The Professional Learning Committee of FCCAM has been doing a good bit of research and reading about policies and contract language the past few months as we have worked to build the new “Business Tool Kit” section of this site. The work has been good for reflection on our own policies, contracts and actual practices. It’s easy to get comfortable and even lax in practices. One known area this can occur in is maintaining confidentiality for children, families and staff.
Confidentiality seems like a simple straightforward concept, but the natural environment of a child care program can have some hidden pitfalls.
Think about how important it is for providers to build strong, trusting relationships between themselves, individual children and their families. Then throw in the developing connections between different children and families that naturally form within a program. Now add in the use of social media and technology for sharing what’s happening within your program through photos and videos.
Let’s look at some situations we know are found in family child care programs:
- You hang pictures of children on the classroom wall or to mark their cubbies.
- You make individual photo albums for gifting.
- When a child leaves your program you give them a photo collection of their time with you.
- You have a portfolio (paper or online) of a child’s development while with you you share at parent conferences.
- A parent wants to invite children from the program to a birthday party and asks you for phone numbers or emails of other families.
- You have a Facebook page (public or private) for your program where you post snippets from your day.
In each of these situations you could be breaking confidentiality. Any photo or video that shows multiple children together you share breaks confidentiality without having permission to share likeness for each child in the photo. Only share parent contact numbers/email after getting permission for specific event or maybe set up a program directory that is shared with all families as part of attending your program. Facebook, whether public or private, falls under the need for release to share likenesses of children. You need to have a written policy informing families of how you will handle confidentiality to both protect yourself and them.
Your basic policy doesn’t need to be long. It could be as simple as this to start: During the course of your association with (business name) you may see and hear things about other children or the child care’s business. Such information is protected by privacy laws and must be treated as strictly confidential.
- Get written permission from a child’s legal guardian for sharing photos and videos.
- Be sure to allow for permission to be denied.
- Get separate written permission for any information that needs to be shared with individuals who will have to make decisions regarding the direct care of the child (health, safety and development).
- The Business Tool Kit on this site provides a Permission to Use Likeness template you can copy to use as is or just as a starting point.
You can also include language within your handbook that informs families that you will provide general information about such areas as: food allergies within the program; specific health concerns that will impact activities within the program; and when contagious illnesses are present within the program. You still will not mention child or family specific details, just the general information which supports providing a safe environment for all children in care.
To help in maintaining confidentiality in your program, you and your staff must have knowledge of the requirements around confidentiality.
In Maine, the 2017 Licensing Rule clearly states the importance of maintaining confidentiality in Section 5: Records. It starts with “Licensees must keep records for all children served. Child records shall be confidential.” Then it lists all the records we are to maintain on children to be in compliance with licensing. * reminder you are to maintain these records and confidentiality for a minimum of 2 yrs after care stops. Confidentiality continues to be clarified in Section 5: Records under F. :
Confidential information may not be released without a court order or a written release from the parent of the child about whom the confidential information has been requested in accordance with 22M.R.S. 7703(3) and (4).
The following information is confidential, when it identifies a person directly or indirectly:
1. Child records, daily attendance lists, and all other information about children in care or formerly in care; and
2. All personnel records.
The 2017 Licensing Rule also requires licensees to have written permission or denial for use and distribution of images or personal information of the child on any publications, social media or promotional materials. Most relate this to just social media, but remember it covers any usage of a child’s likeness anywhere by you. Again, the Business Tool Kit on this site provides a Permission to Use Likeness template you can copy to use as is or just as a starting point.
With growing participation in local networks, face-to-face Community of Practices and Online Community of Practices, providers may unintentionally be lax in following through on maintaining confidentiality. When networking with other providers, it’s easy to forget to keep discussions very general when discussing an issue or concern that you would like support with. Remember ~ no names, or specific information that points to an individual child, family, or member of your staff.
Trust is a cornerstone of the foundation needed to build and foster positive relationships with and between staff, children, and families in your program. It’s important to remember maintaining confidentiality is important in building that trust.
This conversation on confidentiality also pertains to how you handle your staff’s private information.
- Growing Ideas Tip Sheet – Confidentiality: Respecting the Privacy of All Families
- Maintaining Confidentiality in Child Care Setting (pdf)
- 3 Easy Ways to Meet a Parent’s Privacy Expectations
- How to Maintain Confidentiality in a Child Care Setting
- Sample Confidentiality Policy
- Written Policy on Confidentiality of Records