Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare
New Initiatives

The Department of Children and Families and the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) are continually looking for ways to better serve the children and families under our supervision. The following are new initiatives currently underway at BMCW.

Families Come First

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare (BMCW) received a grant from the US Administration for Children and Families to implement a pilot in collaboration with Meta House, Inc., to provide an alternative response for children who are at risk of entering foster care due to substance abuse by the mother.  Meta House is a family treatment program for women with substance use disorders and their children located in the City of Milwaukee.

The pilot, Families Come First, began in February 2010 and targets infants who are positive for toxic substances at birth and their mothers, as well as pregnant women who are abusing alcohol and/or drugs.  In this collaboration and teaming process, the BMCW and Meta House respond jointly to allegations of child maltreatment that involve substance use to identify the impact on child safety, provide a faster and family-centered response, and actively involve mothers in the safety decisions for their children while keeping them together. This two-generational approach appreciates that treatment of the mother fosters prevention for her children. It recognizes that, for mothers, the welfare of children and substance abuse recovery are intimately related and dependent upon each other for success.

More Information

The Partnership

Meta House, Inc. Substance Abuse Family-Based Treatment Program, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare, and Milwaukee County Children’s Court


To implement a successful collaboration among the Department of Children and Families, Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and Meta House with a shared purpose of preserving the family unit and supporting the safety, permanence, and well-being of children.

Population Served

Women brought to the attention of the BMCW who do not have a current open case and who have substance affected infants at birth or are pregnant and using substances.


Meta House uses family-based treatment that is gender specific and culturally competent. Family-centered treatment requires an array of services provided by staff in an environment of mutual respect. The safety of the family comes first with treatment that supports the creation of healthy family systems.

A family team decision-making process is used that involves the supportive engagement and empowerment of families, community members, and service providers in the decision–making process related to the safety of children.  It also enables family members in collaboration with child welfare staff and service providers, to develop and implement relevant plans of action.

Service Results

From February 1, 2010 through February 29, 2012, 445 women were referred, primarily through hospital social workers via reports to the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare. Of these, 88 percent had substance affected infants and 12 percent were pregnant and using substances. Approximately 55 percent agreed to voluntary collaborative assessment.


An external evaluation of the pilot is being conducted by the Planning Council for Health and Human Services, Inc., a nonprofit planning, research, and evaluation agency. The evaluation is designed to describe the collaboration between BMCW and Meta House and to document the project’s outcomes with respect to child safety, substance abuse treatment, and babies’ births.

 “Families Come First is funded through the Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau, Family Connections Residential Family Treatment Projects grant. The contents of this website do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the funders, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. This information is in the public domain. Readers are encouraged to copy and share it, but please credit the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.



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Last Revised: March 28, 2012

The Department of Children and Families, protecting children, strengthening families, building communities.