Ark. Code § 9-9-217

Current through the 2020 Fiscal Session
Section 9-9-217 - Confidentiality of hearings and records
(a) Notwithstanding any other law concerning public hearings and records:
(1)
(A) All hearings held in proceedings under this subchapter shall be held in closed court without admittance of any person other than essential officers of the court, the parties, their witnesses, counsel, persons who have not previously consented to the adoption but are required to consent, and representatives of the agencies present to perform their official duties.
(B)
(i) A member of the General Assembly may attend an adoption hearing related to a juvenile case that is held under the Arkansas Juvenile Code of 1989, § 9-27-301 et seq., unless the court excludes the member of the General Assembly based on the:
(a) Best interest of the child; or
(b) Court's authority under the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure or the Arkansas Rules of Evidence.
(ii) Except as otherwise provided by law, a member of the General Assembly who attends a hearing in accordance with subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i) of this section shall not redisclose information obtained during his or her attendance at the hearing.
(C)
(i)
(a) A Child Welfare Ombudsman may attend an adoption hearing related to a juvenile case under the Arkansas Juvenile Code of 1989, § 9-27-301 et seq.
(b) However, a court may exclude the Child Welfare Ombudsman from an adoption hearing if:
(1) It is in the best interest of the child; or
(2) The reason for the exclusion is based on the authority of the court under the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure or the Arkansas Rules of Evidence.
(ii) Unless otherwise allowed by law, the Child Welfare Ombudsman shall not disclose information that he or she obtains through his or her attendance at an adoption hearing held under this subchapter; and
(2)
(A) Adoption records shall be closed, confidential, and sealed unless authority to open them is provided by law or by order of the court for good cause shown.
(B)
(i) When an adoption is filed or heard pursuant to the Arkansas Juvenile Code of 1989, § 9-27-301 et seq., any portion of the court file relating to the adoption shall be maintained separately from the file of other pending juvenile matters concerning the juvenile who is the subject of the adoption or the family of the juvenile.
(ii) Once final disposition is made in the adoption proceedings, the adoption file shall be transferred from the clerk who is the custodian of juvenile records to the clerk who is the custodian of records.
(iii) The entry of the adoption decree will be entered by the clerk in the book containing adoption records.
(iv) The clerk shall assign the file a docket number, shall prepare an application for a new birth record as provided in this section, and shall maintain the file as if the case had originated as an adoption case.
(v) No filing fee shall be assessed by the clerk upon the transfer and creation of the new adoption file.
(vi) Any adoption record shall be handled as provided in this section.
(C)
(i) In the event an adoption record is randomly selected to be audited for determination of compliance with requirements found in federal laws pertaining to periodic and dispositional review of foster care cases, the Administrator of Adoptions of the Department of Human Services is authorized to open the file notwithstanding any section in this subchapter prohibiting disclosure of adoption records.
(ii) It shall be the responsibility of the administrator to procure and provide from this file all records pertinent to the federal requirements under review.
(iii) The remainder of the record shall remain sealed. Such portions of the record that may be removed shall be returned to the sealed file upon completion of the federal audit.
(iv) No one shall be permitted to review the removed portion of the record except in an official capacity, and, except for uses required by the federal audit in compliance with state laws and rules and federal statutes and regulations, such a person shall be bound to keep the contents of such records confidential.
(D)
(i) In the event the Department of Human Services has the opportunity to enhance its federal funding by a review of its adoptions records, then the administrator is authorized to open such files notwithstanding any section in this subchapter.
(ii) It shall be the responsibility of the administrator to procure and provide from this file all records pertinent to the review.
(iii) The remainder of the record shall remain sealed.
(iv) The portion of the record that may be removed shall be returned to the sealed file upon completion of the review.
(v) No one shall be permitted to review the removed portion of the record except in an official capacity, and, except for uses required to provide for the enhancement of possible federal funding in compliance with state laws and rules and federal statutes and regulations, such a person shall be bound to keep the contents of such records confidential.
(E)
(i) In the event that an adoptive family contacts the department and indicates a desire for the placement of a subsequent child and no more than five (5) years have lapsed since the adoption file has been sealed, the department is authorized to unseal the adoption file notwithstanding any section in this subchapter.
(ii) It shall be the responsibility of the administrator to remove the home study from the file and make a copy of the home study.
(iii) The remainder of the file shall remain sealed.
(iv) The administrator shall return the home study to the file, which shall then be resealed.
(v) The department shall be permitted to use a copy of the original home study.
(vi) The adoptive family shall be permitted to use a copy of the original home study with a petition to adopt a subsequent child from the department if the original home study is accompanied by an update.
(b) The provisions of this section shall not prohibit the disclosure of information pursuant to § 9-9-501 et seq.
(c) All papers and records pertaining to adoptions prior to May 19, 1986, are declared to be confidential and shall be subject to disclosure only pursuant to this section.
(d)
(1) All records of any adoption finalized in this state shall be maintained for ninety-nine (99) years by the agency, person, entity, or organization that handled the adoption.
(2) If the agency, person, entity, or organization that handled the adoption ceases to function, all adoption records shall be transferred to the department or another licensed agency within this state with notice to the department.

Ark. Code § 9-9-217

Amended by Act 2019, No. 315,§ 709, eff. 7/24/2019.
Amended by Act 2019, No. 315,§ 708, eff. 7/24/2019.
Amended by Act 2019, No. 329,§ 2, eff. 7/24/2019.
Amended by Act 2019, No. 945,§ 2, eff. 7/1/2019.
Acts 1986 (2nd Ex. Sess.), No. 23, §§ 2, 3; A.S.A. 1947, §§ 56-223, 56-224; Acts 1993, No. 758, § 3; 1999, No. 945, §§ 1, 2; 2003, No. 650, § 4; 2003, No. 1166, § 1; 2005, No. 1685, § 2