Home Programs Americorps Related Sites Resources Resources Program Sharing Board of Directors

WAHRS  >  Resources  >  Alone Without A Home
WAHRS > Resources > Alone Without A Home

Alone Without a Home: State-by-State review of Laws Affecting Unaccompanied Youth

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty National Network for Youth 2012

Extracted Wisconsin information from each section:

Definition of Child, Infant, juvenile, Minor, Youth

Child: Any person under 18 years of age [Children’s Code Chapter]. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 48.02 (2011).

Juvenile: Any person under 18 years of age [Juvenile Justice Code Chapter]. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 938.02 (2011).

Classifications of Homeless and Runaway Youth

Homeless Person: Any person who does not have a place to stay and states that he/she does not have the financial means to acquire housing. Wis. Admin. Code Comm 150.02 (2011). Runaway: No specific definition, but could be classified as a juvenile in need of protection or services. A juvenile in need of protection or services is, among other things, a juvenile who is habitually truant from home. Wis. Stat. § 938.13 (2011).

Youth in Need of Supervision Statutes

The term “JINPS” refers to youth (a) who habitually run away from home if the youth or parent/guardian/ caretaker request court involvement because reconciliation efforts have failed, (b) whose parent/ guardian request court involvement and cannot control the youth, (c) are habitually truant from school after intervention, or (d) have dropped out of school. The term “neglect” means failure, refusal, or inability on the part of a caregiver, for reasons other than poverty, to provide necessary care, food, clothing, medical or dental care, or shelter so as to seriously endanger the physical health of the child. JINPS can be taken into custody and held for 24 hours without a court order. The court can then send JINPS home or to another adult with restrictions, including electronic monitoring. The court can also dismiss the case and refer the family for informal services, or enter a consent decree that suspends the case, places the youth under supervision and orders actions of the youth or family. After a hearing, the court can (a) send JINPS home to parents or another relative and order counseling of the youth or family, (b) place the youth under supervision, (c) order homemaker or parent aide services, respite care, housing assistance, day care or parent skills training, a volunteer role model, or general monitoring, (d) send the youth to teen court, or (e) order intensive supervision. JINPS cannot be placed in serious juvenile offender programs or secure facilities, ordered to pay restitution, denied driving privileges, or ordered into detention or nonsecure custody. See Wis. Stat. §§ 48.02, 938.13, 938.21, 938.32, 938.34, 938.345 (2011).

Status Offences – Running Away Statutes

A runaway youth may be taken into custody without a warrant by a police officer. Wis. Stat. § 938.19 (2011). The police officer shall then either release the youth into the custody of the youth’s guardian after counseling or warning the youth as appropriate, or deliver the youth to a runaway home. If the youth is delivered to a runaway home, the parents shall be notified immediately and a detention hearing shall be held. Wis. Stat. § 938.20 (2011). The court may declare the youth a juvenile in need of protection or services. Wis. Stat. § 938.13 (2011). The court may order a juvenile in need of protection or services to undergo counseling, may subject the juvenile in need of protection or services to court supervision, and may either release the juvenile in need of protection or services into the custody of the youth’s guardian, or place the youth with a relative, a child caring institution, or in non-secure custody. Wis. Stat. § 938.345 (2011).

Status Offences – Truancy Statutes

Compulsory school age is 6 to 18 years old. A police officer or attendance officer may take a truant youth into custody without a warrant. A habitual truant is a student who is absent from school five or more days in one school year. Wisconsin grants its local governments the power to create ordinances concerning truancy. The ordinances may grant the court power to order a habitual truant to attend school, pay a fine, attend counseling, take part in community service, attend an educational program, or be subject to supervision, house arrest, or a curfew. Wisc. Stat. § 118.15 (2011); Wisc. Stat. § 118.16 (2011); Wisc. Stat. § 118.163 (2011); Wisc. Stat. § 938.19 (2011).

Status Offences – Curfew Statutes

There is no explicit statute regarding curfews.


There is no general statute that addresses the process of emancipation, but the district does appear to recognize emancipation in other statutes. An emancipated minor means “a minor who is or has been married; a minor who has previously given birth; or a minor who has been freed from the care, custody and control of her parents, with little likelihood of returning to the care, custody and control prior to marriage or prior to reaching the age of majority.” Furthermore, upon marriage, a minor is no longer a proper subject for guardianship, unless he/she is found to be incompetent. See Wis. Stat. § 48.375(2)(e); Wis. Stat. § 54.46(6) (2011).

Rights of Youth to Enter into Contracts
No specific statute regarding a minor’s capacity to contract was found in Wisconsin.

