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Client Rights: Accessing the Records of a Minor

There are rules for accessing the records of children who receive developmental disability, mental health, or substance use treatment. We provide guidance below on these rules. This is not legal advice.

In general, a parent or guardian has a right to access the child’s treatment records. A parent or guardian who has not been allowed to have the child live with them may not have access.

May a parent or guardian of a child access their court or treatment records?

Yes. Unless there is an exception listed in the law.

May a child or facility deny a parent or guardian access to the child’s protected health information?

No. A child or facility may not deny a parent or guardian access to the child’s protected health information unless a court has decided the child can’t live with them. If the child is 14 or older and has a developmental disability, they or a facility could also deny a parent or guardian access to protected health information if they file a written objection.

Records of children with a developmental disability

Children with a developmental disability who are 14 or older must be informed of their right to file a written objection to a parent or guardian getting access to their treatment records. The objection must be included in the child’s treatment record.

Records of substance use treatment

  • A child’s drug or alcohol abuse treatment records can only be released with the consent of both the child and the child’s parent or guardian. The records can only be released with the child’s consent if they’re 12 or older.
  • When a child can receive treatment for alcohol or drug abuse under state law without parent or guardian consent, the child’s consent is all that’s needed to access their medical record.

Can a provider refuse to give a parent or guardian access to a child’s treatment records?

Yes, in these cases:

Can a child access their own treatment and court records?

Yes. If they’re under the age of 14, they may access court records only in the presence of a parent, guardian, lawyer, judge, or facility staff member. If they’re 14 years or older, they may access their own court and treatment records. See Wis. Stat. § 51.30(5)(b)(2) for more information.

Other notes on a child’s access to treatment and court records:

  • A facility director may restrict access to certain treatment records. But they cannot deny records of all medications and medical treatments.
  • Once they’re discharged, children have the right to receive a copy of all their records. The facility may require a fee for the copies.

Can a child give permission for their records to be released?

In general, consent is needed for the release of protected health information.

  • All treatment records must remain confidential.
  • Protected health information may only be released to people with the child’s consent. Or to those designated by law to give consent.

Consent is also required for the release of court records. Consent for the release of court or treatment records must be in writing and include:

  • The date the consent is signed.
  • The name of the child.
  • The name of the person, agency, or organization making the request.
  • The purpose or need for the release.
  • The signature of the child or the person authorized to give consent on the child’s behalf.
  • The specific type of information to be released.
  • The time period the consent is effective.

For children under age 14, only the parent or guardian can agree to the release of court or treatment records. For kids 14 years or older, consent must meet certain requirements.

What if a child wishes to share information?

If a child is receiving treatment and wants to share limited information, it’s allowed if:

  • A parent or guardian involved with the child’s care is involved and verified by the provider.
  • The information will help to provide care or monitor treatment.

The request for treatment records must be in writing unless the provider decides it’s an emergency.

The provider must let the child know about the release unless the child has been deemed incompetent by a court.

Treatment records that may be shared in this case are limited to:

  • A description of the child’s treatment plan.
  • A list of the medicines used in the child’s treatment.
  • A summary of the child’s diagnosis and expected outcome.

In addition:

  • Any time records are released, a note must be added to them that includes:
    • The date of the release.
    • The information released.
    • The name of the person who received the records.
    • The reason for the release.
  • In certain situations, when a child leaves a facility without permission, some information may be released.

Can the records of children who have been committed under state law be kept with their court records?

No. Those must be separate. See Wis. Stat. § 51.30(5)(c) for more information. 

What happens if record laws are violated?

If someone affected by these rules believes the rules were violated, they can:

  • Bring a civil action or file a criminal complaint without a grievance.
  • File a grievance under state law or under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

If a court finds that the person or facility broke the rule with knowledge and intent, they may be responsible for:

Last revised April 8, 2022