November 20, 2000

Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services

To: Area Administrators/Assistant Area Administrators
Bureau Directors
County Departments of Community Programs Directors
County Departments of Developmental Disabilities Services Directors
County Departments of Human Services Directors
County Departments of Social Services Directors
Section Chiefs
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilitators
From: Susan N. Dreyfus
Re: Status of Citizen Review Panels

Memo Series DCFS 2000-07 regarding Citizen Review Panels was issued on March 13, 2000 and identified what was expected of those panels. The purpose of this Informational Memo is to provide you with an update of the status of these panels.

On October 3, 1996, Congress amended the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), by directing states to support and improve child protection systems. The amendment specifically requires each state to establish at least three citizen review panels to evaluate how effectively state and local agencies are fulfilling their child protection responsibilities.

To accomplish this, we issued the numbered memo requesting county social/human service agencies to volunteer to create a citizen review panel. By September 2000, four panels began to form. One was created in each of Marathon, Outagamie and Milwaukee Counties. The fourth panel is comprised of five contiguous counties in the 7th Judicial District and includes - La Crosse, Jackson, Trempeleau, Vernon and Monroe Counties.

Citizen review panels provide opportunities for community members to play an integral role in ensuring that the child protection system is protecting children from abuse and neglect and helping find permanent, safe and stable homes for them, when that is necessary. The citizen review panels represent points of view of both the community and consumers. A primary function of the panels is to assist this Department and county agencies to continually assess the services provided to children and families in Wisconsin.

While panels are required to review the state’s Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act plan, they also have the opportunity to review various aspects of the child protection system in their own communities. These panels represent a partnership among citizens, community agencies, county child protection systems, and the Department of Health and Family Services.

Prior to the end of this year, each panel is expected to, at a minimum, hold its first full panel meeting. Each panel must assess the extent to which the State’s child welfare system (at both the state and local levels) is effectively fulfilling its child protection responsibilities in accordance with the State CAPTA plan. Each panel will further explore and individually decide what, if any, issues beyond that they wish to address. This will allow each panel to have an individual and local flavor, lending further relevance and usefulness to the panel’s work.

Based upon the response to the request for the creation of panels, the development of the four panels is slightly varied from the original plan as outlined in Memo Series DCFS 2000-07. The original plan was to create four panels. One was to be the Partnership Council (or a subgroup or enhancement of that group) in Milwaukee County (i.e., the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare). The remaining panels were planned to operate on a pilot basis with the utilization of three different models for development, including an evaluation component to determine the efficacy of the various models. The first panel was to be comprised of all of the counties in one DHFS region, the second panel was to be comprised of all of the counties in one Judicial District and the third panel was to be one county. However, due to the response received and interest in the establishment of the panels, the following panels were developed.

7th Judicial District Citizen Review Panel

This panel is comprised of members representing five counties in the 7th Judicial District. The five counties are LaCrosse, Monroe, Vernon, Jackson and Trempeleau.

This panel is the farthest along in its establishment. The first full panel meeting has been set for November 28, 2000.

Membership has been outlined as the following:

1. Judge (assigned on a rotating basis from each county)
2. Consumer (5 – one from each county)
3. Legislator
4. Social worker
5. GAL
6. Law enforcement
7. School personnel
8. Community representatives (10 – two from each county)

The community representatives have been identified as people representing the views of: tribal members, foster parents, civic group leaders, the minority community, service organizations, the faith community, and the medical community.

Each of the five counties will share responsibility on a rotating basis to ensure representation by a legislator, social worker, GAL, law enforcement and school personnel.


Another panel is being established in Milwaukee. This panel is emerging from an already established group, the Child Abuse Review Team (CART). This panel is in the beginning stages of establishment and is working on the expansion of its membership to meet the requirements set forth in CAPTA, recruitment of members, identifying the roles and responsibilities of members (steering committee, full panel), panel structure, issues related to specific training and timetables.

Marathon County

The third panel being established is in Marathon County. The initial meeting was held to discuss the establishment of the panel. Issues around panel membership, recruitment, panel structure, issues the panel will cover, training, meeting schedules and timetables were covered. The panel is in the process of recruiting members to form a steering committee that will develop some parameters for the larger group and work together to assemble the full panel. The first meeting is being planned for December.

 Outagamie County

The fourth panel is being established in Outagamie County. A first meeting has been scheduled to begin discussions around panel set-up. Issues around panel membership, recruitment, panel structure, issues the panel will cover, training, meeting schedules and timetables will be addressed as well.

As each panel continues to develop and focus on issues relevant to both the statewide and local child protection system, it is hoped that we will be able to learn much from the panels with regard to good service provision for the children and families of Wisconsin. It is our hope that the establishment of these four panels is only the first step in the development and utilization of this type of program and policy review and that other counties will take the opportunity to establish a panel within their own communities.


Child Protective Services Specialist
Bureau of Programs and Policies
1 West Wilson St., P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
Phone: (608) 267-7732
FAX: (608) 264-6750
e-mail: smithae@dhfs.state.wi.us


cc: County CPS Supervisors
Michelle Jensen, Director of State Courts

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