Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System

Child Welfare Law: Resources for Leadership

The more you know about child welfare law at the state, federal, and international level, the more prepared you will be to advance in child welfare leadership. Increasing your understanding of law will also help you make—and guide others– in sound practice decision-making. If you have a practice question—or are interested in expanding your general knowledge–click on any of the child welfare law topics below. When you do, you will see a brief explanation of the topic, followed by other resources you can click on to learn more.

Federal Law

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Adoption Assistance & Child Welfare Act of 1980

The Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980 provided the first Federal subsidies to encourage the adoption of children from the nation’s foster care system. These subsidies, known as adoption assistance, serve to minimize the financial obstacles to adoption

Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA)

The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) contains a requirement to document one or more compelling reasons not to file a Termination of Parental Rights (TPR) petition for a child who has been in out of home care for 15 of the last 22 months.

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is a federal law that provides grants to states to support the prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution and treatment of child abuse and neglect. This brief provides background information, summarizes the law, provides national and state-specific funding levels, and considers CAPTA’s place in the broader approach to federal child welfare financing and programs to keep children safe, strengthen vulnerable families and support strong communities.

Substantiation Decision Making & the CAPTA Appeal Process

CAPTA Requirements

Constitutional Principles of Child Welfare

Minor children have rights under the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, they have the right to equal protection, which means that every child is entitled to the same treatment at the hands of authority regardless of race, gender, disability, or religion. Children are also entitled to due process, which includes notice and a hearing, before any of their basic rights are taken away by the government.

Children with disabilities also have rights under the federal Disabilities Education Act. The Disabilities Education Act provides children in need of special education with special accommodations to ensure they receive the same education as their peers.

Due Process: Constitutional Right of Parents. Parents have a fundamental right to make decisions as to the companionship, care, custody, and management of their children, which right is a protected liberty interest under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. https://www.americanbar.org/groups/litigation/committees/childrens-rights/articles/2013/social-services-constitutional-rights-balancing-act/

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires that Local Education Agencies (LEAs) and Child Welfare Agencies (CWAs) collaborate to implement policies and practices that minimize those disruptions and preserve students’ opportunities for improved well-being and success in school.

Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA)

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was signed into law as part of Public Law (P.L.) 115–123 and has several provisions to enhance support services for families to help children remain at home, reduce the unnecessary use of congregate care, and build the capacity of communities to support children and families

 Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008

The Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008 was designed to assist  hundreds of thousands of children and youth in foster care by promoting permanent families for them through relative guardianship and adoption, improving health care, and supporting educational stability.

IDEA/FAPE (Free, Appropriate, Public Education)

All local educational agencies (LEA) are required to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to students with a disability until the age of 21, unless they graduate with a regular high school diploma.

A regular high-school diploma is defined under the Individual with Disabilities Act (IDEA) as the standard high school diploma awarded to the preponderance of students that is fully aligned with State standards.



Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 (ICWA)

The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 is a federal law designed to “protect the best interests of Indian children and to promote the stability and security of Indian tribes and families.” ICWA requires child protective services to actively involve tribes when providing intervention and services to Native American children and their families. Congress passed ICWA in response to alarmingly high rates of separation of Native American families, with the goal of preserving Native American families and culture.

A Child Welfare Practitioner’s Guide for Meeting the WICWA Active Efforts Requirement

Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ)

The Interstate Compact for Juveniles (ICJ) is an agreement between states that has the force of federal law. The ICJ provides for the cooperative supervision of juveniles on probation and parole who move across state lines. It also assists states in returning youth who run away, escape, or abscond across state lines.

ICJ Training Resources

Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC)

The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) is a law that ensures children moving from state to state under court jurisdiction have the same rights and protections as children in Wisconsin. The ICPC establishes uniform legal and administrative procedures governing the interstate placement of children.


WI ICPC Resources

Legislative Source

Multiethnic Placement Act (MEPA-IEP)

The Multiethnic Placement Act, as amended, enacted in 1994 and known as MEPA (or MEPA/IEP to acknowledge amendments passed in 1996), prohibits child welfare agencies that receive federal funding from delaying or denying foster or adoptive placements because of a child or prospective foster or adoptive parent’s race, color or national origin and from using those factors as a basis for denying approval of a potential foster or adoptive parent. The law also requires agencies to recruit foster and adoptive parents that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of children in out of home care, a process known as diligent recruitment.

