Each site should provide training on law, policy, and protocol to all personnel involved in information sharing. Training for all involved in any of the information sharing development or implementation efforts will assure the efforts’ success. This training should include purpose, benefits, expected outcomes, policies, protocols and technical training on the systems that will be used to provide information electronically. It should be provided both in the individual participating agencies and in cross agency training sessions, as appropriate. Training curricula should be developed in formats that are easily accessible for new personnel and can be readily updated as required.
1B. Identify all key decision points that may require the sharing of information and map out the desired flow of information from one point to the next.
Developing a project that involves the sharing of personally- identifiable information is best done by first examining discrete decision points in the juvenile court process and determining current and desired information flows. This is a critical exercise for several reasons. Different laws govern what information may be shared and with whom at various points in the juvenile court process, and all stakeholders must have a clear understanding of the legal requirements. Such an exercise prompts a valuable discussion between stakeholders as to what information needs to be, and doesn’t need to be, shared at various points, so that they can develop a consensus on what it means to share information on a “need-to-know-basis.”
The Map of Juvenile Justice Process is a visual aid in thinking about the discrete points in the juvenile court process where an important decision is made regarding the youth. The map is divided into three major areas – Investigation/Intake, Adjudication, and Disposition. It is not intended to represent an accurate picture of every jurisdiction’s juvenile process; the user may have to make modifications to reflect local variations.
Similarly, the Map of the Child Welfare System Process shows the key decision points in cases of suspected child abuse and neglect. It specifically shows the flow from the initial referral, through investigation, and the court process, leading to findings and ultimately placement and/or services for the child and family.
When used in conjunction with the other materials, these will enable a discussion of the types of information that are used at each decision point, barriers or prohibitions in disclosing or using certain types of information, and the different legal rules.
Once determining the key decision points for information sharing, groups can assess the flow of information to better understand why information is being requested at each key decision point. The Decision Point Legal Analysis Worksheets are designed to lead the users through a legal analysis exercise that will be the foundation for their information sharing project. Specifically, the tool will assist users in identifying decision points in the juvenile justice process where information can be shared in their jurisdiction, and identify the federal and state laws that govern the flow and use of that information. For that reason, this exercise is best done by a group of stakeholders familiar not only with the juvenile justice process but other systems, including child welfare, education, and the courts.
The Worksheet also allows stakeholders to identify and develop an implementation plan for any needed changes in law, policy or practice to ensure compliance with governing laws regarding disclosure of information and to protect the rights of youth. And it lays the foundation for developing an interagency memorandum of understanding (MOU).
To aid in completing the worksheets, refer to the Map of the Juvenile Justice Process, which identifies the key decision points in three discrete phases of the juvenile court process – Investigation/Intake, Adjudication, and Disposition. The Worksheets provide prompts to facilitate discussion at each of these stages.
The questions under “Flow of Information” prompt the users to describe what types of information the decision-maker at the particular point in the process will want to obtain.
· Who has the information?
· Who wants the information?
· What specific information does the requestor want?
· What does the requestor want to do with the information?
These preliminary questions are critical in enabling stakeholders to understand what types of information might be useful (if available) at different points in the juvenile process, and how they information may be used.
1C. Identify what laws and policies govern the sharing of information at each decision point. This effort should take into account federal and state law, any federal and state regulations, and local policy memoranda regarding information sharing.
This process includes the following five (5) steps:
Review the Category One Federal Law Overview
Refer to the Category One Federal Law Overview to ensure an understanding of the federal laws that govern information and records in your jurisdiction.
Review the Template for Narrative Legal Analysis to analyze state laws
The Template for Narrative Analysis of Legal Requirements for Information Sharing may be used to organize a summary analysis of the law on information sharing for your particular jurisdiction. In the Narrative, the reader will be prompted to provide information regarding the jurisdiction’s treatment of records related to youth in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. This includes law enforcement records, detention records, intake records, court records, behavioral and physical health records, and education records. The narrative’s length obviously may vary: Some jurisdictions may prefer summary statements of law, while others may want considerably more detail in the narrative. Regardless, the narrative is an important tool for describing in one place the “state of the law” for the particular jurisdiction.
When conducting legal analysis on state confidentiality laws, consider the threshold questions: what specific information do you wish to share and for what purpose; and what key decisions points do you intend to share or exchange information; who will have access to the information that is shared; and how will you protect against improper disclosure of information?
