Reporting Child Abuse and/or Neglect
If you believe that a child (a boy or girl ages 0 to 17) has been
You are able to make a report 24 hours a day/7 days a week: 608-784-HELP (4357)
CALL 911 IF EMERGENCY!
WHAT IS CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment of a child (ages 0 to 17) 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 damage means harm to a child's psychological or intellectual functioning, exhibited to a severe degree. 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 IF I'M NOT SURE IF I SHOULD REPORT?
Please report! A report requires only reasonable suspicion, NOT absolute certainty. Human Services staff will make follow-up decisions. We at Human Services cannot protect children unless they are brought to our attention.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN I REPORT CHILD PROTECTION CONCERNS?
A social worker will write up your report. They will ask for information such as dates of birth, addresses and phone numbers, regarding the child, parent/caregiver, household members and suspected maltreater. They will also ask questions about the suspected abuse or neglect. Please be prepared to provide information. The more information that you share, the better subsequent agency decision-making will be.
A supervisor will review the report for acceptance and urgency decision. The supervisor will make a response time decision if a case is opened or "screened in". Response time is determined by several factors and level of imminent danger. Screened in cases are designated a response time varying from immediate/same day up to 5 business days.
If you make a report and it is not opened for investigation or "screened out", it doesn't mean that your concerns are not valid. Screened out cases may have two outcomes: The case may be closed with no further action taken by our agency. Or the case could be referred to Community Response, a voluntary program through the agency. A Community Response worker would provide support and offer assistance with resources in regards to housing, food, child care resources, parenting assistance for children of all ages, activities to do with children, help with finances and many more!
Information You Will Be Asked When Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect
***Please be aware that all of the above information is not necessary to report abuse and neglect. The questions above are simply a guide to help prepare you for what will be asked. Even if you do not know all of the answers, please do not hesitate to report.
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 THE SOCIAL WORKER SEES THE CHILD AND FAMILY?
If at any time it is found that children are in a dangerous environment, Child Protective Services (CPS) has the legal obligation to take action to protect the children, to prevent further abuse and neglect and to preserve families whenever possible. When a social worker meets with the child and family, they will interview the children, parents and other household members regarding the maltreatment concerns, observe the family home, assess for the child's safety and risks as well as family strengths and needs. Based on the information collected, a determination will be made in accordance with state statutes as to whether maltreatment has occurred. Services that may benefit the child/ren and family will also be identified. A brochure has been developed Parent's Guide to Child Protective Service Assessments to help parents understand what to expect in the child protection process.
TRADITIONAL VS. ALTERNATIVE RESPONSE APPROACHES AND OUTCOMES
Child Protective Services (CPS) has the flexibility to apply the response that best matches the needs of the families. La Crosse County CPS utilizes two approaches: Traditional Response and Alternative Response.
When there is a serious and immediate risk of harm to children, CPS responds with a Traditional Investigation. Once an investigation is completed, the social worker must decide if the child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected. If the social worker finds that child abuse or neglect did not occur, the report is "unsubstantiated". If the social worker finds that child abuse or neglect did occur, the case is "substantiated".
When a child is not in immediate danger, an Alternative Response (AR) is used. With Alternative Response, the goal is to help families get needed services, supports, and other help that will resolve concerns and stressors often associated with allegations of child maltreatment. Once an assessment has been completed, a case decision is made. There are two decisions that can be made: Services Not Needed and the case is closed or Services Needed and the family will receive ongoing services through the Department.
For more information regarding the Alternative Response approach in Wisconsin, please visit the Department of Children and Families website.
WILL THE CHILD BE REMOVED FROM THEIR FAMILY?
Human Services strives to keep families together. We serve most children and families in the family home. Court action is necessary whenever a child is removed from the parental home.
In removal situations, Human Service actions are guided by Wisconsin State Statutes. 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?
You will receive follow up correspondence if you are a mandated reporter. Mandated reporters are professionals who are required by law to report suspected abuse and neglect of any child they see while in the course of their professional duties. The follow up letter will provide basic information about the intervention as state law provides for family confidentiality. The social worker will not send you a letter if you are a non-mandated reporter as state law prohibits this breach of family confidentiality.
