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Child Protection Services

What is child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment of a child (ages 0 to 18) by a parent, family member, other caregiver, or non-caregiver. Physical abuse will involve cuts, broken or fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, or "severe and frequent bruising" inflicted on a child by other than accidental means. Sexual abuse will involve sexual intercourse, other sexual contact, or exploitation. Emotional damage means harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning, exhibited to a severe degree.

Child neglect is the failure of a parent or other caregiver to provide necessary care (including supervision), food, clothing, shelter, and medical care - for reasons other than poverty - so as to seriously endanger the physical health of a child.


What should I do if I believe that a child is abused or neglected?

If you believe that a child (a boy or girl ages 0 to 18) has been

  • abused (physically, sexually, or emotionally),

  • neglected (physically or emotionally),

  • or is at risk of abuse or neglect,

you should report your concerns to La Crosse County Human Services.


How do I report concerns?

Call the Human Services intake office, Monday through Friday, 8:00 to 4:30:

  • La Crosse County Human Services, 300 4th St. North, La Crosse, WI 54601, 608-784-4357

  • After 4:30 p.m. weekdays, holidays and weekends call 608-785-5962, police non-emergency dispatch.


What if I'm not sure if I should report?

Please report! Human Services staff will make follow-up decisions. We at Human Services cannot protect children unless they are brought to our attention.


Will the family know that I reported?

State law protects reporter confidentiality. We will not disclose your name to the individuals whom you report. You should not be afraid of reprisals if you report.


What will happen when I report child protection concerns?

A social service specialist will write up your report. They will need to know the names, ages, and addresses of family members. They will need to hear information about the suspected abuse or neglect. Please be prepared to provide information. The more information that you share, the better subsequent agency decision-making will be.  

  • A supervisor will review the report and decide if the situation is of sufficient seriousness to merit investigation.  

  • The supervisor will make a response time decision once a decision is made to open a case. Response time is determined by several factors and level of imminent danger. Cases are designated a response of 24 hours or less or 2-5 days.

What information is needed when I report?
Child Protection Investigative Standards for the State of Wisconsin indicate that when a referral is made we need to gather the following information from the reporter:

  • Alleged maltreatment, current and past, and circumstances of the maltreatment,

  • Description of the child, highlighting current conditions and vulnerability,

  • Description of the parents, highlighting individual functioning and parenting practices,

  • Description of the family, highlighting general functioning, current stresses and how the family might respond to intervention,

  • Whether the child is an Indian Child, as defined by the Indian Child Welfare Act,

  • All household members’ names and relationships, ages, address, phone numbers, schools, places of employment,

  • Reporters name, relationship to the family, motivation and source of information, if possible,

  • Names and contact information for other people with information.

What will happen when the social worker sees the child and family?

Social workers will interview children and family members regarding the maltreatment concerns. They will assess child safety, child maltreatment risk, and family strengths and needs. They will make determinations as to whether maltreatment as defined in state statutes has occurred. They will make decisions as to what sort of services might benefit the children and family.


Will the child be removed from their family?

Human Services strives to keep families together. We serve most children and families in the family home. An internal statistical review (2004) indicates of all reports we receive, children are removed from the home less than 5% of the time. Court action is necessary whenever a child is removed from the parental home.


In removal situations, Human Service actions are guided by Wisconsin State Statutes (specifically, SS 48, also known as the Children’s Code). These statutes set forth agency child protection responsibilities, situations in which agencies may petition the Courts for involvement in children's lives, dispositions which Courts might enter on children's behalf, criteria which must be met in order to take children into custody, places in which children taken into custody may be held, and more. These Statutes closely circumscribe social workers’ actions. Children and families are awarded many rights by these statutes.


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Will I learn what happened?

You will receive follow-up correspondence if you are a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are other professionals who are required by law to report suspected maltreatment. The letter will provide basic information about the intervention, only, however, as state law provides for family confidentiality. The social worker will not write you if you are a non-mandated reporter as state law prohibits this breach of family confidentiality.


Mandated reporters are: physician, coroner, medical examiner, nurse, dentist, chiropractor, optometrist, acupuncturist, medical or mental health professional, social worker, marriage and family therapist, professional counselor, public assistance worker, (which includes a financial and employment planner), school teacher, school administrator , school counselor, mediator, child-care worker, day care provider, alcohol or other drug counselor, physical therapist and their assistants, occupational therapists, dietitian, speech-language pathologist, audiologist, emergency medical technician, first responder, police or law enforcement officer, court-appointed special advocate, clergy.


 La Crosse County, Wisconsin

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