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TPR – Therapy Privilege, § 905.04(1)(b)

Winnebago County DHS v. Jenny L. G.-J., 2009AP2956, District 2, 2/23/11

court of appeals decision (1-judge, not for publication); for Jenny L. G.-J.: Theresa J. Schmieder; case activity

The privilege attaching to interactions under direction of a family therapist, § 905.04(1)(b), doesn’t apply to information obtained by “dispositional staff” providing services under § 48.069.

¶11      Wisconsin Stat. § 48.069(1) defines a dispositional staffer as a member of “[t]he staff of the department [of children and families], the court, a county department or a licensed child welfare agency designated by the court to carry out the objectives and provisions of [the Children’s Code] ….”  Dispositional staffers have the power to “[o]ffer individual and family counseling.”  Section 48.069(1)(b).  As Depis is a family therapist with the Winnebago County Department of Human Services, she falls within the statutory definition of a dispositional staffer under § 48.069.

¶12      Having determined that Depis is a dispositional staffer, we must answer whether her testimony was admissible.  Wisconsin Stat. § 905.04(4)(i) states that information obtained by a dispositional staffer is not privileged and may be disclosed pursuant to one of the exceptions listed under Wis. Stat. § 48.78.  Section 48.78(2)(a) lists Wis. Stat. § 48.981(7) as one of the exceptions.  Section 48.981(7)(a)10. states that reports and records may be disclosed to a court conducting proceedings related to a petition under Wis. Stat. § 48.42, which governs TPR proceedings.  As Depis’s testimony came during a TPR proceeding, it was admissible.

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