Persons Required to Report Abuse & Neglect are Physicians, Coroners, Medical Examiners, Nurses, Dentists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Optometrists, Day Care Providers, Chemical Dependency Counselors, Marriage/Family Therapists, Professional Counselors, Physical Therapist, including PT assistants, Occupational Therapists, Dietitians, Speech Therapists, Audiologists, EMTs/Paramedics, Social/Public Assistance Workers as defined under 49.141 (1) (d), School Administrators, Teachers/Counselors, Police/Law Enforcement Officers, Mediators under s.767.11, a child care worker in a child care center, group home or residential care center for children and youth, a child care provider, a member of a treatment staff employed by or working under contract with a county department or a residential care center for children and youth, Court-appointed special advocates (CASA).
For more information regarding mandated reporters, please read the State of Wisconsin Statute 48.981(2).
back to top
Becoming a Foster Parent or Relative Care Provider
A foster home cares for a child or children, temporarily, who need a safe, stable and nurturing place to live when the parents/guardians are unable to meet the needs of the child/ren. The length of the child's stay in foster care is dependent upon the progress made by parents to address the problems that lead to placement. Foster parents become licensed after a thorough home study is completed. Home studies include criminal and other background checks, verification of good health, references, interviews with a social worker, and inspection of the physical layout of the home. To ensure that an individual or couple is well suited to providing foster care, an in-depth assessment of the applicants' history, parenting practices and/or expectations, supportive relationships, and employment are among the areas explored through interviews and questionnaires.
To be licensed as a foster parent, an adult caring for a foster child must:
Foster parents play a central and valuable role in the child welfare system. Their primary task is to provide temporary care that is nurturing and supportive until plans can be made for the child's permanent living arrangement. In addition, foster parents are expected to:
Additionally, the State of Wisconsin Foster Parent Handbook provides foster parents with basic information about working with the child welfare system while caring for children requiring foster care.
Fostering a child or children who cannot safely live with parents or other family members is a challenging, but rewarding job. To learn about becoming a foster parent, respite home or other ways you can help children in need, please contact Rhonda Rude @ 608 789-4834. Rhonda will share when the next foster parent orientation meeting will be held, which is required for both respite and foster care. Orientations are held monthly at the La Crosse County Human Services offices, 300 4th Street, N., La Crosse.
Is Foster Care for Me?
The following questions can help you decide whether foster parenting is the right fit for you and your family.
What is a Respite Home?
A respite home provides short-term care to a child or children on weekends, evenings, or as needed to give foster parents or birth parents a break. A respite provider becomes "certified" if, after criminal background checks and home visits have been completed, a social worker recommends certification. Respite homes are not eligible to provide ongoing foster care which requires a much more thorough and intensive study process. Licensed foster homes are able to provide respite without going through the respite certification process, however.
These homes typically provide care in 1 to 2 day increments although, in special situations, may go up to 14 days.
To support our foster homes and provide breaks from care giving, respite care is offered to La Crosse County foster parents who are caring for foster children.
Other Ways to Help Children in Foster Care
We understand that not everyone is ready to become a foster parent, but there are many other ways that you, your business, church or service organization can help children in foster care and foster parents in your community.
Kinship provides financial assistance to adults who are caring for child relatives or step-children. The adult caregiver is eligible for Kinship if they are the child's step-parent, brother, sister, step-brother, step-sister, first cousin, nephew, niece, aunt, uncle, or any person of a preceding generation as denoted by the prefix of grand, great, or great-great, whether by blood or marriage or legal adoption, or the spouse of any person mentioned, even if the marriage is terminated by death or divorce.
Approved Kinship relatives are eligible for a monthly Kinship grant, pending availability of funding, to assist in the care of the child(ren.)
For more information about the Kinship Care Program visit the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families website.
To access the Kinship Care Payment Application, ask for the Kinship Coordinator at (608) 784-4357 or visit here.
Types of Foster Homes Licensed by La Crosse County
Emergency Foster Homes:
Emergency foster homes take turns being on-call 24 hours per day to accept placement of children who require removal from their home due to alleged child abuse and/or neglect concerns. Emergency homes help to decide when and for how long they will be on-call, but two homes are on-call at all times to care for two different age groups: 0 to 5 years and 6 to 12 years of age. Children over 12 years of age requiring placement for protection reasons are sometimes accepted for placement by the home covering 6 to 12 year olds. When the on-call Child Protection social worker is paged by law enforcement after-hours and on weekends, the social worker calls the on-call emergency home directly to notify them of the pending placement.
