Child Abuse, Neglect and Concerns

Child Abuse and Neglect



Our mission is to protect children and the community while strengthening families and promoting their self-sufficiency.  Child Protective Services receives reports in the Access Office with concerns for neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse/damage.  A number of factors are considered with regards to a child’s vulnerability, including but not limited to: age, cognitive/behavioral developmental level, and ability to communicate needs.  Wisconsin Standards and Statutes are followed to ensure the safety of children ages 0-18 years of age and unborn children who may be at risk due to an expectant mother’s habitual drug abuse.  The goal is for children to remain safely in their homes and our department is committed to working with families to make this possible.  If a family has a high level of needs to address the child’s safety, the county may file a Child In Need of Protection and Services (CHIPS) petition with the courts to provide ongoing services.  Additional actions may be taken to ensure the safety of the child, such as Protective Planning with the family in the home or taking Temporary Physical Custody of the child.  When this happens, our agency does our best to work with the family and their supports to plan for the child’s safety.




Any person who has concerns for child abuse and/or neglect can make a report regarding their concerns to the county where the child resides. Reports of child abuse or neglect may be made in person, by phone, or by email.  Mandated reporters are required by law to make reports by phone or in person.  A complete list of mandated reporters can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions.


Access Office

608-742-9713 (phone)

608-742-9700 (fax)

Monday-Friday 8am-12pm and 1-4:30pm (Excluding holidays)

After Hours Emergency Situations: Columbia County Sheriff’s Office 608-742-4166



When calling the Access Office, please keep in mind the social worker may not be immediately available and a voicemail may need to be left.  Voicemails will be returned in a timely manner or the following business day if it is after hours. If it is an emergency and you need immediate assistance, please contact Law Enforcement.




A supervisor has 24 hours to screen a report to determine what actions, if any, the agency will take.  If a report does not meet the level of need for an investigation, it may be assigned to a worker to offer services on a voluntary basis.  Reports are screened with a response time of same day, 24-48 hours, or 5 business days for an initial assessment.  Assessments are completed within 60 days to assess for safety, determine if maltreatment occurred, and decide whether or not the family needs to be referred for ongoing services.   

Mandated Reporters will automatically receive a letter within 60 days providing limited information regarding the outcome of the report made.  Relative reporters may request in writing (mail, email, or fax) the outcome of the report made. Once the request is received by the agency, a letter containing limited information regarding the outcome of the report will be mailed within 60 days. For confidentiality, non-mandated reporters and non-relatives cannot receive information about the report made unless there is a release of information on file that the family signed.




The professionals named as mandated reporters in the Wisconsin Statutes 48.981 (2) are as follows:

  • Physicians
  • Coroners
  • Medical examiners
  • Nurses
  • Dentists
  • Chiropractors
  • Optometrists
  • Acupuncturists
  • A medical or mental health professional not otherwise specified in this list
  • Social workers
  • Marriage & family therapists
  • Professional counselors
  • Public assistance workers, including a financial and employment planner, as defined in s49.141(1) (d), Statutes
  • School teachers
  • School administrators
  • School counselors
  • School employees not otherwise specified in this list
  • Mediators under s.767.405, Statutes
  • Child-care workers in a child care center, group home, or residential care center for children and youth
  • Child care providers
  • Alcohol or other drug abuse counselors
  • Members of the treatment staff employed by or working under contract with a county department under s. 46.2351.42, or 51.437, Statutes, or a residential care center for children and youth
  • Physical therapists
  • Physical therapist assistants
  • Occupational therapists
  • Dieticians
  • Speech-language pathologists
  • Audiologists
  • Emergency medical technicians
  • First responders
  • Police or law enforcement officers
  • Court-appointed special advocates (CASA) (except as provided in sub s. 48.981(2m) and (2r))
  • Clergy (specific requirements and exceptions found under s.48.981(2)(bm)1-3)
  • Juvenile correctional officers

In addition, the professionals named as mandated reporters in the Governor’s Executive Order #54 are as follows:

  • University of Wisconsin System (UWS) Professors
  • UWS Administrators
  • UWS Coaches
  • All other UWS Employees

This list can be seen on the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families website: Mandated Child Abuse and Neglect Reporters | Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Wisconsin law (48.981(2)) indicates that any mandated reporter who has a reasonable cause to suspect that a child seen by the person in the course of professional duties has been abused or neglected, or who has reason to believe that a child seen by the person in the course of professional duties has been threatened with abuse or neglect and that abuse or neglect of the child will occur is required to make a report. The legal requirement to report may NOT be delegated to another person.  A report should be made by the person with first-hand knowledge of the comments, behaviors, and observed injuries that lead the person to believe that the child may have been abused or neglected.  These reports should be made IMMEDIATELY.


