Testimony on An Act Concerning The Disclosure Of Certain Communications Made To A Social Worker In A Family Law Matter Involving The Custody Of A Child


Respectfully submitted by Stephen Karp, LMSW and Amber Reyna, MSW Candidate

March 19th, 2018

The National Association of Social Workers-Connecticut Chapter, representing over 2600 social workers in the state, strongly opposes H.B. 5512. Our current confidentiality statute is well written; striking a balance between client’s needs, protection of the general public and the practice standards of the social work profession. The current statute has never been amended and has been working just fine since it was first implemented in 1992.

As social workers, we are extremely concerned about jeopardizing the trust between our profession and the population we work with.  Maintaining client confidentially is a bedrock of our profession’s standard of practice, and is written within our professional Code of Ethics that calls for disclosure of information without client consent only for “compelling reasons”. This legislation runs directly counter to the NASW Code of Ethics and the standards of practice that clinical social workers abide by.

The role of the social worker when working with children is to act in the best interest of the child. In custody cases one or both parents, and/or their legal representatives may want to use the child’s clinical treatment for their own ends. The current statute prohibits such actions, protecting both the children and the social worker, by assuring that the clinical treatment remains confidential and effective. HB 5512 will undue this critically important protection, and while not forcing disclosure, will by virtue of the exemption allow for tremendous pressure to be put upon the social worker to disclose clinical records without client consent.

We would also like to highlight the exemptions that are present within the current confidentially statute. In Connecticut, social workers are already mandated to break confidentially in the event that someone is considered in imminent threat to themselves or others. We are also mandated to report suspicions of child abuse and neglect. These provisions in current statute more than suffice the purposes of HB 5512, making this bill unnecessary. Furthermore, we note that the language of this bill does not exist in our sister behavioral health professions confidentiality statutes. We strongly object to the social work profession being singled out.

We urge members of the Judiciary Committee to strongly consider the tremendous safety risks that this legislation could ultimately have on minors. For example, children in the middle of a custody battle may be hesitant in disclosing important information to social workers in fear that their parent or legal representative will be able to obtain that information, which could possibly lead to negative consequences for the child. If the child is fearful of sharing information due to potential disclosure, or if a parent has such fear, the social worker cannot successfully provide treatment. This bill will inhibit treatment because the social worker has an ethical obligation to tell the client that what they say may not be held confidential, which irreparably harms the client/social worker relationship.

Lastly, we would like to highlight section B of this bill, which includes vague language that can open up disclosure in any case where a person has a mental health condition. Physical health conditions are not subjected to such disclosure, and we believe this language is discriminatory against anyone with a mental health condition. Furthermore, we believe such broad language may prove a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), putting the social worker at legal risk.

Confidentiality is the basis of our treatment in the social work profession.  We believe many social workers may end up refusing to work with clients where there is a court custody case if this bill is passed. This would have a significant negative impact on consumers who strongly rely on the behavioral health services provided by social workers, whom deliver the largest percentage of mental health services in Connecticut.

NASW-CT urges members of the Judiciary Committee to take into consideration all of these concerns we have, as the largest organization of social workers in the state, and vote NO on H.B. 5512.


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