What happens in cases where a child dies or nearly dies, but there is no medical proof or other evidence that the incident was a result of abuse or neglect (i.e., maltreatment)?
The law allows DCS to release records only in cases of abuse, abandonment or neglect resulting in a fatality or a near fatality. There must be medical proof or other evidence that the fatality or near fatality was caused by abuse or neglect.
Among the information DCS considers when determining that a child’s death was the result of abuse or neglect are:
A statement from a physician or an autopsy finding that the child’s death was the result of abuse or neglect;
A statement from a parent, guardian or caregiver that they caused the child’s death or near death;
the arrest or criminal indictment of a parent, guardian or caregiver in connection to the child’s death;
or, A DCS investigation has resulted in a substantiated finding that abuse or neglect by a parent, guardian or caregiver caused the child's death or near-death.
In addition, in the case of a near fatality, a physician must certify that the child was in serious or critical condition due to the abuse or neglect.
If there is insufficient information available to believe that the fatality or near fatality was caused by maltreatment, the Department, by federal and state law, cannot release records in the case.