Children's Court Improvement Program
In 1995, the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Director of State Courts Office applied for and received grant funding under the federal Court Improvement Program (CIP) to improve the handling of child abuse and neglect, termination of parental rights and adoption cases in the court system. The highest court of appeal in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico currently participate in the program administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau.
Use the bookmarks below to explore the Children's Court Improvement Program:
- CCIP E-Learning Project
- Children in Court: In Their Own Words video
- Wisconsin Commission on Children, Families and the Courts
- Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act
- The Clock Is Ticking: Making Permanency Hearings Meaningful training materials
- Guardian ad Litem oversight resources
- Children's Court Initiative
- Confidentiality Project
- Related sites
- Contact information
The CCIP E-Learning Project is an online, self-directed training resource that provides information on key court hearings in child welfare cases, including statutory requirements, applicable case law, and practice suggestions. The CCIP E-Learning Project can be accessed by going to www.wicciptraining.com.
In this eight-minute video, entitled Children in Court: In Their Own Words, ten young adults who were placed in foster care as children reflect on their experiences in court. View the video.
The mission of the Wisconsin Commission on Children, Families and the Courts is to identify and address barriers to safety, permanency, and child and family well-being within the judicial, legal and child welfare systems. This multi-disciplinary Commission fulfills the funding requirement of the federal Children's Court Improvement Program by demonstrating meaningful, ongoing collaboration among courts, child welfare agencies, and tribes. The Commission currently meets semi-annually and has had a total of four subcommittees since its inception. View the committee membership list.
Child Safety Decision-Making Subcommittee
In May 2014, the Child Safety Decision-Making Subcommittee was convened to make recommendations related to the development of policy, resource materials, statutory changes, and training curricula related to child safety. The Subcommittee is charged with educating child welfare, court, and legal professionals on child safety, creating a common language across disciplines, and implementing consistent child safety practices across the state of Wisconsin. This multi-disciplinary group is comprised of state, county, and tribal representatives working in the child welfare and court systems.
Out-of-Home Care and Education Subcommittee
The purpose of the Out-of-Home Care and Education Subcommittee was to heighten judicial awareness of the educational challenges faced by children and youth in out-of-home care and to develop strategies and resources for how courts can help improve educational services through effective judicial oversight. The subcommittee created a checklist on educational stability (revised January 2012).
This checklist highlights questions that the court should ask case participants related to key areas of the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) in child in need of protection or services, juvenile in need of protection or services, termination of parental rights, guardianship, and adoption proceedings.
Continuous Quality Improvement
The Children's Court Improvement Program developed the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) Continuous Quality Improvement project in an effort to improve adherence to WICWA requirements in the circuit court and county child welfare systems, including use of qualified expert witnesses, providing notice, documentation of active efforts, and compliance with placement preferences in CHIPS, JIPS, TPR, guardianship, and adoption cases. In addition, the project aims to increase collaboration and cooperation among the circuit courts, tribes, county child welfare agencies, attorneys, and other stakeholders. In 2013–2014, CCIP staff conducted onsite reviews for the WICWA Continuous Quality Improvement project in eight counties: Shawano County, Milwaukee County, Bayfield County, Jackson County, Forest County, Brown County, Vilas County and Burnett County. The information containing in the summary report compiles the findings from the court file reviews, focus groups, and surveys that occurred as part of these eight onsite reviews.
The Clocking is Ticking: Making Permanency Hearings Meaningful, a three-hour training curriculum, was developed by the Children's Court Improvement Program to promote effective and qualitative permanency hearings, encourage youth participation in court proceedings, and to identify strategies to achieve timely permanence for children in foster care. Attached are materials distributed at the training sessions. The following documents are all in PDF format.
- Judicial checklist - permanency hearing
- Permanency hearing summary sheet
- American Bar Association judicial bench cards for youth participation:
- Engaging young children (ages 0-12 months) in the courtroom
- Engagement toddlers (ages 1-3) and preschoolers (ages 3-5) in the courtroom
- Engaging school-age children (ages 5-11) in the courtroom
- Engaging adolescents (ages 12-15) in the courtroom
- Engaging older adolescents (ages 16+) in the courtroom
- Additional resources list
The Committee of Chief Judges and District Court Administrators convened a subcommittee to identify best practices and develop resources to assist circuit court judges as they oversee guardians ad litem appointed under the Wisconsin Children's Code (Chapter 48) or Juvenile Justice Code (Chapter 938). The issue of judicial oversight of guardian ad litem performance was raised as a result of findings from Children's Court Initiative reviews.
The following documents were created by the subcommittee and approved by the Chief Judges on November 23, 2009. Use of the following resources is voluntary and any document may be amended to reflect local practice, with the exception of the standard court forms which may not be modified.
- Guardian ad Litem Oversight Subcommittee Recommendations Memorandum
- Statement of Guardian ad Litem (Chapters 48 and 938) (JD-1799): Word | PDF
- Order Appointing Guardian ad Litem or Attorney (Chapters 48 and 938) (JD-1798): Word | PDF
- Sample Judge's Colloquy with Guardians ad Litem
- Minimum Statutory Expectations for Guardians ad Litem
- Sample Additional Guardian ad Litem Requirements
- Sample Guardian ad Litem Memorandum of Understanding
- Sample Guardian ad Litem Evaluation for Professionals
- Sample Guardian ad Litem Evaluation for Parents and Caregivers
The mission of the Children's Court Initiative (CCI) is to assist the court system and those providing services to it in achieving safety, permanence, due process, and timeliness outcomes for children and families in child welfare proceedings.
The Children's Court Initiative (CCI) was a comprehensive county circuit court review process designed to strengthen court processing in child welfare and termination of parental rights cases. The project established safety, permanency, due process, and timeliness performance measures that were based on best practice principles outlined by the American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, as well as areas evaluated in both the federal Child and Family Services Review and Title IV-E audit related to court practice. The achievement of the performance measures was assessed and tracked through court file reviews, court observation, surveys, focus groups, and data analysis from the Consolidated Court Automation Programs (CCAP). CCI staff members worked in partnership with the Department of Children and Family (DCF), Continuous Quality Improvement staff to implement both quality assurance programs together.
The Children's Court Initiative (CCI) Summary Report, which compiles the data, findings, and best practices from the CCI on-site reviews conducted in 71 counties, was issued in January 2012.
In 1999, the Children's Court Improvement Program and the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Children's Justice Act grant cosponsored the Confidentiality Project. A multi-disciplinary advisory committee was established and charged with clarifying confidentiality provisions related to child in need of protection or services cases in Wisconsin statutes, regulations, and practices. In 2006, a guidebook for professionals and a client brochure were completed. Although the advisory committee has disbanded, the guidebook is updated semi-annually.
- Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (external link)
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Administration for Children and Families (external link)
- American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law (external link)
- National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (external link)
- Wisconsin Children's Code (Chapter 48, Wisconsin Statutes) (external link)
- Compilation of Titles IV-B, IV-E and Related Sections of the Social Security Act (external link)
- Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978 (Public Law 95-608) (external link)
- Wisconsin circuit court forms (juvenile)
- Wisconsin circuit court forms (WICWA)
Children's Court Improvement Program
Office of Court Operations
110 E. Main St., Suite 400
Madison, WI 53703
Fax: (608) 261-0696
Bridget Bauman, Director
Phone: (608) 267-1958
Terri Wilcox, Program Assistant
Phone: (608) 261-0692