Court programs

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

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

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.

Wisconsin Commission on Children, Families and 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 Adobe PDF for temporary physical custody hearings as a resource for caseworkers and other professionals.

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 Adobe PDF.

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act

Judicial checklist
This checklist Adobe PDF 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 Adobe PDF.

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 contained in the summary report Adobe PDF compiles the findings from the court file reviews, focus groups, and surveys that occurred as part of these eight onsite reviews. In 2015-2016, court file reviews were conducted in 12 additional counties that had a minimum number of WICWA cases meeting the file review criteria. In 2017-2018, the second round of onsite reviews will occur in the first eight counties.

The Clock Is Ticking: Making Permanency Hearings Meaningful training materials

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 Adobe 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 Adobe PDF:

Children's Court Initiative (CCI) Summary Report
Appendix A - CCI Performance Measures
Appendix B - CCI Court File Review and Court Observation Instruments

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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 Adobe PDF:

Guide to Confidentiality Laws Applicable to CHIPS Proceedings (October 2014)
Parent/Guardian pamphlet

Related sites



Contact information

Children's Court Improvement Program
110 E. Main St., Suite 710
Madison, WI 53703
Fax: (608) 261-0696

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

Karen Lueschow, Program Analyst
Phone: (608) 266-1557

Kristen Wetzel, Program Analyst
Phone: (608) 264-6905

Terri Wilcox, Program Assistant
Phone: (608) 261-0692

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