Rising Caseloads and Worker Turnover Threaten Milwaukee Foster Care Reform

Today state reviewers issued a report tracking the progress of The Wisconsin Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) in reforming its child welfare system in the first half of 2014, an effort spurred by national advocacy organization Children’s Rights. In response to the report, Eric Thompson, of counsel to Children’s Rights, issued the following statement:

“While the Bureau continues to do good work, only an experienced and stable workforce can ensure that Milwaukee’s children have the protection and care they deserve. During the first half of 2014, caseloads spiked to a three-year high, a third of workers left their jobs, and the number of children abused in care was already higher than for all of last year. It is imperative that the state immediately stabilize the workforce. Without urgent action, the substantial progress made under former Bureau Director Arlene Happach will be lost.”

Children’s Rights and co-counsel filed the federal class action known as Jeanine B. v. Walker in 1993, charging that the Milwaukee child welfare system was grossly mismanaged and failed to protect children in its care. A court-enforceable Settlement Agreement mandating an overhaul of the child welfare system was reached in 2002. State officials are continuing to implement an agreed-upon Corrective Action Plan aimed at bringing BMCW into full compliance with the requirements of the Settlement Agreement.