State of Wisconsin
Department of Children and Families
DCF Rule Suspensions and Modifications Related to COVID-19
DCF 52, 54, 56, 57, 59, 152, and 202
The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families orders the repeal of ss. DCF 52.12 (1) (c) 2. and 3., 152.06 (2) and (3), 202.04 (3) (b) 9. c., and 202.04 (3) (c) 5.; the renumbering of s. DCF 57.26; the amendment of s. DCF 59.01 (4); and the creation of ss. DCF 52.12 (3) (bm), 52.21 (8) (am), 52.45 (1) (bm), 54.04 (2) (cm), 56.055 (2m), 56.09 (4) (am), 57.15 (2) (am), 57.19 (7m), 57.26 (2), and 59.04 (6) (cm), relating to DCF rule suspensions and modifications related to COVID-19.
These emergency rules were approved by the governor on May 16, 2020.
The statement of scope for these rules, SS 028-20, was approved by the governor on April 30, 2020, published in Register 773A1, on May 4, 2020, and approved by Secretary Emilie Amundson on May 14, 2020.
Finding of Emergency
The COVID-19 pandemic is endangering the health and safety of Wisconsin residents and causing significant economic disruption throughout the state. The department’s emergency rules are necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of Wisconsin residents for the following reasons:
To facilitate the placement and care of children in out-of-home care by allowing flexibility with respect to a limited set of requirements that present challenges due to COVID-19.
To ensure the health and safety of local agency child care certification workers and certified child care providers and to enable continuity of care for children in certified child care.
To provide relief to child support obligors who through no fault of their own may have lost their employment and are unable to comply with court-ordered child support obligations.
Analysis Prepared by the Department of Children and Families
Explanation of Agency Authority
Section 48.651 (1d), Stats., provides that the department shall promulgate rules establishing standards for the certification of child care providers. Section 48.67 (intro.), Stats., provides that the department shall promulgate rules establishing minimum requirements for the issuance of licenses to, and establishing standards for the operation of, child welfare agencies, including child welfare agencies’ operation of residential care centers; child care centers; foster homes; group homes; shelter care facilities; and county departments. Those rules shall be designed to protect and promote the health, safety, and welfare of the children in the care of all licensees. Section 48.685 (9), Stats., provides that the department may promulgate any rules necessary for the administration of this section. The section provides requirements for criminal history and child abuse record searches. Section 49.858 (2) (c), Stats., directs the department to specify the level of support that is overdue before an individual is considered to be delinquent in the payment of support for purposes of the administrative support enforcement. Section 227.11 (2) (a), Stats., expressly confers rule-making authority on each agency to promulgate rules interpreting the provisions of any statute enforced or administered by the agency if the agency considers it necessary to effectuate the purpose of the statute.
Section 323.265, Stats., as created by 2019 Wisconsin Act 185, authorizes the tolling of certain deadlines and the suspension of training requirements associated with any program administered or enforced by a state governmental body or local governmental unit during an emergency period that ends on June 10, 2020.
Summary of the Rules
The emergency rules make the following changes to the department’s child welfare licensing rules:
Allow flexibility with the deadlines for completion of certain initial and ongoing physical and dental examinations for children in foster homes, group homes, and residential care centers and for children accepted for placement by a licensed child-placing agency if it is not feasible to comply with the deadlines in the rules for a reason related to COVID-19. (Chapters DCF 52, 54, 56, and 57)
Suspend the limits on the work schedules of resident care workers in residential care centers. (Chapter DCF 52)
Allow the department to grant exceptions that authorize an increase in the number of days that a child may be placed in a shelter care facility. (Chapter DCF 59)
Allow completion of fingerprint-based criminal background checks to be delayed for foster and adoptive parents and licensees and workers in group homes, residential care centers, and shelter care facilities if it is not currently feasible to complete them due to COVID-19. Name-based background checks will continue to be required and fingerprint-based criminal background checks will be completed as soon as it is feasible. (Chapters DCF 52, 56, 57, and 59)
The department is suspending the provisions that require certification agency staff to conduct on-site visits of certified child care providers prior to granting recertification or prior to reopening after a temporary closure. (Chapter DCF 202)
Child Support Lien Docket
The department is suspending the provisions in ch. DCF 152 that establish a threshold for certifying a child support case for the lien docket. When the department certifies that a person obligated to pay support is eligible for the support lien docket under s. 49.854, Stats., an administrative lien arises by operation of law against the real and personal property in which the person has a recorded ownership interest. Certifying a child support debt for the lien docket and subsequent credit bureau reporting may have an adverse effect on the person’s subsequent efforts to comply with their court order to pay support. Suspension of the threshold will prevent new child support debts from being certified to the lien docket.
Summary of Factual Data and Analytical Methodologies
The department reviewed federal law, guidance issued by the Administration for Children and Families, relevant state statutes and current administrative rules, and expired and invalidated orders issued during the COVID-19 public health emergency to determine appropriate protections for the health and safety of local agency staff and clients and to allow flexibility for rule deadlines that may not be feasible due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Summary of Public Comment on the Statement of Scope and the Department’s Response
Comment: Jim Sullivan, Director of Milwaukee County Child Support Services, disagrees with the department’s proposed emergency rule prohibiting certification of new child support debts to the lien docket. Milwaukee County Child Support Services is not certifying debts to the lien docket now, but thinks it should be in the discretion of the local agency in the future. Prohibiting the certification of new debts to the lien docket defeats the purpose of the child support program.