Children & the Law Section Blog | Children & the Law Section

This blog discusses information of interest to attorneys who represent various parties, including children, parents, and grandparents, as well as agencies that serve children. Published by the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Children & the Law Section, articles include those on changes in the statutes, important appellate and Supreme Court decisions, and family law, juvenile delinquency and child welfare proceedings.

Section members include judges, court commissioners, prosecutors, guardians ad litem, agency attorneys, and private practice attorneys. The practice areas of the section members include family, juvenile delinquency and child welfare proceedings. The section has an email list, monitors and proposes legislation, produces CLE programs, and publishes a newsletter.

Members of the State Bar of Wisconsin may join the section by visiting https://www.wisbar.org/formembers/groups/pages/join-a-group.aspx (login required).

Section website: https://www.wisbar.org/formembers/groups/sections/ChildrenandtheLawSection/pages/home.aspx


In the past few years, there has been a reckoning nationwide as to the history of racial injustice and its continued effects on people of color. The murder of George Floyd and countless other Black people by police has reinvigorated a national discussion of racial injustice in the U.S. One only needs to observe one day in a Wisconsin courtroom to see racial disparity in stark reality. As a youth defense attorney in northeast Wisconsin for the past
Continue Reading We Need to Recognize the Implicit Bias in Wisconsin’s Youth Justice System

Youth justice advocates have been on a rollercoaster the past several years, waiting to see if the promised changes to juvenile correctional facilities, such as closing Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake and opening one or more new facilities, will happen. While the number of children being held at Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake has declined, there are still troubling issues with the facilities, including staffing shortages and the fact that most of the children are hours away from their
Continue Reading Youth Justice Reform: Progress in Replacing Lincoln Hills is Much-Needed Step Forward

The sudden emergence of the COVID-19 virus in early 2020 left families around the world with questions about how to best protect themselves. The development and ultimate approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for children  has created an additional layer of uncertainty for many families when they do not agree on whether to vaccinate their children against COVID. This decision implicates the joint legal custody decisions, since it involves medical decision-making for the child. In Wisconsin In Wisconsin, when parents
Continue Reading Vaccines for Children and the Role of the GAL

The Family First Prevention Services Act of 2018 was signed into law in an effort to induce a dramatic shift in child welfare goals toward prevention and family preservation.1 Although Wisconsin deferred implementation until Oct. 1, 2021, the prevention services and appropriate placement model is now in full effect in the state.2 The child welfare system’s reconceptualization focuses on changing from reaction to abuse and neglect, to connection with services for families at risk of entering the
Continue Reading Family First and Qualified Residential Treatment Programs

In recent years, further research into mental health and the continued efforts to destigmatize mental illness have contributed to an increase in access to resources for mental health information and treatments. These resources become increasingly important in providing children with mental and behavioral illnesses with the services they need to thrive, as these illnesses are developing earlier and at increasing rates in children. More Diagnoses Each Year Mental, behavioral, and developmental disorders in children begin developing in the early
Continue Reading Mental Health Resources for Children in Wisconsin

The spread of COVID-19 in early 2020 initiated a major shift in how people interacted with one another. What once took place in person moved online, and for some, the change was nice. Showing up virtually to work or school provided a getaway from the hassles of getting ready or commuting. While the push to an almost all-virtual way of living may have provided some with a reprieve from the stresses of everyday life, for others it made life
Continue Reading Due Process Rights in the Era of Video Proceedings

The Milwaukee County Accountability Program (MCAP)started in 2012 as a diversion program to rehabilitate juveniles in the court system. Male youth (ages 13 to 16½) charged with delinquency cases who were at risk of being sent to the Department of Youth Corrections could be court ordered to MCAP as a postdispositional placement.1 This one-year program consisted of an out-of-home placement and an in-home placement with the supervision of the parent or guardian. Participating youth had been adjudicated delinquent
Continue Reading From a Juvenile’s Perspective: How Effective is the Milwaukee County Accountability Program?

