court;

(g) a grand jury, upon a finding that the information in the record is
necessary for the determination of charges before the grand jury;

(h) any appropriate state legislative committee responsible for
legislation affecting vulnerable persons, provided, however, that no
information identifying or tending to identify the subjects of the
report or other persons named in the report shall be made available;

(i) any person engaged in a bona fide research purpose; provided,
however, that no information identifying or tending to identify the
subjects of the report or other persons named in the report shall be
made available to the researcher unless it is absolutely essential to
the research purpose and the justice center, after consultation with the
commissioner of the applicable state oversight agency, gives prior
approval;

(j) a facility or provider agency, other providers of services to
vulnerable persons in programs licensed or certified by any state
oversight agency, or any other provider agency as defined in subdivision
three of section four hundred twenty-four-a of this chapter or a
licensing agency as defined in subdivision four of section four hundred
twenty-four-a of this chapter, in accordance with the provisions of
subdivision two of section four hundred ninety-five of this article;

(k) a probation service regarding a person about whom it is conducting
an investigation pursuant to article three hundred ninety of the
criminal procedure law, or a probation service or the department of
corrections and community supervision regarding a person to whom the
service or department is providing supervision pursuant to article sixty
of the penal law or article eight of the correction law, where the
service or department requests the information upon a certification that
such information is necessary to conduct its investigation, that there
is reasonable cause to believe that the subject of an investigation is
the subject of a substantiated report and that there is reasonable cause
to believe that such records are necessary to the investigation by the
probation service or the department, provided, however, that only
substantiated reports shall be furnished pursuant to this subdivision;

(l) a district attorney, an assistant district attorney or
investigator employed by the office of a district attorney, a sworn
officer of the division of state police, of the regional state park
police, of a city police department, or of a county, town or village
police department or county sheriff's office or department upon written
verification that such information is necessary to conduct a criminal
investigation or criminal prosecution of a person, and that there is
reasonable cause to believe that such person is the subject of a report;
provided, however, that only substantiated reports shall be furnished
pursuant to this subdivision;

(m) the New York city department of investigation; provided, however,
that no information identifying the subjects of the report or other
persons named in the report shall be made available to the department of
investigation unless such information is essential to an investigation
within the legal authority of the department of investigation and the
justice center or the applicable state oversight agency gives prior
approval;

(n) a provider or coordinator of services to which a facility or
provider agency or social services district has referred a service
recipient or a service recipient's family or to whom the service
recipient or the recipient's family have referred themselves at the
request of such agency or social services district, when said service
recipient is reported to the vulnerable persons' central register as the
vulnerable person and when the records, reports or other information are
necessary to enable the provider or coordinator to establish and
implement a plan of service for the service recipient or the service
recipient's family, or to monitor the provision and coordination of
services and the circumstances of the service recipient and the service
recipient's family, or to directly provide services in accordance with
requirements established by the applicable state oversight agency to the
extent that the sharing of such information is not otherwise prohibited
by federal law; provided, however, a provider or coordinator of services
given access to information concerning a service recipient pursuant to
this paragraph shall be authorized to redisclose such information to
other persons or agencies which also provide services to the service
recipient or the service recipient's family only if an agreement has
been or will be reached between the provider or coordinator of service
and such facility or provider agency, operating state agency or local
district. An agreement entered into pursuant to this paragraph shall
include the specific agencies and categories of individuals to whom
redisclosure by the provider or coordinator of services is authorized.
Persons or agencies given access to information pursuant to this
paragraph may exchange such information in order to facilitate the
provision or coordination of services to the service recipient or the
service recipient's family;

(o) a disinterested person making an investigation pursuant to section
one hundred sixteen of the domestic relations law, provided that such
disinterested person shall only make this information available to the
judge before whom the adoption proceeding is pending;

(p) a criminal justice agency conducting an investigation of a missing
child or vulnerable adult where there is reason to suspect information
in a substantiated report under this article is needed to further such
investigation;

(q) the director or operator of the facility or provider agency and,
as appropriate, the local social services commissioner, commissioner of
the office of children and family services, or school district placing a
child in that program, the applicable executive agency, and, for any
report involving abuse or neglect of a child, any attorney appointed to
represent the child whose appointment has been continued by a family
court judge during the term of the placement and subject to the
limitations contained in section four hundred ninety-five of this
article;

