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

Interested in advocating for racial justice for youth? Want to challenge indiscriminate shackling? Wondering how to serve dual status youth? Want to figure out ways that defense attorneys and prosecutors may work together on behalf of our youth? The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is there as a resource. About the National Juvenile Defender Center The National Juvenile Defender Center, according to its website, “is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting justice for all children by ensuring excellence in juvenile defense. Through community building, training, and policy reform, it provides national leadership on juvenile defense issues with a focus on…
Technology benefits the world in thousands of ways. It provides a means of connection and communication, allows us to find answers to nearly any question, gives us the ability to work remotely and stay up-to-date with every current event in the news and with our friends and family. Social media offers different platforms that children of all ages can use and even earn money from. One 7 year old made over $22 million in 2018 by reviewing toys on YouTube. Numerous other children have ‘gone viral’ for creating dances, reviewing food and beverages, and just being really, really adorable. However,…
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are traumatic events that occur in a person’s childhood. These events include: experiencing violence, abuse, or neglect; witnessing violence in their home or community; or having a family member attempt or die by suicide.1 Also included are aspects of a child’s environment that may undermine their sense of safety and stability, such as growing up in household with substance abuse, with a family member who has mental health issues, or experiencing home instability due to parental separation. A person’s ACEs score is determined by how…
Previously in this blog, Beth Lauck wrote the first part of a two-part series on the substantive changes in Wisconsin’s new guardianship law, effective Aug. 1, 2020. As she detailed, there are four new guardianship types, each with different legal burdens, different transferred duties, and differences in whether the guardianship is until age 18, or some other timeline. Courtney L.A. Roelandts, Marquette 2018, is a staff attorney in the Guardian ad Litem Division of the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, where she represents children in guardianships, CHIPS, and TPR proceedings. There are also notable changes to nominations, review of conduct…
On Feb. 28, 2020, Governor Tony Evers signed AB 47 – now 2019 Wisconsin Act 109 – into law, which moves private guardianships of the child from chapter 54 to chapter 48, the Children’s Code, and expands the types of private minor guardianships available to better meet the needs of children and families. The new law takes effect Aug. 1, 2020. The Children and the Law Section legislation committee helped draft the legislation and the section supported the bipartisan bill. The Need for Private Minor Guardianships One in 11 children today will be raised by someone other than a parent…
April is National Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Month, which urges communities to work together to prevent child abuse and neglect and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families. However, due to the circumstances caused by COVID-19, many experts fear that child abuse will increase, despite seeing a decrease in reports during the month of March. On March 12, Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order declaring a public health emergency due to the rise of COVID-19 cases in Wisconsin. The following day, he ordered all schools to close within the week. Later in…
In May 2019, the Children & the Law Section sent a request to the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors (BOG) Policy Committee requesting a BOG position against the presumption of juvenile shackling. This section highlighted that indiscriminate shackling of youth unnecessarily humiliates, stigmatizes, and traumatizes them. The section noted that data from all over the country shows that shackling is not necessary to maintain courtroom safety, and thus, the constitutional and psychological implications of shackling tip the scales in favor of ending the practice of indiscriminate shackling of children in court. For these reasons, it seemed clear that…
Nationwide, the child welfare community continues to develop procedures to prevent “unnecessary family disruption,” to prevent “maltreatment and the unnecessary removal of children from their families,” and to decrease the children involved in the system.1 Recently, one of the most significant parts of this movement has been to provide high quality legal representation for parents.2 This may be surprising, but the recent evidence supports legal representation for parents. The Wisconsin legal community can strengthen families by providing, training, and supporting attorneys for parents involved in the child welfare system. Pilot Programs in Wisconsin In the child welfare system…
In the past couple of decades, there has been an increase in studies regarding the cognitive development of adolescents convicted of crimes. The reason behind the idea that “children are different from adults,” and therefore need to be treated differently regarding sentencing, is because children and young adults are developmentally different – they are “less mature, more impulsive, more susceptible to various external pressures, and have reduced decision-making abilities.”1 Differences: Age 25 Is Important Researchers argue that an adolescent’s brain is not fully developed until after the age of 18 – and perhaps even as late as age 25.…
When children find themselves thrust into the court system, whether it is through family court, children’s court, or some other avenue, many times there is underlying trauma that led them there. By educating guardians ad litem (GAL) on what childhood trauma is and how best to approach children suffering from high adverse childhood experience (ACE) scores, we can attempt to provide appropriate services and assistance to the child in order to act in their best interest. Defining Trauma-informed Care According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma…
There are multiple efforts underway in the Wisconsin Legislature to study and reform Wisconsin’s termination of parental rights (TPR) and adoption systems, including two bills in the Legislature and a task force on adoption. Two Bills Two pending bills – 2019 Senate Bill 232 and 2019 Assembly Bill 263 – propose a complete overhaul of our TPR and adoption statutory schemes. In particular, the bills propose: eliminating TPR jury trials; combining fact-finding and disposition hearings; providing a method of consenting to a TPR outside of court for both birth fathers and birth mothers, and the consents would become irrevocable upon…
Attorneys who represent children and families involved in the child welfare system face many challenges when advocating for the interests of their clients. The children, parents, and relatives in these cases may be predominantly minority, live in poverty, and face disproportionate rates of incarceration. Attorneys representing families involved in the child protection services system need to be aware of and sensitive to the unique issues and needs their clients struggle with. Milwaukee 53206 The award-winning documentary, Milwaukee 53206, brings to the forefront the struggles facing families living in the ZIP code area that incarcerates the highest percentage of black…