If placement of a child or sibling group is necessary during office hours, the placement may be diverted from emergency care to maintain openings for after-hours placement needs.
While a child is placed in emergency foster care, the Child Protection social worker assesses the ability to safely reunite the child with the parent(s) or place with appropriate relatives. If it is not possible to reunite the child with parents or relatives, the social worker will seek an on-going foster care placement. Placements in emergency foster homes do not generally exceed 60 days.
Ongoing Foster Homes:
La Crosse County Human Services licenses foster homes in all corners of the county. Foster homes are in rural and urban settings and vary regarding the child population served, based on the skill set and preference of the foster parents. An "ongoing" foster home takes placement of a child or children with the expectation that the children placed will remain in the home for as long as is needed, which can become months and even years in rare cases. Because the agency works first and foremost to reunite children with their parents, it is necessary that foster parents are willing to work collaboratively with the agency, birth parents and sometimes other relatives of the children placed in their home. Foster parents assist birth families by cooperating with child and family visiting schedules, including transporting to and from visits, and sometimes supervising those visits between the child and parents.
While child welfare agencies strive to minimize the number of foster home placements a child must endure, sometimes foster placements end due to the needs of the child, the foster family, or both. Foster parents always maintain the right to request a child's removal when warranted, but it is hoped that such moves can be avoided by identifying problems early on, and seeking assistance from the social workers and other members of the treatment team.
Matching a child with an ongoing home involves a meeting between the family's social worker and the unit that licenses foster homes, the Permanency Resource Unit. The social worker discusses the strengths and needs of the child, educational placement and needs, the child-family visitation schedule and other variables concerning the child/family. The social workers attempt to "match" the child with the most appropriate foster family.
Once a placement match has been established, a Permanency Resource Unit worker contacts the prospective foster family and discusses the child and identified needs of the child/family. Emergency foster parent(s) are often encouraged to contact the selected ongoing foster family to exchange information about the child(ren). When possible, pre-placement visits are facilitated. In some cases, the social worker introduces the birth parent(s) to the new foster family prior to placement.
Within the first thirty days of the placement an assessment of the child will occur in accordance with the supplemental/exceptional rate setting guidelines. The foster parents, the Permanency Resource Unit social worker and the social worker for the child/family will meet as a team and complete the assessment. This assessment is used in determining the monthly foster care rate paid to the foster family, as well as the amount of respite that will be available for the foster family's use.
Concurrent Foster Homes:
Homes willing to consider adoption of children placed in their care are called "Legal-Risk" or "Concurrent" homes. The term "legal-risk" is sometimes used because the legal outcome for the child is unknown early on in the case. The foster parents must be prepared for both the child's return to parents, as well as the possibility that the child might be free for adoption one day.
All children in foster care must have individualized, written plans that identify options for the child's permanent living arrangements. These plans are called "Permanency Plans." In 1997, the federal government began requiring that plans have "concurrent goals", meaning the agency must prepare, simultaneously, for more than one possible, permanent living situation for the child. Most children have Permanency Plans identifying "Reunification" with parents as one goal, while a second (concurrent) goal might be "Guardianship with a Relative" or "Adoption." The agency is expected to be working toward both goals at the same time so children don't languish in foster care.
Like other ongoing foster homes, concurrent or legal-risk homes are expected to cooperate with the social workers and follow the case plan, including supporting child-family visits.
Sometimes newborns and infants are placed directly into concurrent homes to avoid multiple moves. Parent-child visits can be daily and, when possible, occur in the foster home.
Foster Parent Training
Pre-Placement training is designed to provide information to couples and singles considering foster care licensure. There are two, two-hour sessions: Orientation and Pre-Placement. These sessions are required by the State of Wisconsin, and are the entry-way into the licensure process. Applications for licensure are provided to those who attend the Orientation session.
Topics cover three main categories: 1) Agency Systems, Laws and Process, 2) System Expectations of Foster Parents, and 3) Information Needed by Foster Parents. A variety of issues are explored within these areas, such as the goals of the child welfare system, roles and responsibilities, nurturing care and discipline, confidentiality, maintaining family connectedness, culture, and child development.