Utilize a matrix to organize laws and policies across agencies to pinpoint the circumstances under which information mapped in the desired flow may or may not be shared
The Decision Point Legal Analysis Worksheet can be utilized to help create this matrix. As described in Guideline 1B, the Decision Point Legal Analysis Worksheet first takes users through an exercise in which they can identify key decision points in the juvenile justice process. The worksheet then prompts users to identify the applicable laws governing the flow of information at each decision point.
Specifically, the worksheet prompts users to answer the following information with respect to current or desired information sharing at each decision point:
· What federal and state laws pertain?
· What does each law permit/prohibit?
· What are the legal requirements for information sharing? (e.g., is a signed consent needed? Or a court order? Or does this disclosure fall within an exception to consent?)
Examples of such matrices are found in publications by two counties in Washington state: the King County Resource Guide: Information Sharing (Second Edition) and the Clark County Information Sharing Guide.
Identify any existing memoranda of understanding or policies that govern information sharing across agencies.
In addition to federal and state laws, it is critical to identify and review existing agreements or policies that govern information flows.
Identify any changes in practice to be implemented to ensure compliance with governing laws regarding disclosure of information.
By completing the Decision Point Legal Analysis Worksheet to identify the desired flow of information, reviewing the Category One Federal Law Overview, and creating the Narrative of Legal Requirements for Information Sharing for laws in your jurisdiction, one can determine whether changes need to be made in practice to assure compliance with the laws. For example, do stakeholders need to create and ask youth and their families to sign an authorization to release information form? Is a court order needed?
1D. Develop any needed law and policy for effective sharing of case information among the involved agencies.
Once you have determined what gaps exist in your state’s laws and policies governing information sharing, you can begin the task of developing needed laws and policies governing the sharing of information
To develop law and policy:
Use the Worksheet for Analyzing Statutes.
The Worksheet for Analyzing State Statutes is designed to provide individuals with a checklist of questions to consider when evaluating their own state’s information-sharing laws or proposed legislation on information-sharing. Many of the points in the worksheet, however, contemplate implementation procedures for the information-sharing policy described in the statute. The exact details of implementation may not be found within the text of the statute or proposed legislation, but in implementing procedures separately published or in comments or annotations to the statute. This worksheet can be used when thinking about drafting new legislation or to evaluate current legislative efforts on information-sharing policies. The points of consideration are categorized to facilitate user-friendliness.
Review and complete the Worksheet for Analyzing MOUs.
Some jurisdictions may already have in place a MOU that is not working optimally, or a draft that has not yet been signed off on by all the parties. In that case, you can use the Worksheet to Analyze Memoranda of Understanding and Protocols For Information Sharing Between Youth-Serving Agencies to analyze the existing document. The worksheet will help you to identify possible gaps in the MOU and areas that may need further detail or refinement. The worksheet in particular asks the user to consider whether certain safeguards are contained in the MOU to ensure that information is not improperly disclosed or used. Again, the signatories may decide to limit the level of specificity in the MOU and agree to form an interagency management team to develop a more detailed protocol to guide day-to-day operation of the information sharing project.
Review sample MOUs and review and complete the Template for Developing an Interagency MOU.
There are a variety of ways to approach the task of developing a MOU. For example, some jurisdictions have created a MOU in which the parties agree to examine information sharing issues with some detail regarding the process by which that will be done. The MOU titled Sample Interagency Agreement on Information Sharing developed by the Uniting For Youth (UFY) out of is an excellent example of this. The parties to the agreement are named, basic definitions are provided, statements of purpose are articulated, and the terms of the agreement are described.
Another approach is to nest an agreement to examine confidentiality issues in a more general agreement on systems integration. Three examples are provided.
· The Hopetown Hypothetical Agreement, which is between a department of juvenile justice, a department of family and children services, and the county juvenile court. It focuses on broad areas of agreement designed to foster system integration. One area of agreement is a commitment to assess management information systems, identify critical information to be shared across systems, and identify statutory and policy barriers and obstacles to information sharing.
· The Jefferson Parish, Louisiana Memorandum of Understanding sets forth the purpose, goals and parties that are making a commitment to establish a cooperative relationship between stakeholder agencies and to formally authorize the transmittal of confidential individual information in compliance with applicable state and federal laws to streamline the juvenile’s passage through the system. It is an excellent example of the components necessary to construct a multi-system commitment to a thorough examination of the legal and policy issues affecting data and information sharing.
