2017 Wisconsin Statutes & Annotations
Chapter 48. Children's code.
48.88 Notice of hearing; investigation.
48.88 Notice of hearing; investigation.
(1) In this section, unless otherwise qualified, “agency" means any public or private entity except an individual.
(1m) Upon the filing of a petition for adoption, the court shall schedule a hearing within 90 days of the filing. Notice of the hearing shall be mailed, not later than 3 days from the date of the order for hearing and investigation, to the guardian of the child, if any, to the agency making the investigation under sub. (2), to the department when its recommendation is required by s. 48.89 and to the child if the child is 12 years of age or over.
(a) Except as provided under pars. (ag), (c), and (d), when a petition to adopt a child is filed, the court shall order an investigation to determine whether the child is a proper subject for adoption and whether the petitioner's home is suitable for the child. The court shall order one of the following to conduct or supplement the investigation:
1. If an agency has guardianship of the child, the guardianship agency, unless the agency has already filed its recommendation under s. 48.85 and has filed with the recommendation a report of an investigation as required under this paragraph.
2. If no agency has guardianship of the child and a relative other than a stepparent has filed the petition for adoption, the department, a county department under s. 48.57 (1) (e) or (hm) or a licensed child welfare agency.
4. If the child is a citizen of a foreign jurisdiction and is under the guardianship of an individual, the agency which conducted the home study required under federal law prior to the child's entry into the United States.
(ag) If the child is an Indian child, the court may request the tribal child welfare department of the Indian child's tribe to conduct the investigation. If the tribal child welfare department agrees to conduct the investigation, that investigation may be accepted in lieu of the investigation under par. (a).
1. In determining whether the petitioner's home is suitable for the child, the agency or tribal child welfare department making the investigation shall consider whether the petitioner is fit and qualified to care for the child, exercises sound judgment, does not abuse alcohol or drugs, and displays the capacity to successfully nurture the child.
2. The investigation shall be conducted using an assessment system that is approved by the department. The assessment system shall provide a reliable, comprehensive, and standardized qualitative evaluation of a petitioner's personal characteristics, civil and criminal history, age, health, financial stability, and ability to responsibly meet all requirements of the department.
3. If the agency or tribal child welfare department making the investigation has special concern as to the welfare of the child or the suitability of the placement, the investigation may include a clinical assessment of the petitioner's mental health or alcohol or other drug use by an employee of the agency or tribal child welfare department who is not employed in the unit of the agency or tribal child welfare department that is making the investigation or by a person who is not employed by that agency or tribal child welfare department. A person who provides such an assessment shall be a licensed psychologist, licensed psychiatrist, certified advanced practice social worker, certified independent social worker, licensed clinical social worker, or licensed professional counselor.
1. If the petitioner was required to obtain an initial license to operate a foster home before placement of the child for adoption or relicensure after a break in licensure, the agency making the investigation shall obtain a criminal history search from the records maintained by the department of justice and request under 42 USC 16962 (b) a fingerprint-based check of the national crime information databases, as defined in 28 USC 534 (f) (3) (A), with respect to the petitioner. The agency may release any information obtained under this subdivision only as permitted under 42 USC 16962 (e). In the case of a child on whose behalf adoption assistance payments will be provided under s. 48.975, if the petitioner has been convicted of any of the offenses specified in s. 48.685 (5) (bm) 1. to 4., the agency may not report that the petitioner's home is suitable for the child.
2. If the petitioner was required to obtain a license to operate a foster home before placement of the child for adoption, the agency making the investigation shall obtain information maintained by the department regarding any substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect against the petitioner and any other adult residing in the petitioner's home. If the petitioner or other adult residing in the petitioner's home is not, or at any time within the 5 years preceding the date of the search has not been, a resident of this state, the agency shall check any child abuse or neglect registry maintained by any state or other U.S. jurisdiction in which the petitioner or other adult is a resident or was a resident within those 5 years for information that is equivalent to the information maintained by the department regarding substantiated reports of child abuse or neglect. The agency may not use any information obtained under this subdivision for any purpose other than a background search under this subdivision.
(b) The agency or tribal child welfare department making the investigation shall file its report with the court at least 10 days before the hearing unless the time is reduced for good cause shown by the petitioner. In reporting on an investigation of the proposed adoptive home of an Indian child, the agency shall comply with the order of placement preference under s. 48.028 (7) (a) or, if applicable, s. 48.028 (7) (c), unless the agency finds good cause, as described in s. 48.028 (7) (e), for departing from that order. The report shall be part of the record of the proceedings.
(c) If a stepparent has filed a petition for adoption and no agency has guardianship of the child, the court shall order the department, in a county having a population of 750,000 or more, or a county department or, with the consent of the department in a county having a population of less than 750,000 or a licensed child welfare agency, order the department or the child welfare agency to conduct a screening, consisting of no more than one interview with the petitioner and a check of the petitioner's background through public records, including records maintained by the department or any county department under s. 48.981. The department, county department or child welfare agency that conducts the screening shall file a report of the screening with the court within 30 days. After reviewing the report, the court may proceed to act on the petition, may order the department in a county having a population of 750,000 or more or the county department to conduct an investigation as described under par. (a) (intro.) or may order the department in a county having a population of less than 750,000 or a licensed child welfare agency to make the investigation if the department or child welfare agency consents.
(d) An investigation is not required under this subsection if all of the following apply:
1. The petitioner is licensed to operate a foster home and the license is in effect at the time the adoption petition is filed.
2. The petitioner has never had a license to operate a foster home revoked or suspended.
3. An investigation as to the suitability of the petitioner's home was conducted as provided in par. (aj) for the purpose of licensing the petitioner's home for foster care and the investigation has been supplemented to evaluate whether the petitioner's home is suitable for the child who is the subject of the adoption.
(3) If the report of the investigation is unfavorable or if it discloses a situation which, in the opinion of the court, raises a serious question as to the suitability of the proposed adoption, the court may appoint a guardian ad litem for the minor whose adoption is proposed. The guardian ad litem may have witnesses subpoenaed and present proof at the hearing.