Wisconsin Safe Haven Laws

A law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member may accept custody of a child not older than 72 hours if the child is relinquished by its parent with intent not to return for the child.  If a parent who wishes to relinquish custody of his/her child is unable to travel to a sheriffs office, police station, fire station, hospital, or other place where a law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member is located, the parent may dial the telephone number “911” and express his/her desire.  The person receiving the call shall dispatch a law enforcement officer or emergency medical technician to meet the parent and take the child into custody.  In an area in which the telephone number “911” is not available, the parent may use the number of an emergency medical service provider.[i]

A law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member accepting custody of the child must: [ii]

a)     take necessary action to protect the health and safety of the child

b)     deliver the child to an intake worker within 24 hours of accepting custody.

c)     file a birth certificate for the child within 5 days of accepting custody.

The parent relinquishing the child and the person assisting the parent in relinquishing the child has the right to remain anonymous.  The parent or the assisting person shall not be compelled to disclose any identifying information.  However, they may be forced to disclose information if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been a victim of abuse or neglect; or that the person assisting the parent is coercing the parent to relinquish custody of the child.[iii]

Similarly, the parent or assisting person may leave the premises of the safe surrender site at any time after surrendering the child.  They may not be followed unless there is a reasonable cause to believe that the child was subject to child abuse or neglect; or that the person assisting the parent is coercing the parent to relinquish custody of the child.[iv]

Any officer, employee, or agent of the state or of a political subdivision of the state may attempt to locate or ascertain the identity of an assisting person or parent who relinquishes custody of the child.  However, they may attempt to access identifying information if there is a reasonable cause to suspect that the child has been a victim of child abuse or neglect; or that the person assisting the parent has forced the parent into relinquishing custody of the child.[v]

Any person who obtains any information regarding the relinquishment of a child shall keep that information confidential. [vi]  The person may not disclose the obtained information to anyone else.  However the information may be disclosed to the following persons: [vii]

1. Birth parent of the child, if the birth parent has waived his/her right to remain anonymous; or the adoptive parent of the child, if the child is later adopted.

2. Appropriate staff of the Department, County Department, or Licensed Child Welfare Agency that is providing services to the child.

3. A person authorized to provide or providing intake or dispositional services.

4. An attending physician for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment of the child.

5. The child’s foster parent, treatment foster parent, or other person having physical custody of the child.

6. A court conducting proceedings relating to the child.

7. A tribal court, or other adjudicative body authorized by an American Indian tribe or band to perform child welfare functions, that is exercising jurisdiction over proceedings relating to the child, an attorney representing the interests of the American Indian tribe or band in those proceedings, or an attorney representing the interests of the child in those proceedings.

Any law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member accepting custody of the child shall make available to the parent materials and child health toll-free telephone number maintained by the Department.  However, the parent may or may not accept the provided information.  The parent must not be forced to accept the information.[viii]

Any parent relinquishing custody of his/her child and any person assisting the parent in that relinquishment are immune from any civil or criminal liability for any act or omission done in good faith in connection with that relinquishment. They are also immune from any civil or criminal liability for exercising their right to remain anonymous, the right to leave at any time, and the right not to accept the provided information.  Additionally, they are immune from prosecution for abandonment or neglect of a child.[ix]

Any law enforcement officer, emergency medical technician, or hospital staff member accepting custody of a child is immune from any civil liability to the child’s parents, or any criminal liability for any good faith act or omission occurring solely in connection with the act of receiving custody of the child from the child’s parents.  However, they are not immune from any civil or criminal liability for any act or omission occurring in the care of the child after accepting custody. [x]

A child taken into custody under the Safe Haven laws is presumed to be eligible for medical assistance under section 49.46 (dealing with medical assistance for recipients of social security aids) or section 49.47 (dealing with medical assistance for medically indigent.)[xi]

The Department shall promulgate rules to implement provisions relating to the safe abandonment of newborns.[xii]

[i] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(1)

[ii] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(1)

[iii] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(2)

[iv] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(2)

[v] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(2)

[vi] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(2)

[vii] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(2)

[viii] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(3)

[ix] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(4)

[x] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(4)

[xi] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(5)

[xii] Wis. Stat. § 48.195(6)


Inside Wisconsin Safe Haven Laws