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:
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?