A full name, physical address, or telephone number, if disclosed, could wreck havoc on someone’s life. This is an outline of practical confidentiality for volunteers, interns, and work-studies at shelter.
From Model Protocol on Confidentiality when Working with Battered Women
It is [recommended] policy to hold confidential all communications, observations and information made by, between or about program participants. This includes all program participant, service and administrative records resulting from telephone contacts, and any other work related to recipients of service.
Communications are confidential whether made by adults or children, and whether to or between staff, volunteers, student interns or board members of this organization.
There are a limited number of exceptions to breaching the confidentiality of program participants. These exceptions are as follows:
- Duty to report child abuse or neglect (RWC 26.44.030);
- Duty to warn of an imminent threat of harm to self or others (this is known as a Tarasoff warning, based on case law);
- Following a court order, after a judge privately reviews program participant records (RCW 70.123.075); or
- When given express permission by the program participant to release information.
From HOWTO: Answer the phone:
Do not disclose if someone is (or is not) staying in shelter.
- “I can neither confirm nor deny…”
- “Do you have another way to get ahold of them?”
- “I can take a message and leave it on our community board.”
- “I can take your contact information and post it on our community board.”
Remind clients in shelter and folks calling in that our services are confidential.
The Model Protocol on Confidentiality also recommends that
Requests for information by any third party (e.g., [school administrators,] child protective services, prosecutors, mental health providers, friends or family), including the program participant’s attorney, will not be honored without express written permission (or verbal consent in person, depending) from the program participant, with the exception of mandatory reporting of child abuse/neglect or a “duty to warn” circumstance.
All communications are confidential, even when shared by the program participant in the presence of [staff] and any third parties who are working on behalf of the program participant.