State Codes and Statutes

State Codes and Statutes

Statutes > North-carolina > Chapter_7B > GS_7B-302

§ 7B‑302.  Assessment bydirector; access to confidential information; notification of person making thereport.

(a)        When a report ofabuse, neglect, or dependency is received, the director of the department ofsocial services shall make a prompt and thorough assessment, using either afamily assessment response or an investigative assessment response, in order toascertain the facts of the case, the extent of the abuse or neglect, and therisk of harm to the juvenile, in order to determine whether protective servicesshould be provided or the complaint filed as a petition. When the reportalleges abuse, the director shall immediately, but no later than 24 hours afterreceipt of the report, initiate the assessment. When the report alleges neglector dependency, the director shall initiate the assessment within 72 hoursfollowing receipt of the report. When the report alleges abandonment, thedirector shall immediately initiate an assessment, take appropriate steps toassume temporary custody of the juvenile, and take appropriate steps to securean order for nonsecure custody of the juvenile. The assessment and evaluationshall include a visit to the place where the juvenile resides, except when thereport alleges abuse or neglect in a child care facility as defined in Article7 of Chapter 110 of the General Statutes. When a report alleges abuse orneglect in a child care facility as defined in Article 7 of Chapter 110 of theGeneral Statutes, a visit to the place where the juvenile resides is notrequired. When the report alleges abandonment, the assessment shall include arequest from the director to law enforcement officials to investigate throughthe North Carolina Center for Missing Persons and other national and Stateresources whether the juvenile is a missing child.

(a1)      All informationreceived by the department of social services, including the identity of thereporter, shall be held in strictest confidence by the department, except that:

(1)        The department shalldisclose confidential information to any federal, State, or local governmententity or its agent in order to protect a juvenile from abuse or neglect. Anyconfidential information disclosed to any federal, State, or local governmententity or its agent under this subsection shall remain confidential with theother government entity or its agent and shall only be redisclosed for purposesdirectly connected with carrying out that entity's mandated responsibilities.

(2)        The information maybe examined upon request by the juvenile's guardian ad litem or the juvenile,including a juvenile who has reached age 18 or been emancipated.

(3)        A district orsuperior court judge of this State presiding over a civil matter in which thedepartment of social services is not a party may order the department to releaseconfidential information, after providing the department with reasonable noticeand an opportunity to be heard and then determining that the information isrelevant and necessary to the trial of the matter before the court andunavailable from any other source. This subdivision shall not be construed torelieve any court of its duty to conduct hearings and make findings requiredunder relevant federal law, before ordering the release of any private medicalor mental health information or records related to substance abuse or HIVstatus or treatment. The department of social services may surrender therequested records to the court, for in camera review, if the surrender isnecessary to make the required determinations.

(4)        A district orsuperior court judge of this State presiding over a criminal or delinquencymatter shall conduct an in camera review prior to releasing to the defendant orjuvenile any confidential records maintained by the department of socialservices, except those records the defendant or juvenile is entitled topursuant to subdivision (2) of this subsection.

(5)        The department maydisclose confidential information to a parent, guardian, custodian, orcaretaker in accordance with G.S. 7B‑700 of this Subchapter.

(a2)      If the director, atany time after receiving a report that a juvenile may be abused, neglected, ordependent, determines that the juvenile's legal residence is in another county,the director shall promptly notify the director in the county of the juvenile'sresidence, and the two directors shall coordinate efforts to ensure thatappropriate actions are taken.

(b)        When a report of ajuvenile's death as a result of suspected maltreatment or a report of suspectedabuse, neglect, or dependency of a juvenile in a noninstitutional setting isreceived, the director of the department of social services shall immediatelyascertain if other juveniles live in the home, and, if so, initiate anassessment in order to determine whether they require protective services orwhether immediate removal of the juveniles from the home is necessary for theirprotection. When a report of a juvenile's death as a result of maltreatment ora report of suspected abuse, neglect, or dependency of a juvenile in aninstitutional setting such as a residential child care facility or residentialeducational facility is received, the director of the department of socialservices shall immediately ascertain if other juveniles remain in the facilitysubject to the alleged perpetrator's care or supervision, and, if so, assessthe circumstances of those juveniles in order to determine whether they requireprotective services or whether immediate removal of those juveniles from thefacility is necessary for their protection.

