Child Abuse and Neglect Program
(Child Protective Services)

Child Maltreatment

Child maltreatment is generally divided into four basic types:

Threats of child abuse or neglect must also be reported to and assessed by the county agencies and the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services. These cases are categorized as "maltreatment that is likely to occur."

Physical Neglect

Physical neglect is defined in the statute as "failure, refusal or inability on the part of a parent, guardian, legal custodian or other person exercising temporary or permanent control over a child, for reasons other than poverty, to provide necessary care, food, clothing, medical or dental care or shelter so as to seriously endanger the physical health of the child." [Wisconsin Statutes 48.981(1)(d)(PDF) (exit DCF)

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is defined as "physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means." [Ref. s. 48.02(1)(a) Stats.]  (PDF File - exit DCF),This includes non-accidental injury inflicted by any other person. "‘Physical injury’ includes but is not limited to lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe or frequent bruising or great bodily harm, as defined in s. 939.22(14) ." [Wisconsin Statutes 48.02(14g)(PDF) (exit DCF)

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is defined by cross-referencing several crimes in other sections of the statutes. Briefly, sexual abuse includes the following:

  • any person having sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a child 15 years of age or younger;
  • any person having sexual intercourse or sexual contact with a 16- or 17-year old child without his or her consent;
  • any person inducing a child to engage in sexually explicit conduct in order to videotape, photograph, etc., that child or videotaping, photographing, etc., a child for such purposes, or producing, distributing, selling or otherwise profiting from such a videotape, photograph, etc.;
  • a person responsible for a child’s welfare encouraging or permitting the child to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of videotaping, photographing, etc.;
  • any person causing a child to view or listen to sexual activity;
  • any person exposing genitals to a child; and
  • any person permitting or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution.

Emotional Damage

Emotional abuse is defined as "emotional damage for which the child’s parent, guardian or legal custodian has neglected, refused or been unable for reasons other than poverty to obtain the necessary treatment or to take steps to ameliorate the symptoms."
[Ref. s. 48.02(1)(gm) and (5j) Stats.]  (PDF) (exit DCFS)

The definitions of child neglect and emotional damage involve failure on the part of parents or other persons responsible for a child to provide necessary care for a child. In most cases, the parties involved are family members and solutions involve interventions with the family. In some of these cases, court intervention is required to assure safety and order services for the family.

The definitions of physical abuse and sexual abuse include harm to a child by any other person. Therefore, physical or sexual abuse of a child by a parent is included, as are assaults by strangers, persons unrelated to a child’s family, and peers. In cases where the child is harmed by someone outside of the family, county agency interventions with the family do not provide all of the solutions. In many of these cases, law enforcement involvement through the criminal justice system is necessary to intervene with the person who harmed the child.

Last Revised: March 10, 2015

The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.