2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 48. Children's code.
48.64 Placement of children in out-of-home care.
48.64 Placement of children in out-of-home care.
(1) Definition. In this section, “agency" means the department, the department of corrections, a county department under s. 46.215, 46.22, or 46.23, or a licensed child welfare agency authorized to place children in foster homes, group homes, or shelter care facilities approved under s. 938.22 (2) (c) or in the homes of relatives other than a parent.
(1m) Out-of-home care agreements. If an agency places a child in a foster home or group home or in the home of a relative other than a parent under a court order or places a child in a foster home, group home, or shelter care facility approved under s. 938.22 (2) (c) under a voluntary agreement under s. 48.63, the agency shall enter into a written agreement with the head of the home or facility. The agreement shall provide that the agency shall have access at all times to the child and the home or facility, and that the child will be released to the agency whenever, in the opinion of the agency placing the child or the department, the best interests of the child require release to the agency. If a child has been in a foster home or group home or in the home of a relative other than a parent for 6 months or more, the agency shall give the head of the home written notice of intent to remove the child, stating the reasons for the removal. The child may not be removed from a foster home, group home, or home of a relative other than a parent before completion of the hearing under sub. (4) (a) or (c), if requested, or 30 days after the receipt of the notice, whichever is later, unless the safety of the child requires it or, in a case in which the reason for removal is to place the child for adoption under s. 48.833, unless all of the persons who have the right to request a hearing under sub. (4) (a) or (c) sign written waivers of objection to the proposed removal. If the safety of the child requires earlier removal, s. 48.19 applies. If an agency removes a child from an adoptive placement, the head of the home shall have no claim against the placing agency for the expense of care, clothing, or medical treatment.
(1r) Notification of school district. When an agency places a school-age child in a foster home, group home, or shelter care facility approved under s. 938.22 (2) (c) or in the home of a relative other than a parent, the agency shall notify the clerk of the school district in which the foster home, group home, shelter care facility, or home of the relative is located that a school-age child has been placed in a foster home, group home, shelter care facility, or home of a relative in the school district.
(2) Supervision of out-of-home care placements. Every child who is placed in a foster home, group home, or shelter care facility approved under s. 938.22 (2) (c) shall be under the supervision of an agency. Every child who is placed in the home of a relative other than a parent under a court order shall be under the supervision of an agency.
(4) Orders affecting the head of home or the children.
(a) Except as provided in par. (d), any decision or order issued by an agency that affects the head of a foster home or group home, the head of the home of a relative other than a parent in which a child is placed, or the child involved may be appealed to the department under fair hearing procedures established under rules promulgated by the department. Upon receipt of an appeal, the department shall give the head of the home reasonable notice and an opportunity for a fair hearing. The department may make any additional investigation that the department considers necessary. The department shall give notice of the hearing to the head of the home and to the departmental subunit, county department, or child welfare agency that issued the decision or order. Each person receiving notice is entitled to be represented at the hearing. At all hearings conducted under this paragraph, the head of the home, or a representative of the head of the home, shall have an adequate opportunity, notwithstanding s. 48.78 (2) (a), to examine all documents and records to be used at the hearing at a reasonable time before the date of the hearing as well as during the hearing, to bring witnesses, to establish all pertinent facts and circumstances, and to question or refute any testimony or evidence, including an opportunity to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses. The department shall grant a continuance for a reasonable period of time when an issue is raised for the first time during a hearing. This requirement may be waived with the consent of the parties. The decision of the department shall be based exclusively on evidence introduced at the hearing. A transcript of testimony and exhibits, or an official report containing the substance of what transpired at the hearing, together with all papers and requests filed in the proceeding, and the findings of the hearing examiner shall constitute the exclusive record for decision by the department. The department shall make the record available at any reasonable time and at an accessible place to the head of the home or his or her representative. Decisions by the department shall specify the reasons for the decision and identify the supporting evidence. No person participating in an agency action being appealed may participate in the final administrative decision on that action. The department shall render its decision as soon as possible after the hearing and shall send a certified copy of its decision to the head of the home and to the departmental subunit, county department, or child welfare agency that issued the decision or order. The decision shall be binding on all parties concerned.
(b) Judicial review of the department's decision may be had as provided in ch. 227.
(c) Except as provided in par. (d), the circuit court for the county where the dispositional order placing a child in a foster home or group home or in the home of a relative other than a parent was entered or the voluntary agreement under s. 48.63 placing a child in a foster home or group home was made has jurisdiction upon petition of any interested party over the child who is placed in the foster home, group home, or home of the relative. The circuit court may call a hearing, at which the head of the home and the supervising agency under sub. (2) shall be present, for the purpose of reviewing any decision or order of that agency involving the placement and care of the child. If the child has been placed in a foster home or in the home of a relative other than a parent, the foster parent or relative may present relevant evidence at the hearing. The petitioner has the burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that the decision or order issued by the agency is not in the best interests of the child.
(d) No decision or order to change the placement of a child who is in out-of-home care under a voluntary transition-to-independent-living agreement under s. 48.366 (3) or 938.366 (3) may be appealed to the department under par. (a) or reviewed by the circuit court under par. (c).
Foster parents' rights were violated by the department's failure to give mandatory written notice under sub. (1), [now (1m)] but, since adoptive placement was found to be in the children's best interest, the foster parents' rights were subordinated to the paramount interest of the children. In matter of Z. 81 Wis. 2d 194, 260 N.W.2d 246 (1977).
A foster parent is entitled to a hearing under sub. (4) (a) regarding the person's interest as a foster parent even when placement of the child cannot be affected by the hearing outcome. Bingenheimer v. DHSS, 129 Wis. 2d 100, 383 N.W.2d 898 (1986).
Sub. (4) (a) requires a hearing when an adoption agency removes a child from an adoptive placement within 6 months. Thelen v. DHSS, 143 Wis. 2d 574, 422 N.W.2d 146 (Ct. App. 1988).
Foster children have a constitutional right under the due process clause to safe and secure placement in a foster home. Whether a public official violated that right will be determined based on a professional judgment standard. Kara B. v. Dane County, 205 Wis. 2d 140, 555 N.W.2d 630 (1996), 94-1081. See also Estate of Cooper v. Milwaukee County, 103 F. Supp. 2d 1124 (2000).
The best interest of the child standard under sub. (4) (c) must be read in conjunction with the children's code directive that a child's best interest is generally served by being reunited with his or her family. Sallie T. v. Milwaukee County DHHS, 212 Wis. 2d 694, 570 N.W.2d 46 (Ct. App. 1997), 96-3147.
Sallie T. does not require that the trial court be blind to events preceding the most recent dispositional order. Constitutional protections of a parent's right to his or her child do not prevent the application of the best interests of the child standard as the central focus of determining where the child shall live. “Best interests" and “safety" are not synonymous. Richard D. v. Rebecca G. 228 Wis. 2d 658, 599 N.W.2d 90 (Ct. App. 1999), 99-0433.
While prospective adoptive parents have a limited protected liberty interest in the family unit during the first 6 months of placement, that interest does not require a pre-removal hearing. Thelen v. Catholic Social Services, 691 F. Supp. 1179 (E.D. Wis. 1988).
Family liberty interest of foster parents. 1978 WLR 510.
In the Best Interest of Children: When Foster Parents May Keep Placement. Neary. Wis. Law. Sept. 2007.