Understand the Laws

Many federal and state laws relate in some way to privacy and the confidentiality of records. Highlighted here are those most likely to be relevant for schools and community agencies working on protocols for the appropriate sharing of information about children and youth. The Juvenile Law Center contributed to this section of the website.

Understand the Laws

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 governs access to and release of education records by public and private schools that receive federal funding.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191, enacted in 1996, is intended to ensure that an individual’s health information is properly protected while allowing the flow of health information needed to provide and promote high-quality health care and to protect the public’s health and well-being.

The following information can guide you in determining what entities—and which records—are covered by each law. Your state’s related laws may also apply. 

In the substance abuse treatment field, confidentiality is governed by federal laws (42 U.S.C. § 290dd-2) and regulations (42 CFR Part 2) that outline the limited circumstances under which information about an individual’s drug or alcohol treatment may be disclosed without the individual’s consent.

This section explores other federal laws that relate to the privacy and confidentiality of records, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), and the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

Because federal laws allow states some latitude in regulating certain aspects of information sharing, laws on this topic vary from state to state. Some states have begun to enact laws that support—or even require—the sharing of information about children involved in multiple systems.