DCFS INFO MEMO 2006 - 08

        May 18, 2006

 STATE OF WISCONSIN
Department of Health and Family Services
Division of Children and Family Services

To: Area Administrators/Human Services Area Coordinators
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/Licensing Chiefs
Tribal Chairpersons/Human Services Facilitators
From: Burnie Bridge
Administrator
Re: 2005 Wisconsin Act 232, Changes Impacting the Investigation of Child Maltreatment by Non-Caregivers

  Governor Doyle recently signed 2005 Wisconsin Act 232 into law. Act 232 makes a number of changes to Chapter 48 that are being addressed in four Information Memos. This memo addresses one of the changes: investigation of child abuse by a person who is not a caregiver, as defined in s. 48.981(1)(am), Stats. Act 232 can be found at the following web address: http://www.legis.state.wi.us/2005/data/acts/05Act232.pdf 

Act 232 eliminates the requirement that county departments, the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW), or a licensed child welfare agency under contract with the county department or BMCW (hereinafter referred to collectively as "agency") investigate reports of alleged abuse by a person who is not a "caregiver" as defined in s. 48.981(1)(am), Stats. Under the new law, the decision to investigate such reports is discretionary. This part of Act 232 becomes effective on October 1, 2006.

A "caregiver" is defined as any of the following persons, with respect to the child who is the alleged victim:

  • a relative of the child

  • the child's guardian

  • the child's legal custodian

  • a person who resides or has resided regularly or intermittently in the same dwelling as the child

  • an employee of a residential facility or residential care center for children and youth in which the child was or is placed

  • a person who provides or has provided care for the child in or outside of the child's home

  • any other person who exercises or has exercised temporary or permanent control over the child or who supervises or has supervised the child

The "child's dwelling" refers to the private residence where a child's parent, guardian, legal custodian, Indian custodian, or Kinship Care provider would normally reside with the child. Dwellings include private residences shared by family members, foster families, and unrelated individuals. It includes the home of a non-custodial parent when a child resides with that parent. The "child's dwelling" does not include residential facilities or other facilities which depend solely on professional care providers.

A brief description of the provisions in the new law that impact child protective services responsibilities is provided below.

New Provisions

  • The sheriff or police department shall refer to the agency all of the following types of cases reported to the sheriff or police department:
1 Cases in which a caregiver is suspected of maltreatment or threatened maltreatment of a child.
2. Cases in which a caregiver is suspected of facilitating or failing to take action to prevent the suspected or threatened maltreatment of a child.
3. Cases in which it cannot be determined who maltreated or threatened to maltreat a child.
4. Cases in which there is reason to suspect that an unborn child has been abused or there is reason to believe that an unborn child is at substantial risk of abuse.
  • The sheriff or police department may refer to the agency a case reported to the sheriff or police department in which a person who is not a caregiver is suspected of abuse or of threatened abuse of a child.

  • Immediately after receiving a report, the agency shall evaluate the report to determine whether there is reason to suspect that a caregiver has maltreated the child, has threatened the child with maltreatment, or has facilitated or failed to take action to prevent the suspected or threatened maltreatment.

  • If the agency determines that a caregiver is suspected of maltreating a child or cannot determine who maltreated the child, the agency shall initiate a diligent investigation within 24 hours after receiving the report.

  • If the agency determines that a person who is not a caregiver is suspected of abuse or threatened abuse, the agency may initiate a diligent investigation. The requirement for initiating the investigation within 24 hours does not apply in these cases. However, any investigations conducted in these cases must still be done in accordance with all other standards established by the Department of Health and Family Services.

  • The requirement to make a determination about whether maltreatment occurred or is likely to occur applies only to those reports that the agency investigates.

