Wisconsin Child Protective Services (CPS) Process

Are you concerned a child you know is being abused?

The goal of Child Protective Services (CPS system) is to support parents/caregivers in making necessary changes so children are safe and protected in their homes.

Report Abuse

CPS in Wisconsin

  • is state-supervised and county-run in 71 counties, and state-run in Milwaukee county.
  • has a two pathway system for reports of suspected child abuse and/or neglect.

How to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect

Anyone can report suspected child abuse and/or neglect to a local Child Protective Services agency or law enforcement. Law enforcement must contact the county Child Protective Services (CPS) agency within 12 hours of receiving a report of suspected child abuse or neglect.

Some people are mandated reporters who by law must report any suspected or threatened abuse or neglect of a child.

What happens once a CPS report is made?

The county receives reports of child abuse and neglect through an “Access” worker. The agency decides if the information in the report is potential child abuse or neglect according to Wisconsin law. The Wisconsin Children’s Code defines the areas and indicators of child abuse and neglect. If the report meets these definitions for potential child abuse, the CPS worker starts an “Initial Assessment.” Reports that suggest a child is in immediate danger receive a same-day response. The CPS worker has 60 days to complete this “Initial Assessment.” The assessment must be conducted in accordance with Wisconsin Access and Initial Assessment Standards.

The focus of the CPS Initial Assessment is child safety. Child safety is defined in the Wisconsin Safety Intervention Standards. Workers help the family get needed services and want to keep the child in the home if possible. If the child cannot safely stay in the home, it may be necessary to temporarily place a child in out-of-home care.

After the 60 day Initial Assessment period, a decision is made whether or not to continue to work with the family. If it is decided that additional services are needed, the family will engage in “Ongoing Services.” Wisconsin has Ongoing Standards that guides the Ongoing Services practice.

The focus of the CPS assessment is not to establish legal responsibility or make criminal determinations. CPS focuses on child safety and engaging with families to keep children safely in their home whenever possible.

An Overview of the CPS Process is a visual representation of the process.