Media & Confidentiality
Our agency’s policies on providing information to the media
Media and Confidentiality Policies
This document provides guidance on the Alameda County Social Services Agency’s (ACSSA) media policy and providing information to the media. This includes information in any form that may be provided to media outlets that has the potential to generate media attention or public interest. Examples include, but are not limited to, interviews, press releases, media advisories, editorial boards, letters to the editor, opinion-editorial columns, audio or video news releases, B-roll video footage, blogs and other Internet or social media postings used to convey news or items of public interest. These guidelines are applicable to all Departments within the ACSSA except the Agency Director.
The ACSSA is committed to a culture of openness with the media and public and values the timely, responsive, and accurate exchange of information. ACSSA abides by the following set of core communications principles:
- Honest and accurate communications
- Respond promptly to media requests and deadlines when possible
- Promote the free flow of appropriate ACSSA information
- Create transparency by distributing information timely and broadly through the internet, social media, email, and other communications mechanisms
- Protect confidential and non-public information
The Office of Public Affairs and Community Relations (OPAC) is the principal point of contact for news media and public inquiries about the ACSSA and its services. OPAC is responsible for:
- Coordinating news media responses
- Establishing and maintaining media contacts
- Tracking and monitoring news coverage, correcting erroneous information if needed
- Coordinating requests for ACSSA staff interviews and participation in public/community events
- Clearing news media releases, activities, events, and materials
- Ensuring timely release and efficient dissemination of materials and information to news media
- Editing to ensure that public information products are written clearly and maintain integrity of programmatic content.
Department staff should not respond to media inquiries or distribute media releases. All media inquiries should be directed to the OPAC for response and dissemination. Only authorized ACSSA spokespersons should act as a representative of the ACSSA with the media. This includes: Agency Director, Assistant Agency Director, Division Director, Program Manager, or staff designated by the Agency Director or Assistant Agency Director to act in this capacity
The media has a legal right to observe, photograph and record events and people in public places with prior approval from the Agency’s Office of Public Affairs. Prior to allowing the media to record in any SSA office, all clients present shall be notified. It is the client’s option to determine if they wish to be photographed or recorded. All appropriate client media releases must be signed prior to a photography session, on-camera, or taped interview.
Media requests may be sent to:
Director Public Affairs and Community Relations
Confidential Information: W&IC 10850 (See Child Welfare section below for exceptions)
To protect applicants and recipients from identification, exploitation, or embarrassment, there are specific limitations on the release of information pertaining to an applicant and/or recipient of public assistance.
This procedure applies to all records, lists, papers, files, and communications pertaining to applicants and/or recipients of public assistance.
With client consent, confidential information may be released for specific purposes as long as it is within the terms of the client’s release and consent. The following authorizations must be provided prior to the release of any confidential client information:
A written authorization shall be dated and shall expire one year from the date on which it is given, unless it is expressly limited to a shorter period, or revoked.
Verbal authorizations may be accepted in lieu of written authorization where the circumstances ensure that the applicant/ recipient has adequately identified him/herself to the County. A verbal authorization is temporary and should be followed up by a written authorization, which is to be placed in the case file.
County Counsel should be consulted on all matters that involve the exchange or sharing of any information with other entities, County departments or community agencies.
Child Welfare W&I 10850.4
If there is a reasonable suspicion that a child fatality was caused by abuse or neglect the SSA shall release the following confidential case information to the inquiring party within 5 business days of learning that a fatality has occurred (upon request):
- Age and gender of the child;
- The date of the death;
- Whether the child was in foster care or the home of parent or guardian; and
- Whether an investigation is being conducted by law enforcement or Social Services.
Upon completion of the child abuse or neglect investigation, the following documents shall be released by the SSA, including all of the documents previously identified. In cases where the child’s death occurred while the child was living with the parent or guardian, the SSA should disclose all previous referrals of abuse or neglect while the child was living with the parent or guardian including the following:
- Emergency Response Referral Information Form (with reporting party information redacted);
- Emergency Response Notice of Referral Disposition Form; related to the abuse or neglect that caused the death of the child;
- Any cross reports completed by the SSA to law enforcement relating to the deceased child;
- All risk and safety assessments completed by SSA relating to the deceased child;
- All healthcare records of the deceased child, excluding mental health records, that are related to the child’s death and previous injuries; and
- Copies of public reports about the person against whom the child abuse or neglect was substantiated.
In cases where the child death occurred while in foster care, in addition to all of the records previously listed, the SSA must provide the following records to the inquiring party (upon request):
- Status of foster parent license, if the information is in the case file.
- All reported licensing violations, including notices of action.
- All records related to training completed by the foster parent.
- Documents pertaining to the fatality of a child in foster care shall be released within 10 days of the request or disposition of the investigation, whichever is later.
W&I Code Section 10850.45: Reporting of Child Near-Fatalities
Government Code Section 6252.6: Notwithstanding paragraph (2) of subdivision (a) of Section 827 of the Welfare and Institutions Code, after the death of a foster child who is a minor, the name, date of birth, and date of death of the child shall be subject to disclosure by the county child welfare agency pursuant to this chapter.