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.


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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'UPFRONT' Recap: Abele Wants to Set National Model for Youth Corrections

County Executive Chris Abele, DHHS Director Mary Jo Meyers

by: UPFRONT - WISN 12 News

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said he hopes the county’s plan to renovate its existing juvenile center into a newer residential care center for young offenders will become "the new national model" for youth corrections...

See the Interview


Milwaukee County Proposes Multiple Local Facilities for Youths Held at Lincoln Hills

Vel R Phillips Youth & Family Justice Center entrance

by: Alison Dirr - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Milwaukee County is no longer proposing to build a single secure residential care center for some Milwaukee youths held at the troubled Lincoln Hills School for Boys and Copper Lake School for Girls north of Wausau...

See the Interview


Dispatches From the Schoolyard [Podcast]

by: Code Switch podcast - NPR News

In middle school and high school, we're figuring out how to fit in and realizing that there are things about ourselves that we can't change — whether or not we want to. This week, we're turning the mic over to student podcasters, who told us about the big issues shaping their nascent identities...

Download the Podcast


How a New Youth Corrections Leadership Group is Helping Milwaukee Close Youth Prisons

Vincent Schiraldi, Mark Mertens, Gladys Carrion, and Patrick McCarthy speaking

by: Michael Fitzgerald - The Chronicle of Social Change

After three years on the job, the Milwaukee County official who oversees juvenile justice finds his system at a crossroads. The Wisconsin state legislature passed a bill last March closing two youth prisons after a criminal probe and multiple lawsuits alleged abuse and neglect of youth, alarming lawmakers...

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DOC's Juvenile Grant Committee Hears Concerns About Youth Justice System

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

by: Patrick Poblete -

During a fractious meeting that spanned the better part of three-and-a-half hours, several counties that had previously submitted proposals to operate youth lockups expressed concerns about the viability of the projects to the Department of Correction’s Juvenile Grant Committee...

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'We Know we Can Do it Better': Milwaukee County Leaders Criticize State's Plan to Replace Lincoln Hills

Lincoln Hills School for Boys, Copper Lake School for Girls

by: Allison Dikanovic - Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

Representatives from Milwaukee County raised concerns with the state’s plan to close Lincoln Hills and Copper Lake youth prisons during a meeting Monday in Madison...

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Facilities to Replace Lincoln Hills Prison Expected to Cost Far More Than Original Estimates

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

by: Patrick Marley - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

New secure facilities for teen offenders are expected to cost far more than legislators initially anticipated, complicating the state's efforts to close its long-troubled juvenile prison...

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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...

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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...

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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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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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