Smiling child

Disability Rights Wisconsin Celebrates New Law Protecting Children with Disabilities

Disability Rights Wisconsin joined disability advocates and bi-partisan legislators in a celebration in Green Bay today as Governor Walker signed strong new legislation that will be a model for the nation in protecting children with disabilities from abuse and neglect.

Assembly Bill 667 requires the state to develop a plan for investigating reports of abuse or neglect involving children with disabilities. The bill was introduced by lead-sponsors Representatives Kleefisch-R – Oconomowoc, and Representative Johnson-D – Milwaukee along with Senator Rob Cowles-R – Green Bay. The bill passed with unanimous bi-partisan support.

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,” said Lisa Pugh, Public Policy Director. “There is clearly a need for an improvement in the system to protect this group of vulnerable children.”

Assembly Bill 667 addresses these concerns by requiring the Department of Children and Families to design and implement a plan for the investigation of abuse or neglect reports involving a child with a disability. In addition to specifically inquiring as to whether a child involved in an abuse or neglect report has a disability, the Department’s plan must 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 new law will also require each local child protective services agency to adopt the state’s plan.

“We look forward to working with the Department of Children and Families as they develop the model plan,” says Dan Idzikowski, Executive Director. “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.”