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.


Episode 33: Youth Justice in Milwaukee (Part 1) [podcast]

Portraits of DHHS Director Mary Jo Meyers and County Executive Chris Abele

by: Bridge the City Podcast

This is the first episode of a two-part series on the future of youth justice in Milwaukee, and what the closure of Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake as youth correctional institutions might mean for Milwaukee in the coming years...

Listen to the Podcast


Wisconsin Youth & Family Services Administrator Mark Mertens [video]

by: Dominic Carter - Verizon FiOS TV, WABC-AM New York

Experts like Mark Mertens, the Wisconsin Youth and Family Services Adminstrators is one of the officials calling for a close to Youth Detention Center nationwide. Mertens attended the Youth Correctional Leaders for Justice Conference and spoke to Political Anchor Dominic Carter. The two-day conference was held at the Columbia University School of Social Work - April 10th, 2019...

See the Video on YouTube


Milwaukee County Unveils Plan for Lincoln Hills, Copper Lake Replacement Facility

Architectural Rendering of Secure Residential Center for Children and Youth

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Milwaukee County has submitted an official grant proposal to the state for its plan to open a secure center for youths, adhering to the initial timeline laid out in the bill that will close and replace Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons...

Read Full Article


Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele Requests $41 Million for New Juvenile Lockup Facility

Architectural Rendering of Secure Residential Center for Children and Youth

by: Talis Shelbourne - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is proposing $41.14 million in state fundingfor a teen lockup to relocate Milwaukee juveniles currently at the Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake sites, according to the office's news release...

Read Full Article


Milwaukee County Submits Proposal for Juvenile Offender Facility

Front entrance to the Vel R. Phillips Youth & Family Justice Center in Wauwatosa

by: Tori Bokios - CBS58 News

Milwaukee could eventually be home to two facilities for juvenile offenders after Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons are closed...

Read Full Article


County Seeking $41 Million From State for Youth Secure Residential Center Plan

Architectural Rendering of Secure Residential Center for Children and Youth

by: Lauren Anderson - BizTimes Milwaukee

Milwaukee County has submitted a $41 million proposal to the state for the construction of a new youth secure residential care center in Milwaukee and renovations at the Vel R. Phillips Juvenile Justice Center in Wauwatosa...

Read Full Article


Milwaukee County Submits Proposal to State for Youth Prison

Entrance sign for Lincoln Hills School for Boys, Copper Lake School for Girls

by: Corrine Hess - Wisconsin Public Radio

Milwaukee County is asking the state for $41.4 million to construct a "Secure Residential Care Center for Children and Youth" that will house those currently living at Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls...

Read Full Article


Lawmakers to Introduce Bill Delaying Closure of Troubled Lincoln Hills Youth Prison by Six Months

Entrance sign for Lincoln Hills School for Boys, Copper Lake School for Girls

by: Molly Beck - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

A group of lawmakers that championed a law closing the state's long-troubled youth prison is now proposing to delay the facility's closure to give county governments more time to build facilities to replace it...

Read Full Article


Want More? Click Here to Visit the DHHS News Archives

DHHS logo

Archives contain material back to September 2018


Contact DHHS Division of Youth & Family Services

Visit Us

Talk to Us

24-Hour Detention Line

(414) 257-7709

Administrative Contact

(414) 257-7721

Mark Mertens

Division of Youth & Family Services Administrator

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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