How to report child protection concerns
Here are answers to these frequently asked questions about reporting child protection concerns:
What is child abuse and neglect?
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment of a child (ages 0 to 18) by a parent, family member, other caregiver, or non-caregiver. Physical abuse will involve cuts, broken or fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, or "severe and frequent bruising" inflicted on a child by other than accidental means. Sexual abuse will involve sexual intercourse, other sexual contact, or exploitation. Emotional abuse will involve verbal mistreatment, withholding of love or companionship, and the like.
Child neglect is the failure of a parent or other caregiver to provide necessary care (including supervision), food, clothing, shelter, and medical care - for reasons other than poverty - so as to seriously endanger the physical health of a child.
What should I do if I believe that a child is abused or neglected?
If you believe that a child (a boy or girl ages 0 to 18) has been:
How and when do I report concerns?
Contact the Department of Health and Human Services:
(262) 548-7212 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. After hours dial 211 or dial (262) 547-3388 or toll free at 1-866-211-3380. Make the call as soon as possible!
What if I'm not sure if I should report?
Please report! The Department of Health and Human Services staff will make follow-up decisions. We cannot protect children unless they are brought to our attention.
Will the family know that I reported?
State law protects reporter confidentiality. We will not disclose your name to the individuals whom you report. You should not be afraid of reprisals if you report.
What will happen when I report child protection concerns?
A social worker will write up your report. They will wish to know the names, ages, and addresses of family members. They will wish to hear information about the suspected abuse or neglect. Please be prepared to provide as much information as possible. It is critical for the Social Worker to obtain as much information to make a judgment about present danger threats and likely emergency conditions to child safety. This information assists the agency in identifying not only what actions it should take but also whether the option for an emergency response apply.
A supervisor will review the report and decide if the situation is of sufficient seriousness to merit an investigation.
The supervisor will make a response time decision once a decision is made to open a case. Response time is determined by use of a response priority tool. Cases are designated:
What will happen when the social worker sees the child and family?
Social workers will interview children and family members regarding the maltreatment concerns. They will assess present or impending danger threats to child safety and family strengths and needs. They will make determinations as to whether maltreatment as defined in state statutes has occurred. The Social Worker will make decisions as to services might benefit the children and family.
Will the child be removed from their family?
The Department of Health and Human Services strives to maintain families together. We serve most children and families in their home. However, if the family is unable or unwilling to control present and/or impending danger threats to child safety through an in home safety plan, an out of home plan will be considered to assure child safety. Court action is necessary in all of those instances.
In removal situations, the Department of Health and Human Services actions are guided by Wisconsin State Statutes (specifically, Chapter 48, also known as the Children’s Code). These statutes set forth agency child protection responsibilities, situations in which agencies may petition the Courts for involvement in children’s lives, dispositions which Courts might enter on children’s behalf, criteria which must be met in order to take children into custody, places in which children taken into custody may be held, and more. These Statutes closely circumscribe social workers’ actions. Children and families are awarded many rights by these statutes.
Will I learn what happened?
The social worker will write you if you are a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are teachers, doctors, and other professionals who are required by law to report suspected maltreatment. The letter will provide basic information about the intervention, only, as state law provides for family confidentiality. The social worker will not write you if you are a non-mandated reporter as state law prohibits this breach of family confidentiality.
For more information on child abuse and neglect visit these websites.