Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Department of Human Services

Adult Protective Services

Adults sometimes live or behave in ways that are unhealthy or unsafe. These behaviors may pose a danger to the individual or to others. For adults who are found to be legally incompetent and are a danger to themselves or others, the Department of Human Services is obligated to provide protection and services. For adults who are competent and act in unhealthy or unsafe ways, the Department of Human Services encourages individuals to accept services that will result in a healthier and safer day to day life for themselves and others.

Guiding Value

Every action taken by Adult Protective Services must balance the duty to protect the safety of the vulnerable adult with the adult’s right to self-determination.

Secondary Value

Older persons and persons with disabilities who are victims of mistreatment should be treated with honesty, caring, and respect.


  • Adults have the right to be safe.
  • Adults retain all their civil and constitutional rights, i.e., the right to live their lives as they wish, manage their own finances, enter into contracts, marry, etc. unless a court adjudicates otherwise.
  • Adults have the right to make decisions that do not conform with societal norms as long as these decisions do not harm others.
  • Adults have the right to accept or refuse services.

Protective services are intended to assess the degree to which an individual is at risk and to offer services that help the individual stay safe and healthy. These services are usually voluntary, although in certain situations services may be court-ordered.