As a child care professional, you will have access to a wide range of privileged information.
You may see personal records and learn private information about others. For example, you may know which children do and do not receive child care tuition assistance.
Stephanie’s parents may share with you personal information about their divorce to help you work with Stephanie in the most understanding way. You may know that Dale’s mother has cancer, and that Kathy may tell you about her father leaving the family.
In most cases, you must keep sensitive personal information private.
This is called keeping confidentiality.
It means not sharing this information with others beyond what is required by your work. Keeping confidentiality protects children, families, coworkers, and the program itself.
Confidentiality does have some limits.
For example, you can and should share information about children and families with certain coworkers for reasons relevant to the job. For example, you should inform other staff members who work with a child about the child’s special medical, physical, or learning needs. This information helps the staff provide appropriate care and learning experiences.
Likewise, you may need to inform your director about the unethical practices of a coworker after you have tried unsuccessfully to resolve the matter with that person. This information helps the director keep the children healthy and safe.
Child abuse and neglect present another exception to confidentiality.
The law requires that cases of abuse and neglect be reported to the proper state agency. If you suspect neglect or abuse, follow your program’s policy for making this report. Your legal responsibility as a mandated reporter outweighs your responsibility to keep private information. In this case, you are required by law to break confidentiality.
In most other cases, it is unacceptable to break confidentiality.
For example, you should not gossip with your coworkers, friends, or family members about the children and families at the center. Do not talk to parents about other families or children in the program.
Avoid discussing the personal matters of coworkers. These practices are unethical.
If parents learn you have broken confidentiality, they may feel betrayed. Their resulting suspicion could cause long-term damage to the reputations of you and your program.
Broken trust can strain coworker relationships and undermine teamwork.
Some centers ask their employees to sign confidentiality agreements. These agreements protect the confidentiality of a program’s families, children, and fellow employees. A confidentiality agreement should specify with whom various types of information can and cannot be shared. If an employee violates this agreement, the employee loses his or her job. At times, knowing which information to keep private can be challenging. It is always best to err on the side of caution.