The Third Branch
Milwaukee joins national model court project
By Michelle Jensen Goodwin, Director, Children's Court Improvement Program
Judge Marshall B. Murray
In May 2012, a partnership was established among the Milwaukee County Children's Court, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) and the Wisconsin Children's Court Improvement Program (CCIP) to initiate the Milwaukee Model Court Project to improve outcomes for children and families.
NCJFCJ established the Model Court Project to assist states in bringing together judges, attorneys, social workers and other professionals to identify impediments to the timeliness of court events and delivery of services for families with children in out-of-home care, and then design and implement court- and agency-based changes to address these barriers. Key values of the Model Court Project include judicial leadership, court oversight and due process, multi-system collaboration, child-focused outcomes, and system accountability.
The first step Milwaukee County took toward becoming a Model Court was to assess local practice in relation to the evidence-informed bench book Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases.
After reviewing the assessment findings, a multi-disciplinary advisory group, titled the Milwaukee Model Court Collaborative Team, began working toward the following three goals:
- Reduce the number of children entering out-of-home care.
- Increase court case processing efficiency.
- Empower social workers in court, which includes establishing a common understanding and definition of safety decision-making based on the publication, Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys.
The Milwaukee Model Court Project was initiated by the CCIP and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Marshall B. Murray, former Children's Court presiding judge. The project is co-led by Murray and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Joseph M. Donald, Milwaukee Children's Court presiding judge. Additional members of the Milwaukee Model Court Collaborative Team include:
- Dan Barlich, clerk of Juvenile Court – Milwaukee Children's Division
- Mike Boeder, vice president, Integrated Family Services
- Mary Pat Bohn, deputy director, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare
- Raeshann Canady, first assistant state public defender – Milwaukee Juvenile Division
- Elizabeth Finn-Gorski, Milwaukee Children's Court coordinator
- Arlene Happach, director, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare
- Sarah Henery, legal counsel, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare
- Amy Herbst, vice president of Child Welfare, Children's Service Society of Wisconsin
- Shelia Hill Roberts, chief staff attorney GAL Division – Legal Aid Society of Wisconsin
- Michelle Jensen Goodwin, director, CCIP
- Duke Lehto, private bar attorney
- EJ Maldonado, NCJFCJ Model Court liaison
- Amy Roehl, policy analyst, CCIP
- Mary Sowinski, Milwaukee County assistant district attorney – Children's Court Center
- Julia Vosper, Milwaukee County Circuit Court commissioner
"It is the hope of those working within the ‘Model Court' process that lessons learned can and will be shared with our court partners statewide because if we are going to have better outcomes for our families and children, it will have to be a statewide effort,” Murray said.
"Therefore, we look forward to the next county joining us at the table to begin their journey by establishing a Model Court in their community,” Murray added.
For more information about the Milwaukee Model Court Project, please contact Michelle Jensen Goodwin, CCIP director at email@example.com or 608-266-1557.