Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities




Ongoing Out-of-Home Care Services

The requirements for ongoing out-of-home care services can be found in the Ongoing Services Standards.  The Ongoing Services Standards provides a framework for the ongoing case process and focuses on safety, permanence, and well-being for children and their families served under Wisconsin Statute Chapter 48 and Chapter 938. Practice expectations set by the Standards ensure families statewide receive:

  • Consistent
  • Effective
  • Responsive intervention that supports the change process

Child welfare agencies must ensure all actions of either agency or contracted staff comply with the Standards.

While the Standards establish requirements throughout the ongoing case process, county agencies and the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services (DMCPS) may develop more prescriptive policies and procedures.

Ongoing Services Standards Document

  • Practice requirements are contained within the boxes
  • Additional information is included outside of the boxes to provide further guidance about case practice

Child Protection Services (CPS) Out-of-Home Services

Out-of-Home Child Protective Services (CPS) cases involve an unsafe child where impending danger is controlled through an out-of-home placement.

A thorough understanding of child safety decisions and actions is essential for caseworkers since safety assessment, analysis, planning, and the management of child safety occurs in every aspect of CPS involvement with a family.

Ongoing Services has the following fundamental intervention responsibilities:

  • Evaluating the existing safety plan developed during initial assessment/investigation.
  • Managing child safety through continuous assessment, oversight, and adjustment of safety plans that ensure child safety and are the least intrusive to the family.
  • Engaging families in the case planning process that identifies underlying needs which directs services to address threats to child safety.
  • Measuring progress related to enhancing parent/caregiver protective capacities and eliminating safety related issues.
  • Achieving timely permanence for all cases.

Child Welfare Out-of-Home Care Cases

Information from an initial assessment, a child welfare assessment, or the juvenile court intake process guides decision-making about whether an agency will open a case for ongoing services. When children are safe, but the agency determines that a child requires either specific services or sanctions in the community or in a placement setting, the agency opens a child welfare case.

Child welfare cases involve providing support and services to a family. The caseworker focuses on:

  • Assessing the family for strengths and needs
  • Managing safety of placement setting
  • Achieving permanence and well-being
  • Attaining safe case closure

These cases may be court ordered or voluntary, and may include Juvenile Justice (JJ) and Juveniles in Need of Protection or Services (JIPS) cases.

Safety intervention for child welfare cases focuses on confirming children remain safe and protected from abuse and neglect.

Although child safety is not the reason for agency intervention, it is important to understand there may be times during the life of a case when family dynamics and functioning change, resulting in an unsafe child. At this point, a case becomes a child protective services case and can no longer be served as a child welfare case.

Placement in Foster Care

Placement in foster care is usually temporary and gives families time to make necessary changes so the child can safely live in his or her home and community. Most children in foster care return home to their families, which is called reunification. When children cannot return home, they find permanence through adoption, guardianship, or other means.

Placement Resources

There are many resources that can assist caseworkers and agencies in making placements in foster care.  Caseworkers must follow the placement requirements that are described in the Ongoing Services Standards.

Geographic Placement Resource System

The Geographic Placement Resource System (GPRS) can help caseworkers and agencies find foster care placements for children throughout Wisconsin. The GPRS uses geo-mapping to map all out-of-home care providers and foster children throughout Wisconsin, as well as the United States if Wisconsin is responsible for those providers and children.

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool

When a child enters out-of-home care, there are child assessment requirements which must occur.

This assessment is called the Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool is a multi-purpose tool developed to

  • Support decision making, including level of need and service planning
  • To facilitate quality improvement initiatives
  • To allow for the monitoring of outcomes of services

  The CANS tool assesses a child’s needs and strengths in different areas such as:

  • School
  • Trauma
  • Mental health needs
  • Risk behaviors

Additional information about the CANS can be found in Chapter DCF 56.22.


Child Abuse and Neglect Removal Reasons defines the federal AFCARS reason for removal values selected in eWiSACWIS when documenting a child’s removal.

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act

The Indian Child Welfare Act mandates that states make active efforts in every ICWA case in two areas

  1. Provide services to the family to prevent removal of an Indian child from his or her parent or Indian custodian.
  2. Reunify an Indian child with his or her parent or Indian custodian after removal.

The Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) clarifies, with specificity, when in the course of an action a court must make the finding that active efforts have been made. More information about active efforts can be found in the Active Efforts: A Child Welfare Practitioner’s Guide for Meeting the WICWA Active Efforts Requirement guide.

Child Welfare Dashboards

A list of graphically oriented child welfare dashboards provide statewide and local agency child welfare performance summary data pertaining to child safety, permanency, and well-being.

Caseworker Contacts Dashboard

The Caseworker Contacts Dashboard provides cumulative information related to monthly caseworker visit requirements in Wisconsin for the federal fiscal year to date.

Performance Based Measures Dashboard

The Provider Performance Based Measures are three dashboards pertaining to contract placement providers by agency category. They provide a performance evaluation of identified measures.

There is a separate dashboard for each type of agency included in the performance based measures whose placement information has been documented in the eWiSACWIS system:

  • Child Placing Agency (CPA) Dashboard provides placement results of participant counts along with favorable outcome, median length of stay and levels of care totals as it pertains to this specific provider category.
  • Group Home (GH) Dashboard provides placement results of participant counts along with favorable outcome, median length of stay and levels of care totals as it pertains to this specific provider category.
  • Residential Care Center (RCC) Dashboard provides placement results of participant counts along with favorable outcome, median length of stay and levels of care totals as it pertains to this specific provider category.

Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool Dashboards

The Child and Parent Needs and Services Dashboards analyzes Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths (CANS) tool data to identify gaps in well-being services and subsequently generating recommendations for the improvement of those services to children and parents in Wisconsin.

To illustrate the current needs of children in out-of-home care and their parents, there are two dashboards containing up-to-date information specific to well-being indicators scored in the CANS. For children in out-of-home care, the well-being indicators include:

  • Trauma
  • Behavior/Emotional Risks
  • Physical Health
  • Education

For parents who have a child in out-of-home care and the parent is an identified permanency resource, the well-being indicators include:

  • Substance Use
  • Mental Health
  • Physical Health
  • Educational and Employment

The Child and Youth Needs - Parental Needs Dashboard, illustrates the needs of children and parents related to the well-being indicators. This dashboard allows users to filter by CANS age (Birth to 5) or (5 to 21), race and gender.

The Child and Youth Co-Occurrence of Needs Dashboard, illustrates how the well-being indicators for children in out-of-home-care overlap and the likeliness of co-occurring needs. This dashboard allows users to select two or more well-being indicators, and then see the relationship of the indicators with one another.