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Disability Rights Wisconsin Applauds Passage of Landmark Bill Protecting Children with Disabilities

Disability Rights Wisconsin commends the Wisconsin Legislature for passing Assembly Bill 667 last night – enhancing the safety of Wisconsin’s children with disabilities. The bill, passed Tuesday by the Senate and by the Assembly on January 19th, requires the state to develop a plan for investigating reports of abuse or neglect involving children with disabilities, enhancing the work of child protective services at the state and county level. The bill now awaits Governor Walker’s signature.

“Wisconsin should be proud to take this significant step forward in ensuring that children with disabilities, particularly children with communication barriers, have equal access to the child protective services system,” commented Disability Rights Wisconsin Executive Director, Daniel Idzikowski. “This legislation places Wisconsin in a leadership position among the states.”

“Representatives Kleefisch and Johnson and Senator Cowles were essential leaders guiding the passage of this bill with overwhelming bi-partisan support,” noted Lisa Pugh, DRW’s Public Policy Director. “DRW appreciates the opportunity to now work alongside the Department of Children and Families to develop new standards and resources that will help to keep children with disabilities safe.”

Available data indicate that children with disabilities are three times more likely to be a victim of abuse compared to children without disabilities. Upon review of child protective services reports and information uncovered by a FOX6 News investigation in Milwaukee, Disability Rights Wisconsin found that since February 2010 at least twelve children with special needs who were involved with the child protective services system have died due to abuse or neglect in Wisconsin. An additional eight suffered an egregious injury. Many cases involving children with special needs indicated repeated calls to child protective services. Some cases documented the inability of the child to provide information, or involved a non-verbal child.

Assembly Bill 667 addresses these concerns by requiring the Department of Children and Families to implement a plan to be used in the investigation of reports of abuse or neglect of a child with a disability. In addition to inquiring specifically whether a child involved in a child abuse or neglect report has a disability, the Department’s plan would address specific disability categories, ensure agency compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, address interview strategies for children with disabilities, discuss collateral information and specialized follow-up services for children with disabilities, address collaboration with the Department of Health Services, and include plans for training staff in the implementation of the plan.

The bill also requires each local child protective services agency to adopt the state’s plan.

Protecting individuals with disabilities from abuse and neglect is at the core of Disability Rights Wisconsin’s charge as Wisconsin’s designated Protection and Advocacy system for people with disabilities. We welcome the legislature’s quick action to protect children with disabilities and look forward to the Governor’s signature on this landmark legislation.