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Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Protective Services (CPS) responds to reports of maltreatment by parents, family members, caregivers or others. CPS represents the concerns of the community regarding families' abilities to adequately meet the needs of their children.

During an investigation, a CPS worker will:

  • Assess the safety of children in the home
  • Identify conditions in the home as well as behaviors and attitudes of parents and other family members that allow them to determine the risk of maltreatment
  • Evaluate whether the family needs services in order to help change conditions related to the risk of maltreatment
  • Introduce Human Services workers as people who can provide help
  • Respond to the immediate needs of the family
  • If circumstances make it necessary, CPS will take action to ensure child safety, which could include removing the child from the home

Child Abuse and Neglect - Frequently Asked Questions

Click on a question to expand the answer.

Q: What is child abuse and neglect?

A: Child abuse is the physical, sexual, or emotional maltreatment of a child (boy or girl, ages 0 to 18) by a parent, family member, other caregiver, or non-caregiver.

  • Physical abuse is injury inflicted on a child on purpose and is not accidental. It may include, but is not limited to:
  • Sexual abuse is defined in several sections of state statutes. It may involve:
    • Sexual intercourse
    • Other sexual contact
    • Encouraging a child to engage in sexual contact in order to photograph or videotape them
    • Causing a child to view or listen to sexual activity
    • Exposing genitals to children
    • Causing or encouraging a child to participate in prostitution
  • Emotional abuse is emotional damage caused when a child’s parent, guardian or legal custodian has neglected or refused to provide necessary care which in turn causes harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning. It may involve:
    • Verbal mistreatment
    • Withholding of love or companionship and similar behavior
    • Children with emotional damage may show a severe level of behaviors like anxiety, withdrawal, outward aggressive behavior; or a substantial and observable change in behavior, emotional response or cognition that is not within the normal range for the child's age and stage of development
    • Emotional abuse is defined in State Statutes 48.02(1)(gm) and (5j)
  • Child neglect is the failure of a parent or other caregiver to provide necessary care (including supervision), food, clothing, shelter, and medical or dental care - for reasons other than poverty - so as to seriously endanger the physical health of a child.
Q: What should I do if I believe that a child is abused or neglected?

A: If you believe that a child (a boy or girl ages 0 to 18) has been abused (physically, sexually or emotionally), neglected (physically or emotionally), or is at risk of abuse or neglect, you should report your concerns to Wood County Human Services.

Q: How do I report concerns?

A: Call the Human Services office that serves the area in which the family resides as soon as possible. In Wood County, use the following information to reach an access worker:

During the hours of 8 AM to 4:30 PM call:

  • 715-421-8600 in Wisconsin Rapids
  • 715-387-6374 in Marshfield

After 4:30 PM:

  • Contact the Wood County Sheriff's Department at 715-421-8700.
Q: What if I am not sure if I should report?

A: Please report! Wood County Human Services staff make follow up decisions. Social workers cannot protect children unless the children are brought to our attention.

Q: Will the family know that I reported?

A: State law protects your identity (reporter confidentiality). We will not disclose your name to the family that is subject to the report. You should not be afraid to report.

Q: What will happen when I report child abuse, neglect or maltreatment concerns?

A: A social worker will write up your report. They will ask for the names, ages, and addresses of family members. They will need to hear information about the suspected abuse or neglect. Please be prepared to provide as much information as possible. The more information that you share, the easier it will be for social workers to make decisions about the report and follow up. A supervisor will review the report and decide if the situation meets guidelines from state law to merit investigation.

If a supervisor decides that further investigation is needed, they will use a “priority response tool” to determine how quickly a social worker needs to make contact with the child and family. Cases are designated "same day", "24-48 hours" or "within 5 business days." Referrals can also be opened under a child welfare report where an offer of service will be made to the family.

Q: What will happen when the social worker sees the child and family?

A: Social workers will interview children and family members regarding the maltreatment concerns. They will assess child safety, child maltreatment risk, and family strengths and needs. They will determine if maltreatment, as defined in state statutes, has occurred. Social workers will decide if Human Services can offer services that might benefit the children and family.

Q: Will the child be removed from their family?

A: The top priority of Human Services is to keep families together. We serve most children and families in the family home. Only a small number of children are removed from family homes. Court action is necessary in all of those instances. In removal situations, Human Services actions are guided by Wisconsin State Statutes (specifically, Chapter 48, the Children's Code). These statutes explain child protection responsibilities, situations in which human services agencies may petition the Courts for involvement in children’s lives, dispositions which Courts might enter on the children's behalf, criteria which must be met in order to take children into custody, places in which children taken into custody may be held and more. These Statutes clearly spell out social workers' actions. The rights of children and families are carefully protected by these statutes.

Q: Will I learn what happened?

A: : If you are not someone required by law to report child abuse or neglect (not a mandated reporter), the social worker will NOT provide you with follow up information because, per state law, that would be a breach of family confidentiality.

If you are a mandated reporter, the social worker will send you a letter. Mandated reporters are teachers, doctors, and other professionals who are required by law to report suspected maltreatment. The letter will provide only basic information about the intervention to meet state law requirements to protect family confidentiality.

Q: Who and what are mandatory reporters?

A: Persons Required to Report Abuse & Neglect are:

  • Physicians
  • Coroners
  • Medical Examiners
  • Nurses, Dentists
  • Chiropractors
  • Acupuncturists
  • Optometrists
  • All Medical Professionals
  • Mental Health Professionals
  • Day Care Providers
  • Chemical Dependency Counselors
  • Marriage/Family Therapists
  • Professional Counselors
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Dietitians
  • Speech Therapists
  • Audiologists
  • EMTs/Paramedics
  • Social/Public Assistance Workers
  • School Administrators
  • Teachers/Counselors
  • Police/Law Enforcement Officers
  • Mediators under s.767.11
  • Treatment staff employed by or working under contract with a county department
  • Child care workers in any day care center, group home, or residential care center

Mandated reporters are required to report suspected abuse and neglect of any child they see while in the course of their professional duties. Persons required to report must report those situations in which they have reason to believe that a child has been threatened with abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect is likely to occur. We encourage each mandated reporter to file his or her own report. Any other person may report if there is reason to believe that a child has been abused or neglected or has been threatened with abuse or neglect. Persons required to report and who intentionally fail to report suspected child abuse or neglected may be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to six months or both. Persons who report in good faith are immune from civil or criminal liability.

For more information regarding mandated reporters, please read the State of Wisconsin Statute 48.981(2).