Child Abuse and Neglect

Who can report child abuse or neglect: 

Any person who thinks child abuse and/or neglect has happened or might happen can make a report to a Child Protective Services (CPS) agency or law enforcement. 

By law, there are specified professional persons who are required to report child abuse or neglect. They are referred to as Mandated Reporters. To find out if you are one, please go to -

How to report suspected child abuse:

Any local Child Protective Services agency can take your report. Please see information below for more details:

If you or someone you know has concerns regarding suspected child abuse and neglect, please contact Adams County Health and Human Services by calling 608-339-4505 if it is between the hours of 8:00 AM and 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday. 

If you or someone you know has concerns of suspected child abuse and neglect outside of the above listed business hours, please contact the Adams County Sheriff’s Office by calling 608-339-3304. 

If the abuse is happening now or is violent in nature, call 911. 

Reports of suspected child abuse and neglect can also be made directly to the county where the child resides. If you are unsure of how to contact the county where the child resides, please click the following link to the DCF County Database:

Helpful information to have when making a report: 

In making a report of child abuse or neglect, it is helpful to have specific information regarding the children and their family. While we understand that not all reporting individuals will have access to the following information, please attempt to gather it if you are able to and it is safe to do so. *Please note that this is not an all-inclusive list of needed information* 

-        Name(s) of child(ren) that you have the concern about and who reside or may reside in the home

-        Name(s) of the parent(s) that reside in the household

-        Name(s) of the individual(s) alleged to be maltreating the child(ren)

-        The child(ren)’s date of birth, address, what school they attend

-        If applicable, the custody arrangement between parents or caregivers

-        Does the child(ren) have Native American Heritage?

Child Abuse and Neglect Defined

State laws define child abuse and neglect. These definitions provide the basis for persons to report suspected child maltreatment and guide county agencies in their response. Child maltreatment is generally divided into four basic types: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. 


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:

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. 48.01(14g), Wis. Stats.]

Sexual Abuse:

Sexual abuse is defined by cross-referencing several crimes in the Wisconsin Criminal Code section of the statutes (see Appendix A). In summary, sexual abuse includes but is not limited to the following:

Emotional Abuse: 

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.]

Unborn Child Abuse:

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.]

The definitions of neglect and emotional abuse involve failure on the part of the parents or other persons responsible for a child to provide necessary care for a child. The definitions of physical abuse and sexual abuse include harm to a child by any person. Therefore, physical or sexual abuse of a child can include assaults by a parent, strangers, persons unrelated to the child’s family, or peers. 

Information obtained from Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, “Wisconsin Child Abuse and Neglect Report for CY2017,” 

What happens once a CPS report is made? 

The county receives reports of child abuse and neglect through an “Access” worker. The agency decides if the information in the report is potential child abuse or neglect according to Wisconsin law. The Wisconsin Children's Code defines the areas and indicators of child abuse and neglect. 

If the report meets these definitions for potential child abuse, the CPS worker starts what is known as an “Initial Assessment.” Reports that suggest a child is in immediate danger receive a same-day response. The CPS Initial Assessment Worker has 60 days to complete the “Initial Assessment.” The assessment must be conducted in accordance with the Wisconsin Access and Initial Assessment Standards

The focus of the CPS Initial Assessment is child safety. Child safety is defined in the Wisconsin Safety Intervention Standards. Workers help the family get needed services and want to keep the child in the home if possible. If the child cannot safely stay in the home, it may be necessary to temporarily place a child in out-of-home care. 

After the 60 day Initial Assessment period, a decision is made whether or not to continue to work with the family. If it is decided that additional services are needed, the family will engage in “Ongoing Services.” Wisconsin has Ongoing Standards that guides the Ongoing Services practice. 

The focus of CPS assessment is not to make criminal determinations. CPS focuses on child safety and engaging the family to keep children safely in their home whenever possible. 

Information obtained from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, “Wisconsin Child Protective Services (CPS) Process,” Wisconsin Department of Children and Families,