(r) for any report alleging abuse or neglect of a child, a child
protective service of another state when such service certifies that the
records and reports are necessary in order to conduct a child abuse or
maltreatment investigation within its jurisdiction of the subject of the
report and shall only be used for purposes of conducting such
investigation and will not be redisclosed to any other person or agency;

(s) an attorney for a child, appointed pursuant to section one
thousand sixteen of the family court act, at any time such appointment
is in effect, in relation to any report in which the respondent in the
proceeding in which the attorney for the child is appointed is the
subject or another person named in the report, pursuant to sections one
thousand thirty-nine-a and one thousand fifty-two-a of the family court
act;

(t) officers and employees of the state comptroller, for purposes of a
duly authorized performance audit, provided that such comptroller shall
have certified to the keeper of such records that he or she has
instituted procedures developed in consultation with the justice center
to limit access to service recipient-identifiable information to persons
requiring such information for purposes of the audit and that
appropriate controls and prohibitions are imposed on the dissemination
of service recipient-identifiable information contained in the conduct
of the audit.

(i) Information pertaining to the substance or content of any
psychological, psychiatric, therapeutic, clinical or medical reports,
evaluations or like materials or information pertaining to such
vulnerable person or such person's family shall not be made available to
such officers and employees unless disclosure of such information is
absolutely essential to the specific audit activity and the justice
center gives prior written approval.

(ii) Any failure to maintain the confidentiality of service
recipient-identifiable information shall subject such comptroller or
officer to denial of any further access to records until such time as
the audit agency has reviewed its procedures concerning controls and
prohibitions imposed on the dissemination of such information and has
taken all reasonable and appropriate steps to eliminate such lapses in
maintaining confidentiality to the satisfaction of the justice center.
Such justice center shall establish the grounds for denial of access to
records contained under this section and shall recommend as necessary a
plan of remediation to the audit agency. Except as provided in this
section, nothing in this subparagraph shall be construed as limiting the
powers of such comptroller or officer to access records which he or she
is otherwise authorized to audit or obtain under any other applicable
provision of law;

(u) an entity with appropriate legal authority in another state to
license, certify or otherwise approve prospective foster and adoptive
parents where disclosure of information regarding the prospective foster
or adoptive parents and other persons over the age of eighteen residing
in the home of such prospective parents is required by paragraph twenty
of subdivision (a) of section six hundred seventy-one of title forty-two
of the United States Code;

(v) a social services official who is investigating whether an adult
is in need of protective services in accordance with the provisions of
section four hundred seventy-three of this chapter or a child is in need
of child protective services pursuant to the provisions of title six of
article six of this chapter, when such official has reasonable cause to
believe that such reports and information are needed to further the
present investigation;

(w) for reports alleging abuse or neglect of children, members of a
citizen review panel as established pursuant to section three hundred
seventy-one-b of this chapter; provided, however, such members shall not
disclose to any person or governmental official any identifying
information which the panel has been provided and shall not make public
other information unless otherwise authorized by statute;

(x) officers and employees of the education department and, where
applicable, the department of health, for the purpose of investigating
charges and maintaining professional discipline proceedings against the
professional license of the subject of the report pursuant to Title VIII
of the education law, and to employees of the education department for
the purpose of investigating charges and maintaining good moral
character proceedings against the teaching, school administrator or
school leader certificate or license of the subject of the report; and

(y) the independent agency designated pursuant to subdivision (b) of
section five hundred fifty-eight of the executive law, provided that
such information is relevant to a matter within the legal authority of
such agency.

3. (a) The executive director, in consultation with the applicable
state oversight agency may disclose information regarding the abuse or
neglect of a vulnerable person as set forth in this subdivision, and the
investigation thereof and any services related thereto, to persons other
than those authorized to receive records under subdivision two of this
section if otherwise permitted by applicable federal law and if he or
she determines that such disclosure shall not be contrary to the best
interests of the vulnerable person and any one of the following factors
are present:

(i) the subject of the report has been charged in an accusatory
instrument with committing a crime related to a report maintained in the
vulnerable persons' central register; or

(ii) the investigation of the abuse or neglect of the vulnerable
person or the provision of services by the facility or provider agency
has been publicly disclosed in a report required to be disclosed in the
course of their official duties, by a law enforcement agency or
official, a district attorney, any other state or local investigative
agency or official, or by judge of the unified court system; or

(iii) there has been a prior knowing, voluntary, public disclosure by
an individual concerning a report of abuse or neglect in which such
individual is named as the subject of the report; or

(iv) the vulnerable person named in the report has died or the report
involves the near fatality of a vulnerable person. For the purposes of
this section, "near fatality" means an act that results in the
vulnerable person being placed, as certified by a physician, in serious
or critical condition.

