Children's Court Improvement Program

group of children holding handsIn 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

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 (external website).

Children in Court: In Their Own Words video

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 on YouTube.

Wisconsin Commission on Children, Families & the Courts

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. The subcommittee developed a preparation guide for temporary physical custody hearings as a resource for caseworkers and other professionals.

Out-of-Home Care & 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 .

Wisconsin Judicial Committee on Child Welfare

The Wisconsin Judicial Committee on Child Welfare (WJCCW) was established to serve as a resource for judges and related professionals, advocate for best practice, and advise on the use of federal Children's Court Improvement Program funding to improve outcomes for children and families involved in the child welfare and court systems. In addition, the WJCCW provides guidance and oversight of the Judicial Engagement Team (JET) initiative, which is designed to engage judicial systems to support children and their families by integrating best practices, data-centered case management, and cross-system collaboration. The committee membership includes include eight circuit court judges, the Director of State Courts, a court commissioner, and a district court administrator. Meetings are held quarterly.

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act

Judicial checklist

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.

Federal Indian Child Welfare Act regulations

The Bureau of Indian Affairs recently released binding federal regulations related to the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA), which are effective on December 12, 2016. They contain requirements for state courts and child welfare agencies that are intended to ensure implementation of ICWA in child welfare proceedings. A comparison between the ICWA regulations and Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA) can be found in the ICWA Regulations-WICWA Comparison Chart .

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 and 2017–2018, CCIP and the Department of Children and Families (DCF) staff conducted onsite reviews for the WICWA Continuous Quality Improvement project in the eight counties with the highest number of circuit court cases subject to WICWA: Shawano, Milwaukee, Bayfield, Jackson, Forest, Brown, Vilas, and Burnett. The comparison report provides data on compliance with key provisions of WICWA from the two rounds of onsite reviews. In 2015–2016, court file reviews were conducted by CCAP in 12 additional counties that had a minimum number of WICWA cases meeting the file review criteria. These counties were: Ashland, Barron, Douglas, Eau Claire, La Crosse, Marathon, Marinette, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Sawyer and Wood. The information contained in the summary report compiles the findings from these court file reviews. CCIP plans to conduct court file reviews again in additional counties in 2020.

Tailored Dispositional Orders Project

The Tailored Dispositional Orders Project is a joint project led by the Department of Children and Families ("DCF") and the Children's Court Improvement Program ("CCIP"). The project promotes the shared responsibility of the parents, child welfare agency, court, and legal partners in achieving timely reunification for the child. The project makes changes to the current process by tailoring the Conditions for Return to the child's safety and identifies the parent's behavior changes that are needed to safely return the child home. The project was piloted in Barron, Manitowoc, and Waukesha counties. CCIP and DCF are excited to expand this project to additional counties and tribes throughout Wisconsin. Please contact if your county is interested in the Tailored Dispositional Orders Project. The following documents are all in PDF format.

Permanency hearing resources

Below please find resources intended to promote effective and qualitative permanency hearings and encourage youth participation in court proceedings. The following documents are all in PDF format.

Guardian ad Litem oversight resources

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.

Children's Court Initiative

Mission statement

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.

Project description

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.

Project reports

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.

The following documents are all in PDF format :

Confidentiality Project

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.

The following documents are in Adobe PDF format :



Contact information

Children's Court Improvement Program
110 E. Main St., Suite 210
Madison, WI 53703
Fax: (608) 261-6650

Bridget Mauerman, Director
Phone: (608) 267-1958

Kristen Wetzel, Legal Advisor
Phone: (608) 264-6905

Christina Tenuta, Legal Advisor
Phone: (608) 266-1557

Hilary Xayvong, Program Associate
Phone: (608) 261-0692