This memo and the attached policy identify policies and procedures related to maintaining the confidentiality of and access to information stored in the Wisconsin State Automated Child Welfare Information System (WiSACWIS).
As you are aware, we have been studying the issues related to confidentiality of information maintained in WiSACWIS and policies and procedures related to direct access to the system. These are complex issues that involve a variety of state and federal laws and regulations related to WiSACWIS itself and to confidentiality. In addition, for the next several months we will be applying policies to the existing WiSACWIS and later this year will modify, as necessary, those policies to reflect the technological realities of e-WiSACWIS.
Attached is the document entitled "Access to WiSACWIS and Information Contained in WiSACWIS Confidentiality Policy." I believe that this policy reflects the requirements noted above and our need to both share and protect child welfare-related information. As the policy notes, the nature of any automated system or policies related to it will always be dependent upon those with access to the system recognizing and being compliant with all applicable policies, regulations, laws and professional ethics. That recognition and compliance is an intrinsic part of the attached policy. All county agencies and contract agencies will be expected to implement this policy.
In terms of the policy, I draw your specific attention to the following important considerations:
Section III. Statutory/Regulatory Requirements
It is important to keep in mind that there are specific requirements in statutes relating to the release of information contained in records that created or is otherwise the property of the child welfare agency. There are also specific requirements in statutes relating to the release or re-release of information contained in child welfare records that are the property of other systems or professionals (e.g., psychological assessments).
It is also important to note that under federal regulations (Ref. 45 CFR 1355.52 through 1355.57) WiSACWIS must be statewide system. This means that all counties must have access to and use the system. Core functionality must be built into WiSACWIS and may not be "uploaded" from stand-alone or alternate child welfare data systems. Within the limits we are allowed to implement based on job functions, staff from one county must have access to information from other counties. This is an inherent aspect of the "statewideness" required by the federal regulations.
Section IV. Notification
Access to information does not negate the requirement to notify the record custodian that a record has been accessed, what information was accessed, and the purpose of that access.
Section V. Scope of Agreements
Three types of agreements are discussed and attached to the policy:
The process for requesting access to the system will continue to be the existing process: Requests for access must be submitted to the DCFS IT Liaison at DHFS/DCFS, P.O. Box 8916, Madison, WI 53708-8916. Normal requests (i.e., for access by county department staff) will be approved based on the information received. Any requests that are in some way out of the ordinary will be forwarded by the DCFS IT Liaison to the Bureau of Programs and Policies. Any such request will be evaluated against the criteria established in the policy. Please note that the process will be facilitated by submitting all of the required information. The Division reserves the right to deny requested access to WiSACWIS by any individual or agency even if the criteria are met. In such a case, justification will be provided with the denial of the request.
As we prepare for the implementation of e-WiSACWIS, we will revise this policy as necessary and provide you with the revised policy and updated information. Thank you very much for your cooperation in implementing this important policy.