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  July 6, 1993

 

 

Mr. Vincent D. Hill
623 Westboro Drive
Nashville, TN 37209

The staff of the Committee on Open Government is authorized to
issue advisory opinions. The ensuing staff advisory opinion is
based solely upon the facts presented in your correspondence.

Dear Mr. Hill:

As you may be aware, your letter of June 7 addressed to
Richard Redlo of the Department of Law has been forwarded to the
Committee on Open Government and reached this office on June 23.
The Committee is authorized to provide advice concerning the New
York Freedom of Information Law.

As I understand your correspondence, you are attempting to
obtain records concerning yourself from entities that were involved
in providing foster care services. Those entities appear to have
been private in some instances and perhaps agencies of government
in others.

In this regard, I offer the following comments.

First, the Freedom of Information Law pertains to agency
records, and §86(3) of that statute defines the term "agency" to
mean:

"any state or municipal department, board,
bureau, division, commission, committee,
public authority, public corporation, council,
office or other governmental entity performing
a governmental or proprietary function for the
state or any one or more municipalities
thereof, except the judiciary or the state
legislature."

As such, the Freedom of Information Law generally applies only to
records of governmental entities.

Second, rights of access to the records in question appear to
be governed not by the Freedom of Information Law, but rather by
other statutes. With regard to records maintained by a children's
or youth facility, whether public or private, it appears that the
applicable statute is §372 of the Social Services Law, which
requires that various records be kept by "every court, and every
public board, commission, institution, or officer having powers or
charged with duties in relation to abandoned, delinquent,
destitute, neglected or dependent children who shall receive,
accept or commit any child..." Subdivision (4) of §372 states in
relevant part that such records:

"shall be deemed confidential and shall be
safeguarded from coming to the knowledge of
and from inspection or examination or by any
person other than one authorized, by the
department, by a judge of the court of claims
when such records are required for the trial
of a claim or other proceeding in such court
or by a justice of the supreme court, or by a
judge of the family court when such records
are required for the trial of a proceeding in
such court, after a notice to all interested
persons and a hearing, to receive such
knowledge or to make such inspection or
examination. No person shall divulge the
information thus obtained without
authorization so to do by the department, or
by such judge or justice."

Based on the foregoing, I do not believe that records
maintained by entities having duties relating to the classes of
children described at the beginning of §372 of the Social Services
Law can be disclosed, unless authorization to disclose is conferred
by a court, by the Department of Social Services or, where
appropriate, by the Division for Youth.

Under the circumstances, it is suggested that you write to the
Department of Social Services, explain your situation, and seek
authorization to disclose as described in §372 of the Social
Services Law. The address for that agency is:

Department of Social Services
Division of Family and Children's Services
40 North Pearl Street
Albany, NY 12243

I hope that I have been of some assistance.

Sincerely,

 

Robert J. Freeman
Executive Director
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