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Federal Court Recognizes Years of Successful Reforms in Allowing Milwaukee County Foster Care Settlement Exit

Contact: Camilla Jenkins, cjenkins@childrensrights.com

MADISON, WI — In a milestone for Milwaukee children in foster care served by Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families (DCF), a federal court today ordered that the agency may exit federal court oversight of a settlement agreement that resulted in major systems change and tangible results for children and families. The settlement agreement resulted from a class action lawsuit, Jeanine B. v Walker, brought on behalf of all Milwaukee County children in child welfare custody.

Today’s exit is a testament to Wisconsin’s commitment to investing in children and their needs, and to how legal advocacy can transform the way children are treated by public systems. In the time since the settlement agreement, DCF has worked to meet the agreement’s 19 performance measures, leading to sweeping improvements that mean children have become increasingly safe in government care and have a better chance at a permanent home. Having successfully withstood even the ongoing pressures and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, DCF can be proud of how far it has come.

“Today’s decision would not be possible without the collaborative work of our child welfare professionals and community partners,” said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. “Over the last two decades, thousands of people have worked together to build a trauma-informed system that not only keeps our communities safe but also empowers and uplifts families. I am incredibly proud of all that we have accomplished and look forward to continuing our efforts to serve Milwaukee County’s children and families.”

“DCF’s long-term public investment in adequate staffing, accountability, and community partnerships has improved the safety, health, and well-being of vulnerable children and families in Milwaukee County,” said Children’s Rights attorney Eric Thompson. “While the work is never done, DCF has fully embraced the reform process first committed to in response to our lawsuit. The agency’s years of consistent, documented improvements allowed the Court to terminate its oversight.”

For more information on Jeanine B v. Evers, visit www.childrensrights.org/class_action/wisconsin.

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