To register for this training course call Rhonda Rude at 789-4834 or email.
"Foundations" is a required training curriculum for licensed foster parents and it must be completed within the first two years of licensure. The Foundations curriculum consists of eight sessions which are each three to four hours in length (for a total of twenty eight hours). The sessions are taught by social workers and foster parents to provide a realistic taste of the issues that arise when fostering children and youth who have experienced trauma through abuse, neglect,
Those interested in signing up for the next Foundations cycle should call Rhonda Rude at 789-4834 or email.
For additional information on Foundations training, visit the Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System website.
Pathways to Trauma-Informed Parenting Training
Pathways to Trauma-Informed Parenting Training is a twenty hour training held on eight week-nights, or five Saturdays. Participants learn of the impact adverse childhood experiences have on children. Children who are exposed to domestic violence, physical abuse, neglect or other traumatic experiences can be impacted in lasting ways that are discussed. Participants will learn skills and strategies around helping these children to feel safe while also learning parenting techniques that best respond to the child’s emotional needs.
This two-and-a-half hour training is required for all licensed foster parents and is designed to teach the expectations and requirements around keeping private their foster child's personal and family information and circumstances. An emphasis is placed on the sensitivity and ethical responsibilities we have to protect the child and family's information, while respecting the dignity of children and families served. Strategies to avoid challenging social situations are also explored in this training.
Newly licensed homes should attend this training within the first year of licensure to ensure that the laws and penalties around confidentiality are understood.
Please email or call Rhonda Rude at 789-4834 to find out when the next session is being offered and to sign up for this training.
All La Crosse County foster parents are required to complete at least 12 hours of ongoing training per calendar year. At least four hours of training must be earned through attendance and participation at in-house trainings. La Crosse County Human Services Department provides generalized foster parent trainings several times per year. Training hours may also be earned from outside sources but must be pre-approved and verifiable (foster parents must provide a copy of the training certificate and/or pamphlet or agenda from the training.)
Foster parents can also earn training credit from reading books or watching videos that are relevant and directly related to foster care. La Crosse County Human Services has a resource library which foster parents can access to check out training materials. Foster parents can earn up to a total of two training hours for reading books (1/2 hour of training credit per book) or watching videos (1 hour of training credit per video) and must submit a brief summary describing what they learned from the book or video and how they can apply that to the care they provide.
Although foster parents may not be required to participate in any training beyond the minimum requirements, La Crosse County Human Services strongly encourages all foster parents to participate in as much training as possible to increase their overall knowledge and skill level. Foster parenting has become an increasingly complex and demanding responsibility and in order to meet these challenges, foster parents must increase their knowledge and skills to adequately care for the children placed in their home.
Support for Foster Parents
La Crosse County Permanency Resource Unit
La Crosse County Human Service Department maintains a Permanency Resource Unit whose primary function is to recruit, license, supervise and support general foster parents and relative caregivers. The unit consists of six full time social workers. One social worker is responsible for licensing new, general foster homes, two social workers provide ongoing support and assistance to the general foster parents, and three social workers focus on searching for, assessing and supporting licensed, relative caregivers. Three support staff assist the unit in providing these, and other, services.
Foster Parent Handbook
The Foster Parent Handbook, created by the Wisconsin Foster Care and Adoption Resource Center, is intended to give basic information about foster care in Wisconsin to newly-licensed foster parents and to serve as a refresher for experienced foster parents. In it, foster parents will find an overview of the foster care program, information about what is expected of foster parents, a discussion about the care of children in foster care, and an explanation of the critical need to work cooperatively with birth families. An emphasis is made on the importance of foster family self-care. This handbook also provides additional tools and resource lists if foster parents want to learn more about a specific topic.
State of Wisconsin websites:
back to top
Information on MyWIChildCare EBT Payment System:
Finding Out About More Child and Youth Services
Children With Disabilities
La Crosse County Services: A number of services are available for children/youth with Physical Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities, or Autism Spectrum disorders. Additional information on how to access services can be obtained by contacting the La Crosse County Human Services Department at 608-784-HELP (4357).