Diligent Recruitment
In conducting diligent recruitment activities, the State: Must allow prospective parents to participate in general recruitment activities irrespective of RCNO; Must accept applications from prospective parents who are not from one of the communities on which the agency currently is focusing its efforts and must include them in general recruitment activities; and Must accept applications from prospective parents who express interest in providing care to a child whose race or ethnicity does not match their own.

Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act

Preventing Sex Trafficking and Strengthening Families Act, Identifying and Protecting Children and Youth at Risk of Sex Trafficking – (Sec. 101) Amends part E (Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) of title IV (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) (TANF) of the Social Security Act (SSA) to require the state plan for foster care and adoption assistance to demonstrate that the state agency has developed policies and procedures for identifying, documenting in agency records, and determining appropriate services with respect to, any child or youth over whom the state agency has responsibility for placement, care, or supervision who the state has reasonable cause to believe is, or is at risk of being, a victim of sex trafficking or a severe form of trafficking in persons.


Social Security Act

The Social Security Act was signed into law by President Roosevelt on August 14, 1935. In addition to several provisions for general welfare, the new Act created a social insurance program designed to pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing income after retirement.

Benefits for Children with Disabilities
This booklet is for the parents, caregivers, or representatives of children younger than age 18 who have disabilities that may make them eligible for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status

Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) is a way for immigrant children in the United States to adjust their immigration status to legal status. Although their unlawful entry would make them inadmissible for adjustment of status, if they cannot reunify with their parents because they have been abused, abandoned, or neglected, they may get a green card.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides states and territories with flexibility in operating programs designed to help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiency.  States use TANF to fund monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children, as well as a wide range of services.

Policy Brief

TANF Q and A

WI TANF information

Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA)

This law is designed to deter interstate parental kidnapping and promote uniform jurisdiction and enforcement provisions in interstate child-custody and visitation cases. The UCCJEA is a uniform state law regarding jurisdiction in child custody cases. It specifies which court should decide a custody case, not how the court should decide the case.


State Law

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Admin Rule DCF 43

DCF 43 establishes standards for pre-service, foundation, and in-service training for child protective services caseworkers and supervisors who provide child protective services to children, unborn children, and families in child abuse and neglect cases.

Admin Rule DCF 51

DCF 51 establishes the topics and procedures for the preadoption training required for prospective adoptive parents who have not previously adopted a child.

Admin Rule DCF 56

DCF 56 establishes licensing requirements for foster homes and foster parents directed at protecting the health and safety and promoting the welfare of children placed in the homes; to establish a fair hearing procedure for foster parents; to establish requirements for certification of a foster home with a level of care and requirements for assessment of a child’s needs and strengths; and to establish criteria for making supplemental and exceptional payments to foster parents.

Admin Rule DCF 58

DCF 58 established criteria and procedures for determining initial and continuing eligibility of a relative providing care and maintenance for a child for a monthly payment to assist with expenses involved in providing that care and maintenance and for recovering over overpayments.

Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WiCWA)

In 2009, to improve clarity and compliance with ICWA, Wisconsin signed into law the Wisconsin Indian Child Welfare Act (WICWA). WICWA was then incorporated into Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 48 (Children’s Code). Prior to passage of WICWA, Native American children in Wisconsin were about 1600 times more likely to be removed from their home by public social services than non-Native children. 32 states have state statutes related to enhancing or complying with ICWA.

WI SS Ch 48

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.

WI SS Ch 938

It is the intent of the legislature to promote a juvenile justice system capable of dealing with the problem of juvenile delinquency, a system which will protect the community, impose accountability for violations of law and equip juvenile offenders with competencies to live responsibly and productively.

International Law

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Geneva Convention

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols is a body of Public International Law, also known as the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts, whose purpose is to provide minimum protections, standards of humane treatment, and fundamental guarantees of respect to individuals who become victims of armed conflicts.

Vienna Convention

The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT) was adopted in Vienna on May 23, 1969 at the United Nations Conference on the law of treaties and entered into force on January 27, 1980. This Convention applies only to treaties which are concluded by states.  This Convention applies to any treaty which is the constituent instrument of an international organization and to any treaty adopted within an international organization without prejudice to any relevant rules of the organization.