(b) For the purposes of this subdivision, only the following
information may be disclosed:

(i) the name of the abused or neglected vulnerable person;

(ii) the determination by the justice center and the findings upon
which such determination was based;

(iii) identification of services provided or actions, if any, taken
regarding the vulnerable person named in the report and his or her
family as a result of any such report or reports;

(iv) whether any report of abuse or neglect regarding such vulnerable
person has been "substantiated" as maintained by the vulnerable persons'
central register;

(v) any actions taken by the state oversight agency or the facility or
provider agency in response to reports of abuse or neglect of the
vulnerable person to the vulnerable persons' central register, including
but not limited to actions taken after each and every report of abuse or
neglect of such person and the dates of such reports; and

(vi) any extraordinary or pertinent information concerning the
circumstances of the abuse or neglect of the vulnerable person and the
investigation thereof, where the executive director, in consultation
with the commissioner of the applicable state oversight agency
determines such disclosure is consistent with the public interest.

(c) Information may be disclosed pursuant to this subdivision as
follows:

(i) information released prior to the completion of the investigation
of a report shall be limited to a statement that a report is "under
investigation";

(ii) when there has been a prior disclosure pursuant to paragraph (a)
of this subdivision, information released in a case in which the
investigation of the report has been completed but not substantiated,
information shall be limited to the statement that "the investigation
has been completed and the report has been unsubstantiated";

(iii) if the report has been "substantiated" then information may be
released pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subdivision.

(d) Any disclosure of information pursuant to this subdivision shall
be consistent with the provisions of paragraph (b) of this subdivision.
Such disclosure shall not identify or provide an identifying description
of the source of the report, and shall not identify the name of the
abused or neglected vulnerable person's siblings or children, the parent
or other person legally responsible for such person or any other members
of such person's household.

(e) In determining, pursuant to paragraph (a) of this subdivision,
whether disclosure will be contrary to the best interests of the
vulnerable person, the executive director shall consider the interest in
privacy of the vulnerable person and such person's siblings or children,
the parent or other person legally responsible for such person or any
other members of such person's household.

(f) Except as it applies directly to the cause of the abuse or neglect
of the vulnerable person, nothing in this subdivision shall be deemed to
authorize the release or disclosure of the substance or content of any
psychological, psychiatric, therapeutic, clinical or medical reports,
evaluations or like materials or information pertaining to such person
or such person's family. Any such information that applies directly to
the cause of the abuse or neglect of the vulnerable person may be
disclosed only if disclosure is not otherwise restricted by applicable
federal or state laws.

4. A person given access to the names or other information identifying
the subject of the report or other persons named in the report shall not
divulge or make public such identifying information unless he or she is
a district attorney or other law enforcement official and the purpose is
to initiate court action or the disclosure is necessary in connection
with the investigation or prosecution of the subject of the report for a
crime alleged to have been committed by the subject against another
person named in the report. Nothing in this section shall be construed
to permit any release, disclosure or identification of the names or
identifying descriptions of persons who have reported suspected abuse or
neglect to the vulnerable persons' central register or the state
oversight agency, facility or provider agency or other entity where such
persons are employed or with which they are associated without such
persons' written permission except to persons, officials, and agencies
enumerated in paragraphs (f), (g), (l), (m) and (v) of subdivision two
of this section. To the extent that persons or agencies are given access
to information pursuant to paragraphs (c), (d), (e), (k), (l), (m), (n)
and (p) of subdivision two of this section, such persons or agencies may
give and receive such information to each other in order to facilitate
an investigation conducted, or the provision of services, by such
persons or agencies.

5. Notwithstanding any contrary provision of this section, mental
hygiene legal service shall have access to all information, books,
records and data as provided for in subdivision (d) of section 47.03 of
the mental hygiene law.