Wood County DHS v. P.R., 2020AP947, 6/24/21, District 4 (one-judge decision; ineligible for publication); case activity

P.R. unsuccessfully challenges the sufficiency of the evidence for the CHIPS court’s decision to remove her daughter, K., from her home after K. alleged that P.R.’s spouse, M.R., sexually assaulted her.

In a CHIPS case, a circuit court may order a child to be placed outside the parent’s home only if the court finds that not doing so would be contrary to the best interests of the child and that reasonable efforts have been made to prevent removal, see § 48.355(2)(b)6. The circuit court in this case properly exercised its discretion in finding those two conditions were met:

¶19     The circuit court considered the evidence regarding the child’s best interests and found that placement with P.R. would be contrary to the child’s welfare. That finding is supported by the evidence related above that P.R. could not protect the child because P.R. did not believe the child’s reports that she was abused by M.R; P.R. continued an ongoing personal relationship with M.R. even after he was incarcerated in connection with criminal charges based on his alleged sexual abuse of the child; M.R. continued to exercise control over P.R.; P.R. had the potential to, at M.R.’s direction, influence the child’s testimony in the criminal case against M.R.

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¶27     The circuit court’s finding that the Department made reasonable efforts to prevent the removal of the child from her home is also supported by ample evidence in the record. The Department offered three possible plans to P.R. that would allow her to protect the child and maintain physical placement: P.R. and the child would either move to a new residence together away from M.R., move to a shelter together away from M.R., or stay in their apartment provided that there would be no contact with M.R. In addition, evidence was presented, through testimony and through the Department’s report, as to each of the five factors in Wis. Stat. § 48.355(2c)(a) that a circuit court must consider in determining whether reasonable efforts were made to prevent removal ….