Maintaining Confidentiality in Child Care Settings
What is confidential information
Confidential information is personal details from our lives which we may not want to share with others. It can include our address, phone number, birth date, employment history or other personal information. It may also include information about our past or present health and development. Individuals have the right to keep information of this type private.
Child care programs routinely handle confidential information about enrolled children, families and staff. When managing sensitive information, it is important for child care directors, administrators and staff to be aware of their ethical and legal responsibility to protect the privacy of individuals and families.
Regulations for Child Care require that providers ensure the confidentiality of all records pertaining to enrolled children. Files containing confidential information should be accessible only to childminders who must know the information in order to care for the children. Each child??™s records must also be made available to that individual child??™s parent/guardian. Childminders require that they must inform the parents/guardians of enrolled children that their information will be kept confidential. Childminders must explain to enrolled families that their records will be shared only as described above, unless the family gives the program written consent to disclose specific information to others.
Confidential contents of records in child care settings
Childminders must keep individual files for each enrolled child, including but not limited to the following:
??? enrollment forms
??? family??™s health insurance information
??? health screenings and records, including immunization records
??? emergency contact information
??? contact information for those authorized to pick up child
??? emergency care consent forms
??? consent forms (permission slips) for outings or special activities
??? names of regular medical or dental providers who know the child
??? nutritional restrictions
??? progress reports
??? child observation logs
??? parent conference logs
??? medication logs
??? documentation of medical, behavioral or developmental evaluations, referrals or follow-ups, addressing issues relevant to the child??™s participation in the program
??? documentation of any injury occurring at the program site and the steps taken to address the situation
How can childminders ensure confidentiality
Caring for Our Children, National Health and Safety Performance Standards
Legislation recommends that childminders create and abide by a written policy which describes how confidential information should be documented, stored and handled. Childminders should be familiar with this policy, which should cover all of the specific types of confidential information kept at the childminders home. Below are some examples of how a childminder can protect confidential information while providing quality care.
Notification of communicable illnesses.
When any child in care is diagnosed with a communicable illness or condition, such as chicken pox, impetigo, head lice and many others, childminders are required to notify the families of any children who may have been exposed. Notified families should be instructed to monitor their own children for the development of any symptoms, and to seek medical attention if symptoms do occur. This type of notification can and should be done without mentioning the identity of the diagnosed child.
Children with special needs.
Enrolled children may have special needs due to disabilities or chronic health conditions. To ensure their safety, childminders often institute policies that have an effect on all of the families who have children enrolled. A common example of such a policy is one that prohibits families from bringing some types of food to the childminders home, to accommodate the restricted diet of another child. A childminder may institute a peanut-free policy, to protect a child with a life-threatening reaction to peanuts. Or, a childminder may create a policy prohibiting sugar-laden cakes and cookies at birthday celebrations, to accommodate a child with diabetes, for whom such foods are dangerous.
When creating such policies and notifying other families, keep the affected child??™s right to confidentiality in mind. Notifications of policies should explain that there is a child enrolled whose serious health condition makes the policy necessary. The notification need not mention the affected child by name.
When is it appropriate to disclose personal information While the rights and desires of families to keep their personal details private are important, there are also some circumstances under which identifying information should be shared.
Childminders and the “need to know.”
To ensure the health and safety of children with special needs, childminders who interact with the children should be informed of the identities of children with special health concerns on a “need to know” basis.
For example, childminders who prepare and serve food should be fully aware of which children have food allergies and what each affected child is allergic to. Childminders who monitor children in the playground should be aware if any children are allergic to bee stings, or if any children have a chronic condition which warrants especially close monitoring during play (such as poorly controlled epilepsy, or diabetes treated by insulin injection). Childminders need to know if any children in care have been prescribed medications, for what reasons, and what the possible side effects are, since they are likely to be administering the medications and monitoring the reaction. Childminders need to know if there are any un- or under-immunized children in care, so that appropriate measures can be taken in the even of exposure to a vaccine-preventable illness.
Outbreaks of reportable illness.
Community Care Licensing Regulations provide a list of certain serious infectious diseases which are reportable. This means that a childminder must report to both the local Public Health Department and to Community Care Licensing whenever there is a known or suspected outbreak of any of these illnesses. During such reporting, identifying information about the affected child, including name, age, and how to contact the family, should be reported.
Known or suspected child abuse.
Childminders are mandated reporters of child abuse. If a child in a childminders care shows evidence of abuse or neglect, the childminder must call Child Protective Services and report the situation. The CPS intake process requires disclosure of the child??™s name, address, parents or guardian??™s names, and possible additional details. In this situation, the child??™s safety and welfare come before the family??™s right to confidentiality.
If, in your work as a childminder, you store personal details about other people on your computer or any digital format (including smartphones and photos on digital cameras), you will probably need to notify the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) that you are a “data controller” for data protection purposes.
The ICO is the UKs independent public body set up to promote access to official information and protect personal information. The ICO enforces and oversees the Data Protection Act.
Since 2008, as part of the Early Years Foundation Stage, childminders in England have been expected to keep more detailed records about individual children??™s development and it is likely that if you keep these on a computer, you will need to register as a Data Controller with the ICO. If you are in any doubt about whether you will need to register, you can call the ICO on 01625 545740 for clarification.
NCMA has confirmed with the ICO that childminders??™ data protection responsibilities under the Data Protection Act 1998 are as follows:
???If you keep all your childminding records on paper, you do not need to notify the ICO.
???If you keep information about the names, ages and addresses of children and
their parents, details of payments, or any data for staff administration on a
computer, purely for accounts and records purposes, you are also exempt
???But if you keep more extensive records, or information of a more sensitive
nature, for example about childrens health, behaviour or development, on a
computer then you need to contact the ICO to find out if you need to notify.
???Also, if you are going to be taking digital photographs of the children in your
care, you will be expected to register with the ICO.
The notification costs ?35 a year and you can either complete your notification online or request the forms by calling the Notification Helpline on 01625 545740.
When completing the notification online, you will be asked to choose a “nature of business template” that describes the kind of data you might hold. There is a template specifically for childminders. This is template “N943 Childminders” and is listed under “services” on page two of the online notification form.