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The Third Branch

WICWA launches Improvement project

By Bridget Bauman, Children's Court Improvement Project

A new Continuous Quality Improvement project has been established by the Children's Court Improvement Program (CCIP) to improve adherence to the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) in the circuit court and child welfare systems. The project also aims to increase collaboration among the circuit courts, tribes, county child welfare agencies, attorneys, and other stakeholders. WICWA, which was enacted in 2009, protects the best interests of Indian children while promoting the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.

Court Information Officer Tom Sheehan (center) roasts Amanda K. Todd (right) on her last day in the Court Information Office as Supreme Court Commissioner Nancy Kopp (left) looks on.


As part of the WICWA Continuous Quality Improvement project, onsite reviews are conducted in the counties with the greatest number of circuit court cases subject to WICWA. The onsite reviews consist of three data collection methods: court file review, focus groups, and surveys. The findings from each review are presented in the form of a written report and summary presentation approximately three months after the onsite review. Technical assistance is provided to the circuit court after the onsite review in an effort to implement practice enhancements.

When schedules permit, staff from CCIP and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) conduct simultaneous WICWA reviews of the same counties. Joint reviews have already occurred in Shawano, Milwaukee, Bayfield, and Jackson counties. Both CCIP and DCF are planning to conduct reviews in Forest, Brown, Ashland, and Vilas Counties in 2014. Court and agency personnel from these counties will be contacted with additional information about the onsite review.

This project and the partnership between CCIP and DCF will be highlighted at the National Indian Child Welfare Association's annual conference in April.

As part of CCIP's activities to improve adherence to WICWA, the WICWA Judicial Checklist has been created to help courts determine whether WICWA applies and comply with the provisions of WICWA. It contains key questions for the court to ask in child in need of protection or services, juvenile in need of protection or services, termination of parental rights, guardianship, and adoption proceedings.

For additional information about the WICWA Continuous Quality Improvement project, please contact Bridget Bauman, CCIP Policy Analyst, at

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