Children's Long Term Service Waiver
Supports and services provided to support children with disabilities who have long-term support needs at home and in the community. La Crosse County social workers provide comprehensive assessments and service facilitation for families of children with disabilities. Individuals are connected with appropriate supporting services based upon the individual assessment and service plan. Some programs have waitlists.
Autism Treatment Services became Medical Assistance “card services” in 2016. Families may directly contact an Autism Treatment Provider in the area to discuss their child’s needs. The provider will complete the Medical Assistance Prior Authorization process to ascertain if the child is eligible and can benefit from treatment. Families may also be eligible for long term support services listed above through the Children’s Long Term Support Waiver.
Birth To Three
An early intervention program that is a family focused program for children ages birth to three years old with a significant medical diagnosis or developmental delays. The program provides developmental screenings and evaluations along with services specific to the child which may include Early Childhood Education, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech.
Children's Community Options Program
The Children's Community Options Program (CCOP) provides families with a coordinated set of strategies to assist them in the provision of support and guidance to their child with a disability while living at home. Support and funding up to $3,000 annually is based on identified needs to achieve prioritized child and family centered. Examples of goods and services that could be covered with CCOP funding include home modifications, home training and parent courses, respite care, vehicle modification, and specialized nutrition and clothing.
Mental Health Services for Children
Mobile Crisis Emergency Services
Comprehensive Community Services (CCS)
Moderate intensity mental health and/or substance use outpatient program for adults or children/youth. Service facilitators work with the consumer to identify a Recovery Team from their formal and natural support systems. The consumer identifies their goals, and is a part of the process of designing a plan of services from a network of providers to help them achieve their goals. Coordinated Services Team (CST) approach (more intense) available for children involved in multiple systems of care who are at risk for out-of-home care and/or for children involved with Child Protection or Juvenile Justice systems. CCS Program Informational Guide
Services for Children With Behavioral Issues or Who Have Committed a Crime
If a child is out of control, and a parent(s) is in need of assistance, they have several options. Parent(s) may look into services through various agencies throughout the community including but not limited to, individual counseling, family counseling, group programs, psychiatry (medication), etc. For a complete list of local services see Great Rivers 2-1-1.
Should outside professional help prove not effective, parent(s) may contact Human Services and request assistance in seeing a social worker to determine if their situation meets state law and County requirements/criteria for JIPS (Juvenile in Need of Protection and Services) jurisdiction. Court proceedings could take place and a parent(s) would need to be willing to sign a petition to the facts that meet the requirements/criteria for JIPS jurisdiction. Should a Judge find that the youth is in need of protection or services, the youth will be placed on JIPS Supervision, and a social worker will manage the case and arrange services for the youth and family to best meet their needs. The social worker will also have the ability to hold the youth accountable for not following the court's JIPS order.
Further, if a juvenile's behavior leads to being charged with a crime the youth may enter the Juvenile Justice System either through Juvenile Detention if the charge warrants detention for the protection of the community or through a Referral from the police department. Either way the juvenile will meet with a Social Worker from La Crosse County's Juvenile Justice Unit to determine the proper course of action (closure of case, deferred prosecution agreement, or further court involvement). For more information, visit the Juvenile Supervision portion of this website.
Services for Former Foster Youth Who Are 18 or Over and Living On Their Own
The federal John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Act of 1999 outlines requirements and provides funding to help identify and meet the needs of youth in out-of-home care, court ordered placements who are likely to age out of care at age 18 or older and those that age out of care up to age 21. As of January 1, 2016, services for La Crosse County youth within this population are administered by the Wisconsin Department of Children & Families (DCF) through a contract with Family & Children's Center. Support to eligible adults ages 18 – 23 may include the following:
Education & Training Voucher Program
To get additional information or apply for any of these benefits, contact Family & Children's Center at 608-785-0001 and ask to speak with the Independent Living Coordinator.
Each applicant must complete the DCF Scholarship Application for Youth in Out-of-Home Care which is located on the DCF website at the following link: (CFS-2197). Eligibility for the program and instructions for completion and submission of the application are contained within the form. Also contained in the form is the name and contact information for DCF staff who can help you with any questions you may have about the scholarship program.
back to top
|Human Services Section Web Pages|
|La Crosse County Human Services Department 300 4th Street North La Crosse, WI 54601 608-784-HELP (4357)|
La Crosse County website