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Chapter 48 of the Wisconsin State Statutes directs that the Department of Human Services work with children and families in which child maltreatment may have occurred. (Chapter 48 is also known as the "Children’s Code.") 

Important note: The information that follows should not be taken as legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with a lawyer and/or to consult the statutes themselves.

 

What children may be in need of protection or services?

Wisconsin State Statute 48.13 presents the situations in which Courts have jurisdiction over children alleged to be in need of maltreatment-related protection or services:

  • Children who are without a parent or guardian (SS 48.13(1))

  • Children who have been abandoned (SS 48.13(2))

  • Children who have been the victim of abuse (abuse is defined in SS 48.02[1][a-f]; injury may be self-inflicted or inflicted by another) (SS 48.13(3))

  • Children who are at risk of abuse (based upon information that another child in the home has been the victim of abuse) (SS 48.13(3m))

  • Children whose parent/guardian petition the Court for assistance in securing special treatment or care for the child (SS 48.13(4))

  • Children who have been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law (SS 48.13(5))

  • Children who are receiving inadequate care during the period of time a parent is missing, incarcerated, hospitalized, or institutionalized (SS 48.13(8))

  • Children who petition the Court for assistance in securing special treatment or care which the parent/guardian is unwilling, neglecting, unable, or needs assistance to provide (child must be at least age 12) (SS 48.13(9))

  • Children whose parent/guardian neglects, refuses, or is unable for reasons other than poverty to provide necessary special care, food, clothing, medical/dental care, or shelter so as to seriously endanger the physical health of the child (SS 48.13(10))

  • Children whose parent/guardian is at substantial risk of neglecting, refusing, or being unable for reasons other than poverty to provide necessary care, food, clothing, medical/dental care, or shelter so as to seriously endanger the physical health of the child (based upon information that the parent/guardian has so acted towards another child in the home) (SS 48.13(10m))

  • Children who are suffering emotional damage for which the parent/guardian has neglected, refused, or been unable and is neglecting, refusing, or unable, for reasons other than poverty, to obtain necessary treatment or to take necessary steps to ameliorate the symptoms (SS 48.13(11))

  • Children who are suffering from an alcohol or other drug abuse impairment, exhibited to a severe degree, for which the parent/guardian is neglecting, refusing, or unable to provide treatment (SS 48.13(11m))

  • Children who have not been immunized as required by law (SS 48.13(13))

Additionally, SS 48.133 establishes that the Court has jurisdiction over unborn children who may be in need of protection or services, and the expectant mothers of those unborn children.

 

How are situations brought into Court?

The La Crosse County Human Services Department must petition (request) that the Court intervene on a child’s behalf if LCHSD believes that a child’s situation meets one of the above criteria. Corporation Counsel of La Crosse County must also sign the petition if it is to be brought before the Court. La Crosse County Corpation Counsel will prosecute the matter on LCHSD’s behalf.

 

Court hearings normally follow filing of petitions. The number of hearings will vary from case to case. The initial hearing is called a temporary physical custody hearing if the children are in custody and placed in out of home care. A subsequent hearing is held called a “Plea” hearing. The Court will rule as to whether the LCHSD petition has sufficient merit to proceed at this hearing. The Court will take parties’ pleas ("admit to the facts" or "deny the facts") at this hearing as well.

The final hearing is called a dispositional hearing. The Court will rule as to whether the facts merit a finding that children are in need of protection or services at this hearing. The Court will issue relevant orders if children are in fact found in need of protection or services at this hearing as well. (The Court may conduct hearings between the jurisdictional and dispositional stages. These hearings are called "pre-trial" or "fact-finding" hearings.) Alternatively, individuals involved in CHIPS proceedings may demand that jury trials take place and that LCHSD prove its case before the Court.

 

What are other key laws regarding LCHSD and children?

  • SS 48.19 Taking a child into custody presents the situations in which children may be taken into temporary physical custody by LCHSD and others.

  • SS 48.20 Release of delivery of child from custody presents information about situations in which Court staff may release children from custody.

  • SS 48.208 Criteria for holding a child in a secure detention facility presents information about necessary elements for placement of a child in secure custody.

  • SS 48.21 Hearing for child in custody presents information about hearings conducted following a child being taken into custody.

  • SS 48.23 Right to counsel presents information about children’s right to legal representation in Court proceedings.

  • SS 48.245 Informal dispositions presents information about written agreements which parties might enter so as to terminate formal court proceedings.

  • SS 48.32 Consent decrees presents information about another manner in which the Court might resolve a case short of formal findings and dispositional orders.

  • SS 48.345 Disposition of child … adjudged in need of protection or services presents information about dispositional alternatives available to the Court if children are found in need of protection or services.

  • SS 48.38 Permanency planning presents information about statutory expectations regarding long-term agency planning for children’s futures.

  • SS 48.15 – Termination of Parental Rights presents comprehensive information about this important topic.

 

 La Crosse County, Wisconsin

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