In re The Marriage of Valadez, an ongoing divorce case in Waukesha County, has been the subject of consternation on both the part of legal journalists and members of the Wisconsin family law b​ar (notably for entirely different reasons).

The battle in the courtroom is ongoing, with the Wisconsin District 2 Court of Appeals ruling in February 2022 on three separate contempt findings issued by the trial judge, who thereafter
recused himself from the case.
The Case
Continue Reading A Reminder from Family Court: Domestic Violence Affects Children

​One of the mainstays of President Donald Trump’s administration’s policies was a crackdown on immigration. This objective manifested in the “zero tolerance” policy, which encouraged attorneys to prosecute adults in federal court for crossing the border illegally.

Federal prosecutions then often required separation of the migrant from their families. Because entering the U.S. without proper documentation is a misdemeanor, it was not commonly prosecuted in federal court. Attorneys used to be given discretion to bring the case in federal
Continue Reading U.S. Immigration Policy and Migrant Family Separation

An estimated 35,000 youth in Wisconsin identify as belonging to the LGBTQ population. Given that this statistic comes from self-reported data, it is likely the number is even higher, as not everyone may feel ready or comfortable identifying themselves as such.

While courts are becoming more open to expert testimony regarding LGBTQ issues, a knowledge gap exists among legal practitioners and judges that requires closing. In particular, understanding the needs of transgender, nonbinary, and intersex youth may be challenging
Continue Reading LGBTQ Youth Need You to Educate Courts on Their Unique Issues

Attorneys who practice law in the child welfare system play a variety of roles – agency representation, guardian ad litem or youth attorney, parent attorney, judicial officer – but one thing is almost certain: they will have some level of interaction with parents of the children involved in their cases. How much value is given to a parent’s perspective or input may vary greatly, but hearing that voice is a vital part to child welfare transformation. While Wisconsin works
Continue Reading Incorporating Lived Experience in Wisconsin’s Child Welfare System

As it stands, Wisconsin has no training requirements for those who volunteer and are appointed as a guardian, but a bill currently before the Wisconsin Legislature may change that.

Senate Bill 92 proposes a list of requirements and training that a potential guardian must go through before taking guardianship.

Over time, it has become clear that some guardians can lack the adequate knowledge and or resources necessary for effectively carrying out their role. It is of vital importance to
Continue Reading The Proposed Guardian Training Requirement: Consequences for Petitioners

On April 6, 2021, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its
decision in
Brackeen v. Haaland
, an appeal from the District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The case challenged the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and the validity of regulations promulgated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA).This article provides an overview of ICWA, the constitutional challenges presented in
Brackeen, a summary of the Fifth Circuit’s decision, and the decision’s practical implications.Background:
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit: Indian Child Welfare Act Is Constitutional

A 2018 case studyconducted by the American Bar Association’s Center on Children reported that there are 70 million children under the age of 18.1 Within this total, about 18.2 million children under the age of 18 live with at least one immigrant parent. Most of these children already live in family units with members who are U.S. Citizens, Lawful Permanent Residents, have some other lawful status, or do not have lawful status altogether.

Because of the huge number
Continue Reading On the Bias Against Immigrant Caregivers in the Child Welfare System

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), signed into law in 2018, is a drastic overhaul of the current child welfare system.

FFPSA was part of the Bipartisan Budget Act allowing states to use federal funding to help keep families together and avoid out of home foster care placement entirely. Specifically, the legislation changes the way that Title IV-E funds can be spent by states, by allowing funds to be used for prevention services that help keep children
Continue Reading Foster Care: 15 Months Not Often Enough for Family Reunification

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is.
This is a quotation attributed to famous New York Yankee catcher and renowned wordsmith Yogi Berra.

New lawyers quickly become familiar with the truth of this quote – while the law as written may paint one picture of how a case might proceed in court, the practice between different states, different counties, and even different courtrooms in the same courthouse can differ drastically.

The difference
Continue Reading Judicial Engagement Teams Make a Difference in Child Welfare Cases