Wisconsin Department of Children and Families

Protecting Children, Strengthening Families, Building Communities




Youth Justice in Wisconsin

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the state agency responsible for fiscal and programmatic oversight for the Youth Aids allocation and the community-based youth justice system. No matter which system “door” a youth enters, DCF strives to support a coordinated and comprehensive response to provide the support needed to fulfill its youth-driven vision that “all youth have the tools to thrive in adulthood.”

The primary responsibilities, of DCF, with respect to administration of the Youth Aids allocation are described in Wisconsin Statute Chapter 48.526. The general authority, of DCF, with respect to the community-based youth justice system is described in Wisconsin Statute Chapter 938.485

Youth Aids

In January 2016 (as directed in the 2015-17 biennial budget), administrative oversight and responsibility for the community-based youth justice system transferred from the Department of Corrections (DOC) to Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF is now the state supervisor of the county’s work in youth justice. For more, see Youth Aids Transfer Effective January 1, 2016.

From January 1, 2016 through the early fall of 2016, DCF has dedicated itself to gathering information and meeting with other youth justice system partners and agencies to deepen its understanding of how youth in the community based youth justice system are served throughout the state.

DCF has begun the next phase of the strategic planning process: developing a summary of the input gathered, and forming workgroups to provide options in the areas of most pressing need, as identified by the information gathering process. The goal is an inclusive, transparent process to begin working on the statutorily required practice standardization and to address training, finance, data, and other needs.

Wisconsin Statutes, Administrative Rules and Standards


Chapter 938 is the Juvenile Justice Code in Wisconsin.

Administrative Rules

Chapter DCF 80 Services for Youth Who are Adjudicated Delinquent describes requirements for provision of services to youth adjudicated delinquent.

Chapter DCF 81 Intensive Supervision Program provide rules specifying the requirements for an intensive supervision program for youth who have been ordered by a court to participate in an intensive supervision program.

Chapter DCF 82 Intake Worker Training describes basic training requirements for intake workers.


Youth Justice Standards specify the Youth Justice practice requirements in the state of Wisconsin.

Secretary’s Advisory Council on Youth Justice

In April 2016, the Department of Children and Families (DCF) established the Secretary’s Advisory Council on Youth Justice. The Council is comprised of key youth justice leaders from:

  • state agencies
  • county-based justice system stakeholders
  • prevention service providers
  • affected youth and families

Together these leaders and community members provide advice to DCF on matters related to supporting a stronger community-based youth justice system. Council members are appointed by and serve at the pleasure of the Secretary of the Department of Children and Families.

Youth Leadership Teams

The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is launching four Youth Leadership Teams covering the entire state. The purpose of this effort is to involve young people in the youth justice decision making process and to empower the next generation of young leaders. The Youth Application is available online and interested youth may apply at any time.

Additional information

  • Youth Information, as we move into our second year, provides:
    • More background about the Youth Leadership Teams
    • How to be involved
    • Dates and times of future meetings
  • The Youth flyer for youth, explains what the Youth Leadership Teams are, what they do, and how to apply.
  • Team Areas maps show the areas and counties each team covers.
  • Meeting Information provides general team information along with the meeting dates for the current academic year.


Youth Leadership Team Annual Reports review the projects and accomplishments of the teams, supported by their community partners, for an academic year.

The Youth Vision for the Youth Justice System Report summarizes the perspectives of all four youth leadership teams on the current status of the youth justice system and their vision for the future.

The Advice Guidebook has advice for workers, judges, law enforcement and public defenders from youth who participated in the second year (2017-2018) of the Youth Leadership Teams. The guidebook includes input from 60 youths across the state. 

Community Intervention Program (CIP)

CIP funds are distributed annually to county agencies for:

  • Early intervention services for first-time youth offenders
  • Intensive community-based intervention services for seriously chronic youth offenders

In order to be eligible to receive CIP funds, a county must submit a plan to the Department of Children and Families (DCF) ensuring the county targets the funding to appropriate programs.


Community Intervention Program (CIP) Allocations and Application Documents - State Fiscal Year 2019

Early Intervention (EI)

Early Intervention program funds are distributed annually. Early Intervention programs target juveniles who are at risk of committing delinquent acts or are juveniles who have committed a minor offense and are at risk of further delinquent behavior.

Wisconsin’s Plan for Assessment & Case Planning in Youth Justice Statewide provides information on the assessment tool that will be used beginning 2019. It also summarizes the plan for implementing the tool throughout the state.

Youth Justice Data memos set forth policy requirements for entry of youth justice data into eWiSACWIS. They also outline upcoming changes to eWiSACWIS, opportunities for training on those changes, and the data counties will need to enter if they want to be a Basic or Advanced User. Finally, they require each county to notify DCF of whether they will be Basic or Advanced Users.

Summary of Input Gathered about the Youth Justice System provides a summary of the input gathered from stakeholders across the state about the current status of the community-based juvenile justice system (youth justice system or YJ), and the vision for the future of the system.

