The Third Branch
Milwaukee Model Court recognized as leader
In 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. This initiative evaluates case processing in relation to the best practice standards outlined in “Resource Guidelines: Improving Court Practice in Child Abuse and Neglect Cases” and implements new strategies for improved outcomes.
Ryan Gonda, the national council’s site leader, stated, “The Milwaukee County Model Court Team stands out as a leader in best practices, building strong collaborations, and maintaining continuity in their efforts on improving practice and outcomes.”
The Milwaukee Model Court Collaborative Team established the following goals:
- Reducing the number of children entering out-of-home care
- Improving child safety decision-making
- Increasing court case processing efficiency
- Integrating trauma-informed best practices
Several activities are aimed at achieving these goals, including: multi-disciplinary trainings in Milwaukee County on child safety and trauma; changes to court procedures and forms; protocols for communication between the District Attorney’s Office and the agency; parent attorneys completing interviews earlier in the case; and appointing attorneys for alleged fathers.
In April 2014, NCJFCJ conducted an assessment of trauma informed practices and parental engagement in child welfare proceedings at the Milwaukee County Children’s Court and will be assisting the courts in completing an exit survey of parents to assess their court experience.
In 2015, the NCJFCJ will assist the court in implementing a pilot project in two courts where a child safety decision-making “coach” will observe temporary physical custody hearings and develop strategies with parties to ensure that the framework outlined in “Child Safety: A Guide for Judges and Attorneys” is being followed. The Child Safety Subcommittee of the Wisconsin Commission on Children, Families and the Courts plans to use the tools and activities developed by the Milwaukee County Model Court as a guide to provide training and institute a child safety project in additional counties across the state.