Child Abuse Reporting Laws for Wisconsin

State and Statute: Wisconsin, Code §§ 48.981

What Is Reportable “Abuse”: Physical, emotional, or sexual abuse or neglect. [WI ST 48.02(1)(a)(b)(gm)]

Mandatory Reporters: Any of the following persons who has reasonable cause to suspect that a child seen by the person in the course of professional duties has been abused or neglected: marriage and family therapist, professional counselor, school teacher, school administrator, school counselor, child-care worker in a day care center or residential care center for children and youth, day care provider. [48.981(2)(a)]

“A member of the clergy shall report … if the member of the clergy has reasonable cause to suspect that a child seen by the member of the clergy in the course of his or her professional duties (a) has been abused…or (b) has been threatened with abuse…and abuse of the child will likely occur.” [48.981(2)(bm)(1)]

“A member of the clergy shall report … if the member of the clergy has reasonable cause, based on observations made or information that he or she receives, to suspect that a member of the clergy has done any of the following: (a) abused a child…or (b) threatened a child with abuse … and abuse of the child will likely occur.” [48.981(2)(bm)(2)]

How and Where to Report: By telephone or personally to the county Department of Children and Families or, in a county having a population of 750,000 or more, the department or a licensed child welfare agency under contract with the department or the sheriff or city, village, or town police department. [48.981(3)(a)(1]

Timeline to Report: Immediately. [48.981(3)]

Clergy Privilege: A member of the clergy “is not required to report child abuse information that he or she receives solely through confidential communications made to him or her privately or in a confessional setting if he or she is authorized to hear or is accustomed to hearing such communications and, under the disciplines, tenets, or traditions of his or her religion, has a duty or is expected to keep those communications secret. Those disciplines, tenets, or traditions need not be in writing.” [48.981(bm)(3)]

Penalty for Knowingly Failing to Report: A fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment of not more than six months, or both. [48.981(6)]

Civil Liability for Failure to Report Recognized? No statute recognizes civil liability. Consult with legal counsel to ensure no recent court decisions in Wisconsin have recognized civil liability.

Immunity for Inaccurate Report: “Any person or institution doing any of the following in good faith in connection with a report under this section has immunity from any liability, civil or criminal, that results by reason of the action.” [48.981(4)(a)] “For the purpose of any proceeding, civil or criminal, the good faith of any person reporting under this section shall be presumed. The immunity provided under this subsection does not apply to liability for abusing or neglecting a child or for abusing an unborn child.” [48.981(4)(b)]

Disclosure of Mandatory Reporter’s Identity: Statutory provisions authorizing disclosure of reports to specific persons prohibit disclosure of information revealing reporter’s identity. [48.981(7)(a)(1)]

Additional Information for Wisconsin:

All information provided here was most recently verified in March of 2023.

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