Department of Health and Human Services

Providing Youth and Families With Supervision and Support in Pursuing a Pro-social Future

My Child Has Been Arrested. What Happens Now?

The Milwaukee County DHHS Division of Youth & Family Services can walk you through the process.  

The Intake Process

The Court Process

The Final Disposition Process

How Does DYFS Help?

The Milwaukee County DHHD Division of Youth & Family Services helps youth involved in the justice system, and community safety, by providing a broad spectrum of programs and services for youth before, during and after involvement in the justice system.


Prevention/Early Intervention

DYFS services focusing on both prevention (pre-arrest) and early intervention (post-arrest, pre-disposition), including working with the whole family, are key to having at-risk youth advance into pro-social, successful adults.  

These programs and services include:

  • Capias Abatement
  • Community Accountability Panels
  • Community Connections
  • Evening Report Center (ERC)
  • In-Home GPS Monitoring
  • Juvenile Education Treatment Initiatives (JETI)
  • Shelter Care Program
  • Supervision Engagement Program (SEP)
  • Youth Employment Program
  • Youth Mentoring Program



Once a judge has reached a final decision on how best to help a youth who has gotten involved in the justice system, DYFS is there to provide interventional (post-disposition) programming to help a youth move to the next step in their life, and make it a positive one. These programs focus on the youth, and often times, provide support to the family as well. These include:

  • Alternative Sanctions Program (ASP)
  • Community Service & Restitution Coordination (CRSC)
  • FOCUS Program
  • Group Home and Foster Care
  • Level II Program with Optional GPS Monitoring
  • Restorative Justice Programs
  • Targeted Monitoring Program
  • True Aftercare Program
  • Wraparound Milwaukee
  • Youth & Family Services Network Programs



Once a youth has completed his or her intervention program, our work is not done.  Making sure youth re-enter society with the tools and abilities to avoid the circumstances that led to their initial involvement with the justice system is what keeps Milwaukee County safe, and our youth successful. 

DYFS has created a Youth Advocates team, consisting of a group of six human service workers, that supports youth who have been placed in Wisconsin Department of Corrections facilities. Their primary goals are to supervise, advocate for, and support this special population of youth and their families.

Credible Messenger Program

Credible Messengers is mentoring for youth in the Youth Justice System and youth in the community who may be at risk. This transformative process through which individuals from similar backgrounds, including men and women who themselves may have been justice-involved, engage youth in structured and intentional relationships and activities, provide a positive platform for youth engagement & community voice; and change agents for racial equity and policy on issues that plague the youth, families and community.

Credible Messenger Brochure 

Program Launch Press Release 


Milwaukee County Cuts Ties with Contractor Over Its 'Participation in the Detention of Migrant Children'

Marcia P. Coggs Human Services Center looking northeast.

by: Alison Dirr - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

The Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services notified one of its contractors this month that it will end its relationship over the contractor's "participation in the detention of migrant children on our nation's southern border."...

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Milwaukee County Ends Contract Over Vendor's Actions at Southern Border

This June 20, 2014 photo shows the Southwest Key-Nueva Esperanza, in Brownsville, Texas, a facility that shelters unaccompanied immigrant children.

by: Corrinne Hess - Wisconsin Public Radio

Milwaukee County is ending its 25-year relationship with a national nonprofit organization because of the group's operations at the southern border of the United States...

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Milwaukee County Ends Ties with Company That Holds Migrant Children

Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Lectern

by: AP Wire Service - Fox6 News

Milwaukee County is ending a contract with a nonprofit serving troubled youth because the organization is also the largest provider of detention facilities for migrant children in the U.S...

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SPECIAL REPORT: A Tale of Two Cities: New York Providers Credit 'Aftercare' for Helping Youths Transition Home

Young men gather at a community school in the Bronx for a weekly mentoring group as part of their “aftercare”

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Although they already face obstacles, the real challenge for young people in New York’s youth justice system comes when they return home, those who work with them say...

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SPECIAL REPORT: A Tale of Two Cities: New York Juvenile Justice Program Stresses 'Safety by Relationships'

Youths eat lunch with staff members at a big family-style kitchen table at a limited-secure Close to Home facility in Brooklyn, New York.

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

After waiting for their court date in a more traditional detention center, the young men around the table were placed in this Close to Home facility in Brooklyn operated by the nonprofit Rising Ground. It is one of the small facilities for six to 12 kids that replaced the state’s youth prisons, and it’s meant to resemble a homelike environment...

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Youth Corrections Proposal Sent to State

The Milwaukee County Courthouse looking west

by: Graham Kilmer - Urban Milwaukee

Milwaukee County hopes to fundamentally change the way it treats juvenile justice in the coming years, but it may be limited by the structure of state funding...

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SPECIAL REPORT: A Tale of Two Cities: How New York and Milwaukee Approach Juvenile Justice

A limited-secure facility for “high-risk” youths in the justice system in Brooklyn, New York, blends in with the other apartments on the block.

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

The walk from a subway station in Brooklyn, New York, to a secure facility for kids in the criminal justice system takes all of five minutes. The route passes by a laundromat, a Chinese takeout restaurant, a bodega with fresh flowers on the sidewalk and a college preparatory high school...

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Lincoln Hills Use of Pepper Spray Criticized

DYFS Administrator Mark Mertens


by: Alison Dirr - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Universal Health Services, a Pennsylvania-based private behavioral health hospital operator, plans to build a $33 million hospital in West Allis...

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The Capitol Report: Four Counties Vie for Funds to Build New Juvenile Detention Facilities

DHHS Director Mary Jo Meyers


Brown, Dane, Milwaukee and Racine counties have submitted applications to build detention facilities for less-serious juvenile offenders...

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County Proposal Replaces Youth Prison

Overhead view of Lincoln Hills School for Boys, Copper Lake School for Girls

by: Corri Hess - Wisconsin Public Radio

With the closure of Wisconsin’s troubled youth prisons delayed, Milwaukee County has submitted a new proposal to state officials to bring the youth housed there home sooner...

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With Potential Gap in Funding for Juvenile Detention Centers, Counties in 'Holding Pattern'

Person setting up chairs in a classroom

by: Riley Vetterkind - WiscNews

Although it’s twice what lawmakers initially proposed, the $80 million set aside in the state’s two-year budget for counties to build new juvenile treatment centers may still not be enough to complete the juvenile justice overhaul state lawmakers had envisioned...

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Want More? Click Here to Visit the DHHS News Archives

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Archives contain material back to September 2018


Contact DHHS Division of Youth & Family Services

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Talk to Us

24-Hour Detention Line

(414) 257-7715

Administrative Contact

(414) 257-7721

Kelly Pethke

Kelly Pethke 

Interim Administrator, Children, Youth & Family Services

Contact for Media Inquiries



1220 W. Vliet St.

Suite 301

Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53205

Our Vision

Together, creating healthy communities.

Our Mission

Empowering safe, healthy, meaningful lives.

Our Values

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Diversity, Excellence

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