Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Termination of Parental Rights Law in Wisconsin - Adoption and Safe Families Act

By John DiMotto
In October, 1997 the United State Congress passed the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA). One month later, President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law.
ASFA was enacted to address problems in the foster care system. It changed how child welfare was viewed. It focused on the health and safety of children as opposed to reuniting children with birth parents. ASFA puts children first and the needs and rights of birth parents second.
In all cases involving children who are placed out of their parental home -- CHIPS and TPR cases -- there are certain obligations and duties that must be undertaken by Child Welfare Agencies. In Milwaukee County that agency is the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW). Anytime a child is placed out of the parental home, the Court is required to undertake an ASFA analysis to ensure that the interests of the child and parents are fully protected in light of the potential for TPR. The analysis requires the Court to determine if:
1) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to prevent the removal of the child from the parental home, while assuring that the child's health and safety were the paramount concerns.
2) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to permit the return of the child safely to the parental home.
3) Placement in the child's parental home is contrary to the welfare of the child.
4) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to provide services and involve appropriate service providers in meeting the needs of the child and the parents.
5) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to place the child safely with other out of home siblings.
6) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to facilitate safe visitation among siblings where they are not placed together.
7) Reasonable efforts have been made by the BMCW to achieve the permanency plan goals, including through out of state placement if appropriate.
ASFA puts the onus on both the parents and the Child Welfare Agency to make every reasonable effort to work together in the best interest of the child.


  1. I have been researching TPR cases in North Dakota. I am curious--how often do defense attorneys in TPR cases argue that reasonable efforts have not been made? In the cases I am finding, defense attorneys seem to overlook this as a possible strategy in their arguments.

  2. what if the child has not been in custody of chips? my ex wife has not allowed me to have contact with my daughter for over three years. she would call and let me talk to her and then change her phone number a month or two later. this has continued for three years, and i have never had an address for her in three years either. now she is seeking to have my parental rights terminated what can i do?

  3. Anonymous: I am ethically precluded from giving you legal advice. However, any person who is subject to a TPR action has the right to contest it and present evidence. People can represent themselves or be represented by counsel.

  4. Why would a judge overturn a jury verdict to terminate parental rights? Seems like all the work of the BMCW is thrown out. Who would be responsible if the child, who has been returned to the unsuitable parents, ended up hurt or worse? The judge?

  5. A judge cannot overturn a jury verdict because the judge disagrees with the verdict. However, if the evidence admitted is insufficient to meet the burden of proof (clear, convincing and satisfactory evidence to a reasonable certainty) the judge must overturn the verdict. You must also keep in mind that if the judge overturns the verdict the child is NOT returned to the parents. The CHIPS order that dictates what the parents must do to gain the return of the child must still be met by the parents before the child is returned. The CHIPS is the "safety net" for the child.

  6. In a situation where an underage birth mother has agreed to volunarily terminate her parental rights and place her child for adoption and the proven birth father (legal DNA test confirms)has been convicted of sexual assault of the minor birth mother and the assault resulted in the birth of their child; what are the birth fathers chances of having his parental rights terminated at a requested jury trial?

  7. Under the provisions of 48.42(2m), a person, 18 years of age or older, who is the father of a child conceived as a result of a sexual assault is not entitled to notice of the proceedings and does not have standing to appear and contest the TPR proceedings.