Death of 7-year-old boy in Manitowoc Co. raises questions about guardianship

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- The death of 7-year-old Ethan Hauschultz, allegedly at the hands of his court-appointed guardians and family members, leaves people wondering how he ended up in that situation.

"A guardianship for a minor can be considered in situations where a parent is no longer available for caring for the child.," said Tara Adolph, attorney at Adolph Legal.

Court documents say Ethan and his siblings were placed with the Hauschultz family in 2017. The reason why remains unclear, but state laws allow for a variety of reason why children receive guardianship outside of their parents. Those circumstances include a parent's death, imprisonment, severe illness, abandonment or neglect, and inability to provide financially.

"Primarily, it's to establish some permanency for the child that gives whoever is taking care of the child some legal rights to make some decisions, get some insurance, and potentially take care of any other legal things that would exist," said Adolph.

Timothy Hauschultz has a criminal record and was previously convicted of felony physical abuse of a child in 2009.

When deciding to grant guardianship, the court investigates the potential guardians through a custody study that includes a background check.

"They'll look into basically all aspects of the life to ensure that the most important thing is that the guardian is in the best interest of the child," said Adolph.

Recent data from Wisconsin State Courts shows the number of children given new guardians through court is on the rise, from 2,614 cases in 2012 to 3,210 cases in 2017.

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