Persons required to report who intentionally fail to report suspected child abuse or neglect may be fined up to $1,000 or be imprisoned up to 6 months in jail.

Reporting is confidential, however, that does not mean a parent can’t assume who made the report. A social worker will not confirm or deny that an individual made a report. If a parent asks you if you made a report, it is up to you whether or not you say yes. In Wisconsin, Mandated Reporters cannot remain anonymous on the reports they make.

Having as much information as possible assists the Access office with entering reports and for supervisors making a screening decision. You do not have to have all the information in order to make a report. You will be asked the same questions each time you make a report, regardless of if you have called previously.

Child is defined in the statutes as, “a person who is less than 18 years of age, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated a state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, “child" does not include a person who has attained 17 years of age.” [Ref. s. 48.02(2), Wis. Stats.]

State statutes allow CPS workers to make contact, observe, and speak with children in any public setting without parental permission if there is reasonable suspicion that the child has been maltreated or is in danger of being maltreated. This typically happens at the child’s school. Efforts are made by the social worker to contact the parents as soon as possible after this interview. [Ref. s. 48.981(3)(c)1, Wis. Stats.]

Neglect is defined in the statutes as, “failure, refusal, or inability on the part of a caregiver, for reasons other than poverty, to provide necessary care, food, clothing, medical or dental care or shelter so as to seriously endanger the physical health of the child.” [Ref. s. 48.02(12g), Wis. Stats.]

Physical abuse is defined as “physical injury inflicted on a child by other than accidental means.” [Ref. s. 48.02(1)(a), Wis. Stats.]. “Physical injury includes but is not limited to lacerations, fractured bones, burns, internal injuries, severe or frequent bruising or great bodily harm, as defined in s. 939.22(14).” [Ref. s. 48.02(1)(a) and 48.02(14g), Wis. Stats.]

Sexual abuse is defined by cross-referencing several crimes in the Wisconsin Criminal Code. In summary sexual abuse includes but is not limited to: sexual intercourse or sexual touching of a child, sexual exploitation, sex trafficking of a child, forced viewing of sexual activity, exposing genitals to a child, or permitting, allowing or encouraging a child to engage in prostitution. [Ref. s. 48.02(1)(b-f), Wis. Stats.]

Emotional abuse is defined as “emotional damage for which the child’s parent, guardian, or legal custodian has neglected, refused, or been unable for reasons other than poverty to obtain the necessary treatment or to take steps to ameliorate the symptoms.” [Ref. s. 48.02(1)(gm), Wis. Stats.] Harm to a child’s psychological or intellectual functioning which is exhibited by severe anxiety, depression, withdrawal or aggression. Emotional damage may be demonstrated by substantial and observable changes in behavior, emotional response or learning which are incompatible with the child’s age or stage of development.

Unborn child abuse is defined as “serious physical harm inflicted on the unborn child, and the risk of serious physical harm to the child when born, caused by the habitual lack of self-control of the expectant mother of the unborn child in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree.” [Ref. s. 48.02(1)(am), Wis. Stats.]

More information can be reviewed on the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families website: Wisconsin Child Welfare Services Process

Child Protection in the state of Wisconsin follows the Children’s Code (Chapter 48) in the state statutes which can be found online.

If you need services or resources, a call can be made to the Access office at 608-742-9713 during business hours, or walk-ins are welcome without an appointment. Resources can be shared over the phone, via email or mail, or in person. Our agency also has a resource guide online that can be accessed by clicking the following link: Columbia County Health and Human Services Community Resource Guide

If you know a family with children under the age of 18 years old that could benefit from services, call the Access office at 608-742-9713 during business hours to make a Services Report requesting outreach to the family. A social worker may be assigned to make contact with the family and offer services on a voluntary basis. If you have a relationship with the family and are comfortable sharing information, you can also share the community resource guide with them or view other resources on our website.