· The Outagamie County, Wisconsin Memorandum of Understanding reflects an agreement by the county child welfare and juvenile justice agencies. While also setting out the broader purpose for which the information is to be shared, it also includes results from a legal analysis of statutes that justifies the ability to share specific information while simultaneously specifying the limits on the disclosures.
An alternative approach, for which the Template for Developing an Interagency MOU is provided, is to create a much more detailed MOU which specifies the types of information that will be generated by the parties to the agreement, and the discrete ways in which that information may be used or in which use is prohibited. The template is organized around the three distinct phases of the juvenile court process – investigation/intake, adjudication, and disposition. Some jurisdictions may seek a MOU with this level of specificity; others may decide that a more general agreement is preferable, or more easily negotiated, and the parties agree to form some type of interagency management team to develop a more detailed protocol to guide day-to-day operation of the information sharing project.
Regardless of the type of MOU the parties agree to enter, there are certain elements that are essential to include. These include (but may not be limited) to the following:
· Title of the MOU;
· Identity of the Parties to the MOU;
· Legal Authority for the MOU, if explicit authority exists;
· Purpose of the MOU;
· Responsibilities of the Parties (These should be clearly articulated and written as specifically as possible.);
· Issues that the MOU does not cover, including, where relevant, items to which the parties have not agreed;
· Dispute Resolution Techniques. (If the parties have a disagreement regarding the terms or implementation of the MOU, how will those disputes be settled?);
· Duration of the MOU; and
· Signatories to the MOU.
1E. Develop the protections for the information that is to be shared.
The risks posed by sharing sensitive, personal information among involved agencies cannot be ignored. It is important to educate the involved agencies about those risks so that they can incorporate the necessary protections into their practices. Materials that are developed for practitioners who are requesting and sharing information should emphasize the risks involved and direct a thoughtful inquiry regarding the need for and handling of case information.
To support responsible information sharing, jurisdictions must enact legislation and/or develop policies and protocol that address the following issues:
· Who will have access to the information that is to be shared;
· How the information may and may not be used by its recipients;
· The circumstances under which a recipient may further disseminate information received, including for what purposes further disclosure will be permitted;
· How the subject of the information will be protected during its use and after its use;
· Development of a registry or system for recording requests, transmissions, and receipts of information;
· The handling of complaints of improper disclosure or use of information subject to the agreement; and
· “…common administrative, physical, and technical security safeguards to protect against any reasonably anticipated threats to the integrity of juvenile information and to ensure the confidentiality of private information.”
The Worksheet for Analyzing Statutes, the Worksheet for Analyzing MOUs, and the Template for Developing an Interagency MOU can all be useful in helping to identify what protections are currently in place and what protections still need to be implemented.
1F. “Develop accessible processes and procedures for youths and/or their parents/legal guardians, in accordance with applicable law, to review information that is collected about them and that may be disclosed. Provide them with the procedures and opportunity to approve and/or amend their information.”
Use the Worksheet for Analyzing Statutes, the Worksheet for Analyzing MOUs, and the Template for Developing an Interagency MOU to identify what provisions in laws and policies provide access to youth and their families and the opportunity to correct erroneous representations. Develop and implement protections to fill any gaps that exist.
Conduct a quality assurance check to ensure that these provisions are being implemented in practice and not just on paper.
Develop guides to educate youth and their families about the information about them that is being collected and shared and their rights regarding their information.
1G. Identify the information sharing systems and their current capacities.
Identify and document the existing technical procedures and the existing capacity of each system involved in the information sharing initiative.
Describe the automated systems that store the sought information from each agency.
Determine how the existing systems will be utilized to provide access to information.
Assess the current accuracy of the existing data/information in the systems to understand the level of quality assurance that will be required by the participating agencies.
1H. Develop protocols for the operation of information sharing agreements, practitioner’s guides, authorization to release forms, and any other tools for case information sharing.
There are various tools that jurisdictions may create for use as part of their information sharing project. The Tool Kit includes examples of these tools for adaptation. It is important to note that no matter which tools the jurisdiction decides to utilize, staff in participating agencies who will use the tools must be trained as to their appropriate use. In addition, the jurisdiction should set up a conflict resolution mechanism to which participating agencies can submit questions about the operation of these tools.