Confidentiality Issues Surrounding Minors

March 29, 2012 — 918 views  
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As a social worker, you'll undoubtedly deal with a number of contentious issues throughout the course of your profession. The confidentiality issues surrounding the health records of minors are among the most significant of these matters. Understanding the stipulations related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and similar regulatory measures is essential.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), the majority of healthcare providers are required to follow HIPAA regulations. This applies to insurance companies as well as hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices, pharmacies, dentists and other health professionals. In most cases, social workers working with minors have to uphold the confidentiality of these young clients' health information and obtain the proper consent or authorization from them before making any disclosures.

However, in several situations, you may be able to disclose the information (if necessary) without obtaining client permission, according to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). If the information must be used when reporting abuse or neglect of a child, for example, it's not essential to receive the permission of that child's parent or guardian to do so - the adult may well be responsible for the abuse.

You may also encounter confidentiality issues related to the Family Education Records Privacy Act (FERPA). The Department of Education states that schools are ordinarily restricted from disclosing a student's education records, but that if you would, for example, need this information in an emergency, you'd be able to receive it.