Is it Safe to Say?
- Why does DSHS ask me about abuse and family violence?
- Do I have to tell DSHS about abuse or violence in my life?
- Why talk to DSHS about family abuse or violence?
- What happens to the family violence information if I decide to tell?
- Can others who work within DSHS see my file and view or share my information?
- Will I always know when workers are sharing my private information with someone else?
- Who else can help me if I just can't decide what to do?
- How does telling about the abuse that is happening to me affect what happens to my kids? Will DSHS tell CPS?
- What does "Confidentiality" at DSHS WorkFirst mean then if they can share my information?
- Can anyone call and ask if I am receiving welfare benefits?
Why does DSHS ask me about abuse and family violence?
DSHS understand that people who have had violence or abuse in their homes might need extra help. They ask everyone who applies for services the very same questions. They do this so everybody knows that they can ask for help.
Do I have to tell DSHS about abuse or violence in my life?
No. You can tell DSHS as much or as little as you wnat about what is going on for you, including not saying anything at all. You can tell or not tell when you are first asked, or you can tell later. It's your life and you ar in charge of who knows personal things about you.
Why talk to DSHS about family abuse or violence?
DSHS can include things in your plan (known as your Indivivual Responsibility Plan or IRP) that fit your needs. Say you need to find safe housing, take care of legal problems, talk to a victim advocate, or get your children settled into a new school. These are just a few examples of the activities DSHS would let you do before or while you start to look for a work. If you talk to your worker, he or she can let you know about other programs in your area that might help you out.
What happens to the family violence information if I decide to tell?
Notes about what you say are supposed to be entered into a special section of the DSHS computer - a section where a limited number of people can see it. All information in DSHS computers about clients is confidential under the, but many workers may be able to see the information your workers write down - even in this more private part of the computer.Workers are only supposed to look at personal information when they need it to do their jobs.
Because the DSHS computer system is not set up to keep track of who actually looks at your records, there are no guarantees that your private information will stay private. You will expecially want to know this if you are being stalked, if you have fled a violent relationship, or if you are being abused by someone who works for DSHS.
Can others who work within DSHS see my file and view or share my information?
CAUTION! Although DSHS protects your information, emplyees other than the person working with you can look up your file on the computer, and DSHS workers can share your information with others without your permisson. Talk to an domestic violence advocates or someone you trust for help figuring out what information would be good to tell and what you need to keep private in order to stay safe.
Will I always know when workers are sharing my private information with someone else?
DSHS staff can talk about your family violence hisotry with someone from another agency who is working with you if they think they should in order to be able to help you. DSHS staff sometimes ask you if it is okay to talk to smeone else and have you sign a form called "Consent" before they do. However, they don't need to do that and at times they don't. Again you need to know this so you can decide if you want to tell them what is going on for you or not.
Who else can help me if I just can't decide what to do?
Some DSHS offices have non-DSHS people from the community called domestic violence victim advocates, working there who may be able to help you figure things out. If there isn't an advocate in the office, you can call the domestic violence hotline at (800) 562-6025 to get the phone number or be directly connected or "patched" through to a domestic violence advocacy agency. If you do speak with an advocate at the welfare office, ask what will happen to the information you share.
Generally, a domestic violence advocate is not required to give any information about you to DSHS. She can help you talk to your DSHS worker, or she can speak on your behalf if you say it is okay and sign a release of information form. Remember, it's your life and you are in charge of who knows personal things about you. An advocate should ony tell someone else the information if you say it is okay.
How does telling about the abuse that is happening to me affect what happens to my kids? Will DSHS tell CPS?
All DSHS workers are "mandatory reporters" of child abuse and neglect just like doctors and teachers. This means that, by law, they must report what they hear about child abuse and neglect to Child Protective Services (CPS). Children witnessing or being in a home where a parent is being abused is typically not a reason for a worker to call CPS. However, it is up to workers to decide if what you are telling them should be reoprted and how workers handle this can be unpredictable.
If you are concerned about this, seek help from advocates, DSHS personnel and others who you come to trust. Your safety and the safety of your children is important. You deserve respect and to get the things that will help you get safe and stay safe.
What does "Confidentiality" at DSHS WorkFirst mean then if they can share my information?
DSHS WorkFirst has laws and policies about what they can do with personal information you tell them. While all client information at DSHS WorkFirst is called "confidential," this is different from the "confidentiality" you wuold have with a doctor, lawyer, or clergy person.
In general, DSHS WorkFirst must get your written permission to talk about you or share your information with others.
However, it says in the law that DSHS WorkFirst can talk with other programs and agencies and share information without your permissioin if it is "necessary to coordinate services."
This means that if you are getting help from other programs for things like housing, childcare or healthcare, DSHS WorkFirst could share what you tell them with these other agencies.
Can anyone call and ask if I am recieving welfare benefits?
Yes, anyone can ask DSHS if you are currently receiving welfare benefits. DSHS must give a yes or no answer, but cannot say anything else without your permission.
Usually, only the workers assigned to your case will be looking at your client file, but there are many DSHS employees who may be able to see your client file.
DSHS can onky hand over personal information to the police if you sign a Consent form allowing them to do this, or through a court order signed by a judge.