2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 48. Children's code.
48.01 Title and legislative purpose.

Universal Citation: WI Stat § 48.01 (2017)

48.01 Title and legislative purpose.

(1) This chapter may be cited as “The Children's Code". In construing this chapter, the best interests of the child or unborn child shall always be of paramount consideration. This chapter shall be liberally construed to effectuate the following express legislative purposes:

(a) While recognizing that the paramount goal of this chapter is to protect children and unborn children, to preserve the unity of the family, whenever appropriate, by strengthening family life through assisting parents and the expectant mothers of unborn children, whenever appropriate, in fulfilling their responsibilities as parents or expectant mothers. The courts and agencies responsible for child welfare, while assuring that a child's health and safety are the paramount concerns, should assist parents and the expectant mothers of unborn children in changing any circumstances in the home which might harm the child or unborn child, which may require the child to be placed outside the home or which may require the expectant mother to be taken into custody. The courts should recognize that they have the authority, in appropriate cases, not to reunite a child with his or her family. The courts and agencies responsible for child welfare should also recognize that instability and impermanence in family relationships are contrary to the welfare of children and should therefore recognize the importance of eliminating the need for children to wait unreasonable periods of time for their parents to correct the conditions that prevent their safe return to the family.

(ad) To provide judicial and other procedures through which children and all other interested parties are assured fair hearings and their constitutional and other legal rights are recognized and enforced, while protecting the public safety.

(ag) To recognize that children have certain basic needs which must be provided for, including the need for adequate food, clothing and shelter; the need to be free from physical, sexual or emotional injury or exploitation; the need to develop physically, mentally and emotionally to their potential; and the need for a safe and permanent family. It is further recognized that, under certain circumstances, in order to ensure that the needs of a child, as described in this paragraph, are provided for, the court may determine that it is in the best interests of the child for the child to be removed from his or her parents, consistent with any applicable law relating to the rights of parents.

(am) To recognize that unborn children have certain basic needs which must be provided for, including the need to develop physically to their potential and the need to be free from physical harm due to the habitual lack of self-control of their expectant mothers in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree. It is further recognized that, when an expectant mother of an unborn child suffers from a habitual lack of self-control in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree, in order to ensure that the needs of the unborn child, as described in this paragraph, are provided for, the court may determine that it is in the best interests of the unborn child for the expectant mother to be ordered to receive treatment, including inpatient treatment, for that habitual lack of self-control, consistent with any applicable law relating to the rights of the expectant mother.

(ap) To recognize the compelling need to reduce the harmful financial, societal and emotional impacts that arise and the tremendous burdens that are placed on families and the community and on the health care, social services, educational and criminal justice systems as a result of the habitual lack of self-control of expectant mothers in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree, during all stages of pregnancy.

(bg)

1. To ensure that children are protected against the harmful effects resulting from the absence of parents or parent substitutes, from the inability, other than financial inability, of parents or parent substitutes to provide care and protection for their children and from the destructive behavior of parents or parent substitutes in providing care and protection for their children.

2. To ensure that children are provided good substitute parental care in the event of the absence, temporary or permanent inability, other than financial inability, or unfitness of parents to provide care and protection for their children.

(bm) To ensure that unborn children are protected against the harmful effects resulting from the habitual lack of self-control of their expectant mothers in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree. To effectuate this purpose and the purpose specified in par. (am), it is the intent of the legislature that the provisions of this chapter that protect unborn children against those harmful effects and that provide for the needs of unborn children, as described in par. (am), shall be construed to apply throughout an expectant mother's pregnancy to the extent that application of those provisions throughout an expectant mother's pregnancy is constitutionally permissible and that expectant mothers who habitually lack self-control in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree, be encouraged to seek treatment for that habitual lack of self-control voluntarily when voluntary treatment would be practicable and effective.

(br) To encourage innovative and effective prevention, intervention and treatment approaches, including collaborative community efforts and the use of community-based programs, as significant strategies in planning and implementing legislative, executive and local government policies and programs relating to children and their families and substitute families and to unborn children and their expectant mothers.

(dm) To divert children and unborn children from formal proceedings under this chapter to the extent that this is consistent with protection of children, unborn children and the public safety.

(f) To assure that children pending adoptive homes will be placed in the best homes available and protected from adoption by persons unfit to have responsibility for raising children.

(gg) To promote the adoption of children into safe and stable families rather than allowing children to remain in the impermanence of foster care.

(gr) To allow for the termination of parental rights at the earliest possible time after rehabilitation and reunification efforts are discontinued in accordance with this chapter and termination of parental rights is in the best interest of the child.

(gt) To reaffirm that the duty of a parent to support and maintain his or her child continues during any period in which the child may be removed from the custody of the parent.

(h) To provide a just and humane program of services to nonmarital children, children and unborn children in need of protection or services, and the expectant mothers of those unborn children; to avoid duplication and waste of effort and money on the part of public and private agencies; and to coordinate and integrate a program of services to children and families.

(2) In Indian child custody proceedings, the best interests of the Indian child shall be determined in accordance with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 USC 1901 to 1963, and the policy specified in this subsection. It is the policy of this state for courts and agencies responsible for child welfare to do all of the following:

(a) Cooperate fully with Indian tribes in order to ensure that the federal Indian Child Welfare Act is enforced in this state.

(b) Protect the best interests of Indian children and promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families by doing all of the following:

1. Establishing minimum standards for the removal of Indian children from their families and placing those children in out-of-home care placements, preadoptive placements, or adoptive placements that will reflect the unique value of Indian culture.

2. Using practices, in accordance with the federal Indian Child Welfare Act, 25 USC 1901 to 1963, this section, and other applicable law, that are designed to prevent the voluntary or involuntary out-of-home care placement of Indian children and, when an out-of-home care placement, adoptive placement, or preadoptive placement is necessary, placing an Indian child in a placement that reflects the unique values of the Indian child's tribal culture and that is best able to assist the Indian child in establishing, developing, and maintaining a political, cultural, and social relationship with the Indian child's tribe and tribal community.

History: 1977 c. 354; 1979 c. 330; 1981 c. 81; 1985 a. 311; 1987 a. 383; 1989 a. 41; 1993 a. 446; 1995 a. 77, 275; 1997 a. 237, 292; 1999 a. 32; 2007 a. 20; 2009 a. 28, 94.

The “best interests of the child" is a question of law. Adoption of Tachick, 60 Wis. 2d 540, 210 N.W.2d 865 (1973).

The “paramount consideration" of the child's best interest does not mandate that the child's interests will always outweigh the public's. In Interest of B.B. 166 Wis. 2d 202, 479 N.W.2d 205 (Ct. App. 1991).

Jurisdictional questions relating to the Indian child welfare act are discussed. 70 Atty. Gen. 237.

Adoption and termination proceedings in Wisconsin: Straining the wisdom of Solomon. Hayes and Morse, 66 MLR 439 (1983).

The Indian child welfare act-tribal self-determination through participation in child custody proceedings. 1979 WLR 1202.

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