Youth Aids Transfer Effective January 1, 2016 outlines the division of responsibility between the Department of Children and Families (DCF) and the Department of Corrections (DOC) after the transfer of Youth Aids and:

  • Explains how contracts will be handled
  • Lists the relevant administrative rules and how they are divided between DOC and DCF
  • Summarizes how juvenile court intake worker training will operate
  • Summarizes long term planning efforts
  • Provides contacts at DCF and DOC
  • Has a funding visual as an attachment


The Department of Justice (DOJ) Juvenile Secure Detention Registry (JSDR) data provides an overview of Wisconsin’s statewide and county-by-county detention usage and reasons for detaining youth. The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is committed to promoting best practices and effective programming. This data is intended to:

  1. Help county-level understanding of practice variation
  2. Encourage analysis of practices that ensure community safety while improving outcomes for youth
  • Rates of Detention Admissions per 1,000 Youth is a statewide map detailing county detention admission rates per 1,000 youth for State Fiscal Year 2016.

  • Wisconsin Detention Use by Admitting County (July 2015 – June 2016) is a table listing detention use by admitting county for State Fiscal Year 2016. Includes:
    • total admissions
    • rate per 1,000 youth
    • total number of unique youth admitted to detention
    • the rate of unique youth admitted per 1,000 youth
    • total punitive admissions (which includes 72-hour consequential holds and sanctions)
    • the rate of punitive admissions per 1,000 youth

Youth Justice System Summary of Input Gathered The DCF overview of the input gathering process, as well as a high-level summary of the input gathered. This includes both the stakeholder’s views of the current system and a vision for the future of the Youth Justice (YJ) system, based on the input gathered.

Youth Justice System Summary of Responses to Online Survey A summary created by the University of Wisconsin School of Social Work for DCF of the responses to the online survey.


The Youth Justice Vision and Strategic Plan highlights the role the Department of Children and Families (DCF) plans to move forward towards the vision for the youth justice system. It focuses on prevention and diversion, and provides accountability and services to youth and families in the system that prepares them to thrive.

Strategic Objectives help us carry out the Youth Justice Vision and Strategic Plan. Timelines provide a general timeframe for when some of the work will be occurring.

The Bureau of Youth Services supports effective youth justice practice in Wisconsin. Youth Justice Issue Briefs provide:

  • Background information
  • Research
  • Data
  • Examples of Wisconsin practice

Youth Justice Issue Brief – Family Engagement - September 2018 includes:

  • A summary of the core concepts of family engagement
  • How family engagement in youth justice can lead to better outcomes
  • A spotlight on programs in Jefferson and Outagamie counties
  • Research on key elements of effective approaches to family engagement in youth justice

Youth Justice Issue Brief – Accountability - November 2017 includes:

  • A summary of the Balanced and Restorative Justice approach set forth by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and incorporated into Wisconsin statute
  • A spotlight on programs in Waushara and Manitowoc counties
  • Research explaining key elements of effective approaches to accountability

Juvenile Court Intake Worker Training - Wisconsin Child Welfare Professional Development System (WCWPDS)

Juvenile Court Intake Worker Training Sessions provides:

  • A detailed explanation of the juvenile court intake worker training requirements
  • Information about scheduled training sessions through the middle of 2017
  • An updated version of the “Notification of Employment or Assignments of Juvenile Court Intake Worker” form

Innovation Grants

  • A second round of Youth Justice Innovation Grants were awarded, in the fall of 2018, to sixteen counties to support innovative programs in the areas of:
    • School-Justice Partnerships
    • Alternatives to Detention
    • Community Partnerships
  • Youth Justice Innovation Grants were awarded, in the fall of 2017, to four counties to support innovative programs.

Focused and Effective Court Orders

In summer 2017, BYS established a judicial workgroup to improve court orders in delinquency cases. Materials from this workgroup that may be of general interest include:

A few counties are participating in pilot projects to revise their court orders. Model revised orders and other documents from the pilot projects will be shared here as they become available.

The Bureau of Youth Services (BYS) supports new ideas in youth justice through a variety of special projects. This section will summarize those projects and link to resources.

Wisconsin Juvenile Justice Network - The mission is to promote, support, and advance effective practices in working with youth and their families who are in or at risk of involvement in the youth justice system. WJJN strives to accomplish this mission by advancing evidence-based practices and policies, establishing guiding principles, sharing information and resources, and promoting a fair and effective youth justice system in the State of Wisconsin.

Juvenile Justice Information Exchange (JJIE) - This is the only publication covering youth justice and related issues nationally on a consistent, daily basis. JJIE was launched in September 2010 as an initiative of the Center for Sustainable Journalism, a non-profit organization dedicated to the longevity of quality, ethically-sound journalism. The JJIE covers a wide breadth of youth justice issues and news.


Director, Bureau of Youth Services, (608) 422-6989

Section Manager, Bureau of Youth Services, (608) 422-6993

Youth Justice Policy Coordinators, Bureau of Youth Services, (608) 422-6897 OR (608) 422-6899