Beginning October 1, 1998, county departments of human and social services must
have in place a record keeping system that will enable the Department and other authorized
agencies to receive information as to whether a specifically identified individual has
been determined by the county department to have abused or neglected a child
1997 Wisconsin Act 27, the biennial budget, made some changes to Chapter 48 related to licensed programs that affects all Wisconsin counties.
Section 48.685 requires that a background check for substantiated child abuse and neglect reports be done for any person seeking a license to operate or to continue to operate a child welfare agency under s.48.60, a group home under s. 48.625, a shelter care facility under s. 48.22, a day care center under s.48.65 or established or contracted for under s.120.13(14), a day care program under s.48.651, or any person seeking employment in any of those facilities who would have access to the clients. Background checks are also required for a person seeking a license for a foster or treatment foster home under s. 48.62. In addition, s. 50.065 was created requiring the same background checks for hospitals and other facilities and professions licensed or regulated under Chapter 50 Stats. that may provide care to children. A copy of that legislation is attached.
Currently, child abuse and neglect records are kept in a variety of ways by county departments. Often, they may be filed under the alleged child victims name or the name of the parent. However, the alleged maltreater, in many cases, does not have the same last name as the child or parent.
In order to fulfill new legislative requirements under s.48.685, county departments will need to be able to quickly check records to determine if an identified person has been substantiated as having abused or neglected a child. Beginning October 1, 1998, each county department must have in place a record keeping system that will allow such a record check.
If a county does not currently file child abuse and neglect records under the name of the maltreater, the county must develop an additional record keeping system for identifying substantiated maltreaters.
County departments are required to keep this data only on cases with findings of "substantiated" made on or after October 1, 1998. County departments are not required to develop a retroactive record system. However, if the county department already has in place a system to identify persons who have maltreated a child, this system with case findings made prior to October 1, 1998, should be maintained.
The record keeping system should not contain the names of children involved in a situation that the agency has substantiated as "mutual sexual activity between minors". These are situations that must be substantiated because of statutory definitions of sexual abuse but that contain no elements of assault, exploitation or coercion. This is consistent with the "DCS-40 Child Abuse and Neglect Investigation Report Instructions", publish in January, 1996, which state that no maltreater information should be entered on the reporting form for such cases.
It is not necessary to maintain complete duplicate records. The only information which will be released is the absence or presence of the case finding of "substantiated". However, sufficient information must be maintained in order to assure that the person about whom an employment, licensure or certification query is being made is the same person that is in the records as having maltreated a child. County departments may develop any system that will enable them to fulfill the legislative requirements.
Be advised that sec. 48.981(7), which governs the confidentiality of child abuse and neglect records and reports, at this time does not allow for case findings to be shared with the private entities, even with a signed release from the person involved. Until and unless the statutes are modified, queries as to the presence or absence of a substantiated case finding of child abuse or neglect may only be honored for appropriate staff within the Department, other county departments and other entities as specifically described in sec. 48.981(7). This means that a day care center or a residential care facility, for example, inquiring about a perspective employee cannot currently be given any information, even with a signed release by the person involved. We will advise you if the statutes are modified to allow for such disclosure.
The Department will provide further direction for carrying out the requirements of s.48.685 and s. 50.065 through administrative rule and policy.