Understanding Wisconsin’s Child Protection System

Información en español

The goal of the child welfare system is to support parents and caregivers in making necessary changes so children are safe and protected in their homes.

Wisconsin's child welfare system is state-managed and county-run, with the exception of Milwaukee County which is run by the state. This structure allows counties more flexibility in developing systems, strategies, and services that meet the needs of their communities. Additionally, Wisconsin has the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act, which seeks to protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.

Stages of the Child Protection System

Wisconsin’s child protection system is divided into three stages - access, initial assessment, and ongoing. Learn more about each stage of the system and what can be expected.

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Learn about what happens when you make a call to your county or tribal child welfare agency.

Visit Access Page


Initial Assessment

Learn about what happens when a call is screened-in and a child welfare professional visits the home.

Visit Initial Assessment Page

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Learn about how child welfare professionals work with families to build safe, stable homes for children.

Visit Ongoing Page


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All partners in the child welfare system, including the Department of Children and Families, county and tribal child welfare agencies, and foster parents, share a common goal - reunification.


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Whether you have been touched by the child welfare system or want to make a difference in a child's life, there are multiple ways you can help ensure that all Wisconsin children and youth are safe and loved members of thriving families and communities.



Since 2018, Wisconsin has been working to transform its child welfare system into one that uplifts and empowers families. To do this, state, county, tribal, and community partners have been putting more emphasis on building preventive programs and services that keep children and families connected and in family settings whenever possible. To learn more about this transformation, visit our Putting Families First page.