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State of Wisconsin and Children’s Rights Begin Exit of Milwaukee County Foster Care Settlement Following Years of Successful Reforms

Significant improvements in child welfare are a victory for Milwaukee County children

Contact: Camilla Jenkins, 917-971-1784, cjenkins@childrensrights.org

(Madison, Wisconsin)—In a significant milestone for Milwaukee County children in foster care, the parties to the Jeanine B. v. Evers class action lawsuit brought to overhaul Milwaukee County’s foster care system have jointly filed to exit federal court oversight.

Children’s Rights, along with co-counsel the American Civil Liberties Foundation of Wisconsin, Gray, Plant, Mooty, Mooty & Bennett, P.A., and Dorsey & Whitney LLP, prosecuted this case against the Wisconsin state defendants on behalf of all Milwaukee County children in child welfare custody.

A settlement agreement reached in 2002 required Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) to implement reforms to address longstanding issues in Milwaukee County foster care, including high abuse in care rates, poor provision of health care and other services, and high caseworker caseloads.

In the time since the settlement agreement, DCF has worked to meet the settlement agreement’s 19 performance measures, bringing about major systems change and tangible results for kids. Wisconsin’s investment in Milwaukee County child welfare means children have become increasingly safe in the state’s care and with a better chance at a permanent home. Having successfully withstood even the recent pressures and challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, DCF can be proud of how far it has come.

“Today’s filing is an important moment in our ongoing work to ensure the safety and well-being of the children and families in Milwaukee County,” said DCF Secretary Emilie Amundson. “It’s a reflection of the collaborative work of the many partners but is a specific testament to the dedication of our child welfare professionals and community members. We remain committed to the structure, transparency, and commitment to community-based solutions the settlement helped us develop.”

“We can celebrate today that our collaborative work has improved the safety, health, and well-being of vulnerable children 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. Years of consistent, documented improvements now allow us to recognize that court oversight has accomplished its purpose.”​

The joint settlement exit request now goes to the court for consideration. For more information on Jeanine B v. Evers, visit www.childrensrights.org/class_action/wisconsin.

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