Provisions that are Unchanged

Some of the provisions in s. 48.981, Stats., and related standards that remain unchanged by Act 232 include the following:

  • Reporting laws are unaffected by Act 232. Therefore, mandated reporters must still report suspected abuse or threatened abuse, even if they believe the suspected abuser is a non-caregiver. The Legislature has vested the authority to decide whether the suspected abuser is a caregiver or whether a caregiver has facilitated the suspected maltreatment or failed to take action to prevent the suspected maltreatment with the law enforcement offices and child protective services agencies.

  • If the agency receives a report of abuse by a non-caregiver from a mandated or relative reporter, the agency must provide feedback to the reporter in accordance with s. 48.981(3)(c)6. and 6m., Stats.

  • All reports received by the agency must be documented in eWiSACWIS, including reports that the agency decides are reports of alleged abuse by a non-caregiver in which no caregiver facilitated the abuse or failed to protect. These reports may be screened out, and the screening decision must be documented in eWiSACWIS.

  • Agencies must still refer to law enforcement offices cases of abuse under s. 48.02(1)(b) to (f), Stats., (i.e., sexual abuse or threatened sexual abuse) received. "Cases" include reports of sexual abuse screened-out by the agency based on the alleged abuser being a non-caregiver.

Changes Required in Standards and Policies

There are several currently published standards and policies that will be revised to incorporate the changes brought about by Act 232. These include, at a minimum:

  • the Child Protective Services Access Standard for Receipt and Analysis of Report Information, issued in November of 2005;

  • the Standard for Collaboration with Law Enforcement Agencies, issued in February of 2004;

  • the Child Protective Services Investigation Standards, issued in August of 1994 and revised in January of 2000; and

  • Case Finding Determinations in Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect, reissued in August of 1998.

The CPS Investigation Standards and the Case Finding Determinations policy are being revised as part of the Program Enhancement Plan (PEP) response to the Child and Family Services Review (CFSR). Act 232 changes will be incorporated into those policies as part of the planned broader revision process and within the timeframe determined by the PEP. With regard to the Child Protective Services Access Standard for Receipt and Analysis of Report Information and the Standard for Collaboration with Law Enforcement Agencies, the plan at this time is to disseminate information highlighting changes to those policies resulting from Act 232 within the next 6 months. The revised standards, however, may not be formally reissued until a later time. The PEP Child Welfare Case Process Committee will assist with these revisions. As revisions are made to standards and policies, eWiSACWIS will be updated as necessary.

Impact on Other Partners in the Community

Although this Act does not change requirements for reporting suspected maltreatment, it does change existing requirements for CPS response. Mandated reporters will need information as to why the CPS agency might not respond when the mandated reporters are still required to report to either law enforcement offices or CPS. The greater impact of Act 232 may be on law enforcement offices, particularly in counties where the law enforcement agencies may have relied to some extent on CPS interviews in cases of suspected abuse by non-caregivers.

The six-month delay in the implementation of these provisions in Act 232 should afford agencies the time to review their options and determine what actions they will take, discuss the impact of the law with others in the community, and coordinate with relevant community partners any changes to be made in the response system. Agencies are encouraged to discuss the new law with law enforcement offices as soon as possible, particularly if the agency intends to screen out reports of abuse by non-caregivers. The MOU with law enforcement offices, as referenced in the Standard for Collaboration with Law Enforcement Agencies, should be reviewed and revised accordingly.

The Division and Area Administration staff will work with county departments, the Department of Justice, and others to identify what additional information or support might be needed to assist in the system change.

Effective Date: The above provisions in this law become effective on 
October 1, 2006.

 

REGIONAL OFFICE CONTACT: Area Administrator
CENTRAL Office CONTACT:  Kim Eithun
DHFS/DCFS/BPP
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
Phone: 608-261-7386
E-mail: eithukc@dhfs.state.wi.us 
Connie Klick
DHFS/DCFS/BPP
P.O. Box 8916
Madison, WI 53708-8916
Phone: 608-266-1489
E-mail: klickcl@dhfs.state.wi.us 

 

c: County CPS Supervisors
Director of State Courts Office
Tribal Child Welfare Contact Persons

 


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