(c)        If the assessmentindicates that abuse, neglect, or dependency has occurred, the director shalldecide whether immediate removal of the juvenile or any other juveniles in thehome is necessary for their protection. If immediate removal does not seemnecessary, the director shall immediately provide or arrange for protectiveservices. If the parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker refuses to acceptthe protective services provided or arranged by the director, the directorshall sign a petition seeking to invoke the jurisdiction of the court for theprotection of the juvenile or juveniles.

(d)        If immediateremoval seems necessary for the protection of the juvenile or other juvenilesin the home, the director shall sign a petition that alleges the applicablefacts to invoke the jurisdiction of the court. Where the assessment shows thatit is warranted, a protective services worker may assume temporary custody ofthe juvenile for the juvenile's protection pursuant to Article 5 of thisChapter.

(d1)      Whenever a juvenileis removed from the home of a parent, guardian, custodian, stepparent, or adultrelative entrusted with the juvenile's care due to physical abuse, the directorshall conduct a thorough review of the background of the alleged abuser orabusers. This review shall include a criminal history check and a review of anyavailable mental health records. If the review reveals that the alleged abuseror abusers have a history of violent behavior against people, the directorshall petition the court to order the alleged abuser or abusers to submit to acomplete mental health evaluation by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist.

(e)        In performing anyduties related to the assessment of the report or the provision or arrangementfor protective services, the director may consult with any public or privateagencies or individuals, including the available State or local law enforcementofficers who shall assist in the assessment and evaluation of the seriousnessof any report of abuse, neglect, or dependency when requested by the director.The director or the director's representative may make a written demand for anyinformation or reports, whether or not confidential, that may in the director'sopinion be relevant to the assessment or provision of protective services. Uponthe director's or the director's representative's request and unless protectedby the attorney‑client privilege, any public or private agency orindividual shall provide access to and copies of this confidential informationand these records to the extent permitted by federal law and regulations. If acustodian of criminal investigative information or records believes thatrelease of the information will jeopardize the right of the State to prosecutea defendant or the right of a defendant to receive a fair trial or willundermine an ongoing or future investigation, it may seek an order from a courtof competent jurisdiction to prevent disclosure of the information. In such anaction, the custodian of the records shall have the burden of showing by apreponderance of the evidence that disclosure of the information in questionwill jeopardize the right of the State to prosecute a defendant or the right ofa defendant to receive a fair trial or will undermine an ongoing or futureinvestigation. Actions brought pursuant to this paragraph shall be set down forimmediate hearing, and subsequent proceedings in the actions shall be accordedpriority by the trial and appellate courts.

(f)         Within fiveworking days after receipt of the report of abuse, neglect, or dependency, thedirector shall give written notice to the person making the report, unlessrequested by that person not to give notice, as to whether the report wasaccepted for assessment and whether the report was referred to the appropriateState or local law enforcement agency.

(g)        Within five workingdays after completion of the protective services assessment, the director shallgive subsequent written notice to the person making the report, unlessrequested by that person not to give notice, as to whether there is a findingof abuse, neglect, or dependency, whether the county department of socialservices is taking action to protect the juvenile, and what action it istaking, including whether or not a petition was filed. The person making thereport shall be informed of procedures necessary to request a review by theprosecutor of the director's decision not to file a petition. A request forreview by the prosecutor shall be made within five working days of receipt ofthe second notification. The second notification shall include notice that, ifthe person making the report is not satisfied with the director's decision, theperson may request review of the decision by the prosecutor within five workingdays of receipt. The person making the report may waive the person's right tothis notification, and no notification is required if the person making thereport does not identify himself to the director.

(h)        The director or thedirector's representative may not enter a private residence for assessmentpurposes without at least one of the following:

(1)        The reasonablebelief that a juvenile is in imminent danger of death or serious physicalinjury.

(2)        The permission ofthe parent or person responsible for the juvenile's care.

(3)        The accompaniment ofa law enforcement officer who has legal authority to enter the residence.

(4)        An order from acourt of competent jurisdiction.  (1979, c. 815, s. 1; 1985, c. 205; 1991, c. 593, s.1; 1991 (Reg. Sess., 1992), c. 923, s. 3; 1993, c. 516, s. 5; 1995, c. 411, s.1; 1997‑390, s. 3.1; 1998‑202, s. 6; 1998‑229, ss. 2, 19;1999‑190, s. 2; 1999‑318, s. 2; 1999‑456, s. 60; 2001‑291,s. 1; 2003‑304, s. 4.1; 2005‑55, s. 4; 2006‑205, s. 1; 2009‑311,s. 1.)