Youth Defense Practice
The Family Practice Coordinators (formerly TPR Practice Group) is a growing practice area and has been active in training, legislative advocacy, and attorney collaboration since its inception in 2012. The goal of the practice group is to provide staff attorneys and private bar attorneys with the training and resources necessary to fight for families to be reunited as soon as possible. Whether it is through attempting to prevent the removal of children at the CHIPS stage or fighting for parents to preserve their right to parent their children during a termination of parental rights (TPR) case, our staff and private bar attorneys work to prevent the devastating effects of family separation. The focus of the Family Defense Practice Group is to ensure the best representation of parents in these actions and to work with system partners to ensure fair procedures in child welfare and TPR cases throughout the state.
When the group first began, one of the first identified needs was to conduct and update the training program and develop an intensive, two-day, TPR-specific training. That training still occurs regularly and is supplemented by other, shorter trainings throughout the State. Training focused on TPR cases includes every aspect of the TPR process. (TPR Protocol). Also, as the State Public Defender expanded its representation of parents in CHIPS cases through a five-county pilot project, initial and ongoing training has been developed for private bar and staff attorneys in CHIPS cases.
The SPD remains committed to working with the other branches of government on evolving legislation and legislative committees. SPD staff work with the agency's legislative liaison to ensure that our clients' voices are heard, not just in the courtroom, but also in the state capitol. We ask that if anyone hears of legislative actions concerning parents in TPR or CHIPS cases, to please contact one of the practice group coordinators or the SPD's legislative liaison.
We are always looking for areas to coordinate efforts between attorneys representing TPR and CHIPS parents in all geographic areas of Wisconsin, and at the trial and appellate levels. If you see an area that would benefit from coordinated statewide levels, don't hesitate to let us know.
We hope that the Family Practice Coordinator website will be a readily accessible resource for staff and private-bar attorneys to find and share sample motions, ideas, research, and other resources. Long-term plans for the website could include a transcript bank to allow practitioners to “see” the work of other attorneys in specific areas of litigation. If you have motions, briefs, guides, etc. that you would like to contribute, please send them our way. Also, if you are looking for something on the website and do not see it, please let us know so that we can help you. The only way all of us are going to provide the best representation possible is by working together for our clients.
Matthew Giesfeldt has been with the SPD since 2015, working in the juvenile unit of the Madison Trial Office, where TPRs and CHIPS cases are a significant part of his caseload. Prior to joining SPD, he also litigated CHIPS and TPR cases in the private sector. Mathewt is the author of the State Bar's Pinnacle Brown-Book on termination of parental rights cases. He has given numerous trainings (three at the national level) both within and outside of the SPD on a range of topics including TPRs, civil procedure, juvenile, and mental health. He received his BS in education from Edgewood College in 2006, his MS in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2010, and his law degree, also from UW in 2012.