Chapter 5. Records - California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 10850.4
Legal Research Home >
California Laws > Welfare and Institutions Code > Chapter 5. Records - California Welfare and Institutions Code Section 10850.4
10850.4. (a) Within five business days of learning that a child
fatality has occurred in the county and that there is a reasonable
suspicion that the fatality was caused by abuse or neglect, the
custodian of records for the county child welfare agency, upon
request, shall release the following information:
(1) The age and gender of the child.
(2) The date of death.
(3) Whether the child was in foster care or in the home of his or
her parent or guardian at the time of death.
(4) Whether an investigation is being conducted by a law
enforcement agency or the county child welfare agency.
(b) All cases in which abuse or neglect leads to a child's death
shall be subject to the disclosures required in subdivision (c).
Abuse or neglect is determined to have led to a child's death if one
or more of the following conditions are met:
(1) A county child protective services agency determines that the
abuse or neglect was substantiated.
(2) A law enforcement investigation concludes that abuse or
(3) A coroner or medical examiner concludes that the child who
died had suffered abuse or neglect.
(c) Upon completion of the child abuse or neglect investigation
into the child's death, as described in subdivision (b), the
following documents from the juvenile case file shall be released by
the custodian of records upon request, subject to the redactions set
forth in subdivision (e):
(1) All of the information in subdivision (a).
(2) For cases in which the child's death occurred while living
with a parent or guardian, all previous referrals of abuse or neglect
of the deceased child while living with that parent or guardian
shall be disclosed along with the following documents:
(A) The emergency response referral information form and the
emergency response notice of referral disposition form completed by
the county child welfare agency relating to the abuse or neglect that
caused the death of the child.
(B) Any cross reports completed by the county child welfare agency
to law enforcement relating to the deceased child.
(C) All risk and safety assessments completed by the county child
welfare services agency relating to the deceased child.
(D) All health care records of the deceased child, excluding
mental health records, related to the child's death and previous
injuries reflective of a pattern of abuse or neglect.
(E) Copies of police reports about the person against whom the
child abuse or neglect was substantiated.
(3) For cases in which the child's death occurred while the child
was in foster care, the following documents in addition to those
specified in paragraphs (1) and (2) generated while the child was
living in the foster care placement that was the placement at the
time of the child's death:
(A) Records pertaining to the foster parents' initial licensing
and renewals and type of license or licenses held, if in the case
(B) All reported licensing violations, including notices of
action, if in the case file.
(C) Records of the training completed by the foster parents, if in
the case file.
(d) The documents listed in subdivision (c) shall be released to
the public by the custodian of records within 10 business days of the
request or the disposition of the investigation, whichever is later.
(e) (1) Prior to releasing any document pursuant to subdivision
(c), the custodian of records shall redact the following information:
(A) The names, addresses, telephone numbers, ethnicity, religion,
or any other identifying information of any person or institution,
other than the county or the State Department of Social Services,
that is mentioned in the documents listed in paragraphs (2) and (3)
of subdivision (c).
(B) Any information that would, after consultation with the
district attorney, jeopardize a criminal investigation or proceeding.
(C) Any information that is privileged, confidential, or not
subject to disclosure pursuant to any other state or federal law.
(2) (A) The State Department of Social Services shall promulgate a
regulation listing the laws described in subparagraph (C) of
paragraph (1) and setting forth standards governing redactions.
(B) Notwithstanding the rulemaking provisions of the
Administrative Procedure Act (Chapter 3.5 (commencing with Section
11340) of Part 1 of Division 3 of Title 2 of the Government Code),
until emergency regulations are filed with the Secretary of State,
the State Department of Social Services may implement the changes
made to Section 827 and this section at the 2007-08 Regular Session
of the Legislature through all-county letters or similar instructions
from the director. The department shall adopt emergency regulations,
as necessary to implement those changes, no later than January 1,
(C) The adoption of regulations pursuant to this paragraph shall
be deemed to be an emergency necessary for the immediate preservation
of the public peace, health, safety, or general welfare. The
emergency regulations authorized by this section shall be exempt from
review by the Office of Administrative Law. The emergency
regulations authorized by this section shall be submitted for filing
with the Secretary of State and shall remain in effect for no more
than 180 days, by which time the final regulations shall be adopted.
(f) Upon receiving a request for the documents listed in
subdivision (c), the custodian of records shall notify and provide a
copy of the request upon counsel for any child who is directly or
indirectly connected to the juvenile case file. If counsel for a
child, including the deceased child or any sibling of the deceased
child, objects to the release of any part of the documents listed in
paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (c), they may petition the
juvenile court for relief to prevent the release of any document or
part of a document requested pursuant to paragraph (2) of subdivision
(a) of Section 827.
(g) Documents from the juvenile case file, other than those listed
in paragraphs (2) and (3) of subdivision (c), shall only be
disclosed upon an order by the juvenile court pursuant to Section
(h) Once documents pursuant to this section have been released by
the custodian of records, the State Department of Social Services or
the county welfare department or agency may comment on the case
within the scope of the release. If the county welfare department or
agency comments publicly about the case within the scope of the
release pursuant to this subdivision, the social worker on the case
may also comment publicly about the case within the scope of the
(i) Information released by a custodian of records consistent with
the requirements of this section does not require prior notice to
any other individual.
(j) Each county welfare department or agency shall notify the
State Department of Social Services of every child fatality that
occurred within its jurisdiction that was the result of child abuse
or neglect. Based on these notices and any other relevant information
in the State Department of Social Services' possession, the
department shall annually issue a report identifying the child
fatalities and any systemic issues or patterns revealed by the
notices and other relevant information. The State Department of
Social Services, after consultation with interested stakeholders,
shall provide instructions by an all-county letter regarding the
procedure for notification.
(k) For purposes of this section, the following definitions apply:
(1) "Child abuse or neglect" has the same meaning as defined in
Section 11165.6 of the Penal Code.
(2) "Custodian of records," for the purposes of this section and
paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 827, means the county
welfare department or agency.
(3) "Juvenile case files" or "case files" include any juvenile
court files, as defined in Rule 5.552 of the California Rules of
Court, and any county child welfare department or agency or State
Department of Social Services records regardless of whether they are
maintained electronically or in paper form.
(4) "Substantiated" has the same meaning as defined in Section
11165.12 of the Penal Code.
(l) A person disclosing juvenile case file information as required
by this section shall not be subject to suit in civil or criminal
proceedings for complying with the requirements of this section.
(m) This section shall apply only to deaths that occur on or after
January 1, 2008.
(n) Nothing in this section shall require a custodian of records
to retain documents beyond any date otherwise required by law.
(o) Nothing in this section shall be construed as requiring a
custodian of records to obtain documents not in the case file.
Last modified: February 16, 2015