What is CHIPS?

A child is dependent on adults for their supervision, protection and care, but sometimes adults are unable to care for the child or has hurt the child.  The State of Wisconsin has enacted laws to ensure the safety of children while simultaneously strengthening families and assisting parents in fulfilling their parenting responsibilities.   Child in Need of Protection and Services (CHIPS) is the juvenile court process that keeps children safe and supports the family.    

Do I have the right to an attorney?

  • You do not have the right to an attorney, but you may hire your own attorney or you may ask the Judge to appoint an attorney if you cannot afford one.  
  • Having an attorney is important as it will not only help you understand your rights and the process, but also provide an accurate legal assessment of the case and assist in reaching a resolution that keeps your child in your care

Do I have the right to remain silent?

  • You do not have the right to remain silent when asked questions by the County attorney.  Your silence can be used against you.  

Do I have any other rights?

You do have certain rights in a CHIPS process.  These include:

  • The right to fair procedures
    • Notice of hearings and an opportunity to be heard
  • The right to 6 person jury trial or a court trial to determine if my children are in need of protection and services that can be ordered by the Court
  • The right to present evidence at trial
  • The right to order witnesses to come to court to testify
  • The right to confront the people who testify against me
  • The right to have the grounds alleged in the CHIPS petition to be proven by clear, satisfactory and convincing evidence. 


What is the CHIPS process?

If a social worker or law enforcement officer removes the child from your home,  a Temporary Physical Custody (TPC) hearing will be held in front of the judge within 48 hours of the removal (excluding holidays and weekends).  The purpose of this hearing is for the Judge to determine the appropriateness of the removal and whether or not the child can return to your care.  The next step is the Plea Hearing where the Judge advises the parents of their rights, ensures the parents have received and understand the Child In Need of Protection and Services (CHIPS) petition and determines the parents’ intent to fight the petition or agree with the petition.  A parent who decides to fight has the right to a Fact-Finding Hearing where either the judge or a 6 person jury determines if the child is in need of protection and services.  If the child has been found to be in need of protection and services, either because the parents admitted or a judge/jury determined the child is in need of protection and services, the judge will hold a Dispositional Hearing.  At the Dispositional Hearing the Court determines where the child will live, the services that the social worker needs to provide to the parent, and conditions the parent needs to meet to have the child return to his/or her care. 

What should I do If the Social Worker has left their card in my door?

A social worker is a person who tries to protect children and keep them safe. A social worker may help children who are being hit, touched in bad ways, or do not have proper food, clothes or other things they may need.  The social worker’s first responsibility is to understand the family’s situation and a conversation with you is crucial to that understanding.  Thus, you should immediately call the social worker.  The social worker’s second responsibility is to help you stabilize your family to keep the child in our care or close the case if no concerns are identified.  If there are one or more safety concerns identified, the social worker will work with you to resolve the safety issues by creating a protective plan.  If the safety issues cannot be managed through a protective plan, the social worker may have to find another place for the child to stay temporarily.  This may result in your child being removed from your home.  A CHIPS case may be started to bring the child and family to court and allow the judge to decide how to help the child and the family resolve the safety concerns where the social worker has been unsuccessful.  


What should I do if I receive a CHIPS Petition?

A CHIPS Petition is serious as it may result in your children being taken away from you for their own protection.  In order to avoid this, you should at least:

  • Consult openly and honestly with an attorney to help the attorney understand case facts from your perspective 
  • Cooperate with the social worker
  • Recognize that you and your children may need some assistance
  • Accept assistance
  • Attend all hearings and comply with court orders