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 (login required).

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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

In 1995, the Wisconsin Legislature undertook a significant change and developed the Juvenile Justice Code under Wis. Stat. chapter 938. In doing so, it determined that there should still be a mechanism – a reverse waiver proceeding – to return youth to the juvenile justice system, including for the most serious of offenses.

Wis. Stat. section 938.183 provides for five separate categories in which a child is to be treated automatically as an adult. These include children accused of
Continue Reading A More Child-centric Decision: Start in Juvenile Court

As a circuit court judge in the Dane County juvenile division for the last five years, Judge Everett Mitchell has seen many children come through his courtroom as victims of abuse and neglect, as juveniles accused of delinquency, and later as adults accused of a crime.

Now, as the presiding judge of the juvenile division, he wants to address systemic issues he witnesses, including the “child welfare to juvenile delinquency to adult prison pipeline,” as he calls it.
Continue Reading Countering the Child Welfare to Juvenile Delinquency to Adult Prison Pipeline

The same growing body of research cited by Justice Anthony Kennedy in Roper v. Simmons – the U.S. Supreme Court decision banning the death penalty for young people under 18 – is inspiring juvenile law practitioners, youth advocates, and local courts to take a closer look at emerging adults – those ranging in age from 17 to 24.

In September 2020, the Juvenile Law Center released a report, Rethinking Justice for Emerging Adults: Spotlight on the Great Lakes Region
Continue Reading ‘Raise the Age’ in Wisconsin: Brown County Initiates Young Adult Specialty Court

On Feb. 5, 2020, 2019 Wisconsin Act 92 was signed into law. It made two simple, but noteworthy, changes to the eligibility requirements for adoptive parents applying for adoption assistance.

The first change reduces the minimum age of a child from 10 years of age to 7 years of age if age is the only factor used in determining eligibility for adoption assistance. The second change reduces the size of a group of siblings that must be placed together
Continue Reading Adoption Assistance under 2019 Wisconsin Act 92