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Helping Prevent Child Abuse

Written By: The Women’s Center staff

In addition to being Sexual Assault Awareness Month, April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and by equipping you with information on reporting and prevention, we hope to reduce this pervasive crime in our community.  

In 2019, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families received 5,604 reports of child abuse from Waukesha County. The majority of these reports involved neglect, followed by physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.  

How can I help?
In Wisconsin, anyone who suspects child abuse and/or neglect can report it by calling the local Child Protective Services agency or law enforcement, whose contact information is available here. The reporter can choose to remain anonymous and their name will not be mentioned throughout the process.  

After a call is made, Child Protective Services (CPS) staff determine if the situation should be investigated, or “screened in,” based on the Wisconsin Children’s Code. If so, and if the report suggests immediate danger, it receives same-day assessment; otherwise, CPS social workers have up to 60 days to conduct an initial assessment of the child’s safety. 

If the case is screened into the department to make an initial assessment, a social worker attempts to meet face-to-face with the family about the concerns that were reported and to provide resources and referrals to help secure the child’s safety. If additional support is needed past the initial 60-day period, the family can engage with ongoing services through the social worker.

While CPS attempts to maintain families together in their own home, in some circumstances, parents are unable or unwilling to provide safety to the child through an in-home safety plan, and out of home placements will be made.

How do families get connected to The Women’s Center? 
Sometimes, the CPS social worker refers the family to The Women’s Center for supportive services and safety planning for families. Other times, one of our community partners or law enforcement makes a referral, and some families come to us directly for support, often by calling our 24-Hour Hotline to get connected.

How does The Women’s Center help? 
The Women’s Center offers programming to strengthen families and help prevent child abuse. Our advocates build on what the protective parent is doing well and work to develop new non-violent forms of disciplining children, such as redirection, rewarding good behavior, and using time outs.

Often, there is an overlap in domestic abuse and child abuse, and abusers will undermine the protective parent’s relationship with their children to inflect control. We aim to repair the relationship between the protective parent and their children, using family sessions to teach respectful communication skills.

We also work directly with children to help them learn constructive ways to express their emotions, develop a safety plan, identify protective behaviors, and learn that abuse is not their fault.  

You can learn more about how we support families here, and find out more about Wisconsin’s CPS process here. Our 24-Hour Hotline is always available at 262.542.3828.