Confidentiality - Information

Revised March 25, 2011


The department is responsible for ensuring that confidential information is not released to clients or third parties inappropriately or illegally. Confidential information can be disclosed only under the specific criteria in chapter 388-01 WAC.

WAC 388-428-0010 Request for address disclosure by a parent when a child is living with a nonparental caretaker

Clarifying Information  

Policies related to disclosure of confidential information are contained in chapter 388-01 WAC and in departmental administrative policies. The CSO Public Disclosure Coordinator is responsible for approving or denying requests for disclosure of confidential information.

  1. The following information is considered confidential:
    1. Information contained in case records:
      1. Names, birth dates, marital status, employment status, personal history;
      2. Location, current address and telephone number;
      3. Types of services being received, amounts of benefits and fair hearing activity;
      4. Social Security numbers; and
      5. Medical or psychiatric information.
    2. Information about third parties:
      1. Information about the identity of individuals who have filed complaints; and
      2. The identity of individuals who have provided information under condition of remaining anonymous.
    3. Information available from other agencies:
      1. Employment or benefit information from the Employment Security Department;
      2. Information from the Social Security Administration; and
      3. Birth information from Vital Statistics.
  2. Confidential information except chemical dependency treatment information may be provided to a person who works directly with:
    1. Federal- or state-funded public assistance programs including the federal food stamp program when used for the administration of the programs;
    2. The child support program under Title IV-D of the Social Security Act when used for the administration of the child support program; or
    3. Local, state or federal law enforcement agencies. Information will be released to a local, state, or federal law enforcement agency only when the request:
      1. Identifies the person making the request including their authority to do so;
      2. Identifies the client;
      3. Provides the Social Security Number of the client;
      4. States the request is an official duty or that finding and apprehending the client is an official duty;
      5. Describes the violation being investigated; and
      6. Limits the requested information to the address of the client.
  3. Release information to the U.S. Consulate (U.S. Department of State) only when the client has provided a written release for the information requested.
  4. At the client's request information provided by the client or previously given to a client may be disclosed to the client or their representative.
  5. Information provided by third parties may be disclosed to the client or the client's representative when:
    1. A fair hearing has been requested on an issue related to the information; or
    2. The Public Disclosure Coordinator determines that:
      1. The release is necessary; and
      2. The information was provided with the understanding that it might be released.
  6. Information relating to the identity of third parties who have filed complaints regarding clients (or other) and/or who have provided information on condition of anonymity must not be released unless required by a court order.
  7. Information may be released to individuals or agencies with valid releases of information signed and dated by the client. A release of information is valid if it is:
    1. Signed by the client, presented within any time frames mentioned on the release;
    2. Presented by the individual to whom the release is made out; and
    3. A request for information that can be legitimately released.
  8. Information except chemical dependency treatment information may be disclosed to any administrative division of DSHS when the purpose of the request for information is to administer the programs of the department.
  9. Routine transfers of information are subject to the same criteria.
  10. Information may be disclosed to outside agencies only for purposes directly connected with the administration of department programs. Outside agencies who receive confidential information are bound by the same rules as DSHS.
  11. The following information may be disclosed to medical providers:
    1. Proof that the client is eligible for medical assistance;
    2. Dates of eligibility;
    3. The PIC code with the tie breaker;
    4. The program for which the client is eligible; and
    5. Medicare eligibility status.
  12. The following information may not be disclosed to medical providers:
    1. Client names and addresses;
    2. Medical services provided;
    3. Social and economic conditions or circumstances;
    4. Agency evaluation of personal information; and
    5. Medical data.
  13. Confidential information cannot be provided for:
    1. Commercial or political purposes
    2. Personal purposes by any employees of the department.

Worker Responsibilities 

  1. Disclosure to third parties:  The department must disclose to anyone making inquiry whether or not a named individual is currently receiving assistance. The department's response is limited to a "yes" or "no" answer. Further information is prohibited without a release from the client.
  2. Disclosure to courts of law: Information can only be disclosed with a court order.
  3. Disclosure to government officials:Treat requests from government officials like any other third-party request. Refer the request to the CSO Public Disclosure Coordinator.
  4. Special situations:
    1. Translators and contractors must be informed of the rules regarding confidentiality and are bound by those rules to the same degree as a department employee.
    2. See INTERVIEW REQUIREMENTS for rules and procedures related to TANF/SFA Family Violence Screening and Referral.
    3. See RIGHTS AND RESPONSIBILITIES for rules and procedures related to the rights and responsibilities of a client receiving public assistance.
    4. See the NSA (Needs Supplemental Accommodation) Handbook for rules and procedures for NSA.

Clarifying Information - WAC 388-428-0010

Disclosing Information to Parents with Visitation Rights or Legal Custody

  1. Disclosure of the address of a child on assistance to a parent who is not in the child's household is governed by RCW 74.04.060, 26.23.120 and 74.12.
  2. Disclosure of information to any other parent of a child on assistance is handled by the Division of Child Support.