Health Care Access for Unaccompanied Youth
Wisconsin’s SCHIP program is called BadgerCare Plus and is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. The program covers all youth in Wisconsin 19 years of age or under regardless of income level. BadgerCare Plus is divided into two plans: the Standard Plan and the Benchmark Plan. The Standard Plan covers youth with family incomes below 200% of the FPL and the Benchmark Plan covers youth with family incomes above 200% of the FPL. Copayments are larger under the Benchmark Plan and participants must pay premiums on a sliding scale based on income level. Minors can apply on their own for medical coverage. The application may be completed online at https:// access.wisconsin.gov/ or by visiting a local partner agency. A list of partner agencies is available online or by calling 1-800-362-3002. The BadgerCare Plus website is located at http://www.badgercareplus.org/children.htm

Consent and Confidentiality Statutes

A physician may treat a minor infected with a sexually transmitted disease or examine and diagnose a minor for the presence of such a disease without obtaining the consent of the minor’s parents or guardian. Wis. Stat. § 252.11(1m) (West 2011). Preventive, diagnostic, assessment, evaluation, or treatment services for the abuse of alcohol or other drugs may be rendered to a minor 12 years of age or over without obtaining the consent of or notifying the minor’s parent or guardian, and may be rendered to a minor under 12 years of age without obtaining the consent of or notifying the minor’s parent or guardian but only if a parent with legal custody or guardian of the minor under 12 years of age cannot be found or there is no parent with legal custody. Wis. Stat. § 51.47(1) (West 2011). Consent is required for certain procedures set forth in section (2), and the parent or guardian shall be notified as soon as practicable. Id.Admission of minors to inpatient treatment facilities for alcoholism, drug abuse, and mental illness is addressed in Wis. Stat. § 51.13 (West 2011).

No person may perform an abortion on an unemancipated minor unless (a) voluntary and informed written consent of the minor and one parent, or of the minor’s guardian, custodian, adult family member, or foster parent in certain circumstances, has been received, or (b) the court has granted a petition for a waiver of the parental consent requirement. Wis. Stat. § 48.375(4)(a) (West 2011). Exceptions set forth in section (b). Amended by 2007-2008 Wisc. Legis. Serv. Act 20 (2007 S.B. 40) (West).

Discharge from the Juvenile Justice System

Every effort is to be made to release juveniles into the custody of a parent, guardian, or legal custodian. If the juvenile cannot be so released, the juvenile may be released into the custody of a responsible adult after counseling or receiving a warning. A juvenile at least 15 years of age may be released without immediate adult supervision after counseling or receiving a warning. A runaway youth may be released to a runaway home. When juveniles are so released other than to the parent, guardian, or legal custodian, the person who took the juvenile into custody is directed to notify the juvenile’s parent, guardian, and legal custodian that the juvenile has been released and to whom the juvenile was released. Wis. Stat. § 938.20 (2011) Interstate Compact for Juveniles Wis. Stat. Ann. § 938.999 (2011).

Federal Benefits

W-2 (Wisconsin Works)
Parenting and pregnant recipients under the age of 18 who do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent must attend school. Parents with a child under 45 days old are exempt from this requirement. Wis. Stat. Ann. § 49.26(g) (West 2011). 18- and 19-year old recipients may choose whether to attend high school, enroll in an approved course of study, or participate in employment-related activities. Wisconsin Works Manual, (2011). Minor custodial parents, regardless or their income and assets, are eligible to meet with a financial and employment planner who will provide them with information regarding Wisconsin Works eligibility, available child care services, employment and financial planning, family planning services, community resources, eligibility for food stamps, and other food and nutrition.

Rights of Unaccompanied Youth to Public Education
(Nothing noted beyond McKinney Vento, see full document)

Harboring Unaccompanied Youth

There is no specific law referring to the harboring of runaway youth. However, it is a crime to intentionally conceal, take away, or withhold a child from the child’s guardian, as well as causing a child to leave the child’s guardian. Harboring a runaway may fall within this category. It is an affirmative defense that the person that takes the child has parental authority to protect the child from harm, has the consent of the legal guardian to take the child, or is otherwise ordered by law to have the child. Wis. Stat. § 948.31 (2011).

Services and Shelters for Unaccompanied Youth

Runaway Youth Services
The Department of Social Services shall distribute $ 50,000 in each fiscal year as grants to programs that provide services for runaway children. Wis. Stat. § 48.481 (2011).

Youth Shelters
The Department of Health and Family Services has the power to license shelter care and child care facilities. Wis. Stat. § 48.48 (2011). Within 12 hours of admitting a runaway youth into its care, a runaway home must contact an intake worker and notify the intake worker of the youth’s whereabouts. The intake worker must then attempt to contact the youth’s guardian as soon as possible. Wis. Stat. § 48.227 (2011). A runaway youth may not be removed from a runaway home without court order. If a runaway youth’s guardian does not consent to the runaway home’s temporary care, then a hearing must be held in court to determine if the youth must return home or may remain in the shelter for a time period not to exceed 20 days. Wis. Stat. § 48.227 (2011).

Homeless Shelters The Department of Commerce is responsible for allocating grants to organizations for the operation of homeless shelters. The Department may set out rules defining who is eligible for the grants. Wis. Stat. § 560.9808 (2011).


Back to Resources list


WAHRS • Patricia Balke • pbalke.wahrs@gmail.com • 608-241-2649

WAHRS • Patricia Balke