Safe Children and Healthy Families in Milwaukee County Making critical investments in Milwaukee's child welfare system to support more families in-home and bolster family-focused, collaborative programs. Focusing on Prevention Keeping families together and reducing the use of out-of-home care is critical for strengthening the underlying fabric of Wisconsin’s communities. The budget is providing historic investments to support families who are involved with the child welfare system to reduce trauma, maintain safety, and ensure kids stay connected with families. In Milwaukee County, the budget recommends a $9 million investment over the biennium to provide flexible funds for services targeted to prevent children from entering foster care when families are unable to receive needed supports elsewhere. The budget also recommends investing $35 million over the biennium to support a statewide, intensive evidence-based parenting skills program designed to safely prevent children from entering out-of-home care or to reunify them with family as quickly as possible. This program will serve children and families in both the child protection and youth justice systems. Supporting Children and Families in Crisis Serving children in their communities and in family-like settings is a priority for the Division of Milwaukee Child Protective Services. When children cannot remain in family settings, or families aren’t able to meet the needs of their children with available community services, it is vital that they receive high quality, timely, treatment-based services. To support this, the budget is investing $15 million to strengthen the continuum of care in the Milwaukee child welfare system to ensure that children who have the highest level of need are able to be stabilized and served effectively in their home state, in qualified treatment programs, and have the tools and supports to transition successfully into family living arrangements. Strengthening Support for Kinship Caregivers Relatives or family friends are the preferred resource for children who must be removed from their home because it helps maintain the children's connections with their families, increases stability, and minimizes the trauma of family separation. The budget strengthens supports for kinship caregivers by investing $34 million across the biennium to increase age-based rates by 5 percent and expand eligibility for the clothing exceptional rate and sibling exceptional rate. It also recommends $16 million in funding for additional, flexible financial support to kinship caregivers (known at DCF as KinFlex) and for family search services for child welfare agencies in search of prospective kinship caregivers. Lastly, the budget calls for an expansion of the definition of relation to allow for family friends to qualify for kinship care supports. Supporting the Workforce Supporting the staff who do the important work of keeping children safe and helping struggling families stay together is a key priority for moving our systems work forward. Child welfare agencies are struggling to keep people engaged in this work in the wake of the pandemic and Great Resignation. The budget recognizes the need to support the work of staff in this field by investing in improvements to the statewide child welfare data system to streamline their jobs. This information is also available as an Adobe pdf file for download, share, or print. Detailed information about DCF's budget request can be found using the department's summary of budget recommendations.