Milwaukee Model Court (Contract)

Brief History

The Milwaukee Model Court was established as a contract model court May 2012.  Under the direction and co-leadership of presiding judge, Honorable Joseph Donald, and immediate past presiding judge, Honorable Marshall Murray, the Milwaukee Model Court stands out as the statewide leader in best practices, building strong collaborations, and maintaining continuity in their efforts on improving outcomes for children and families.

Ahead of the curve and initiated by strong judicial leadership and community collaboration, the model court structure was in place prior to becoming a part of the Model Courts Project.  Stakeholder commitment to model court practice and participation empowered Milwaukee to facilitate systems change activities early in the process.  Overcoming countless challenges in the past and prepared to face current and future challenges, the Milwaukee Model Court’s focus is on improving current bench practice, the inclusion of juvenile justice, domestic violence, and family courts to promote one family – one judge and no wrong door, and taking their local efforts and expanding statewide with the assistance of Wisconsin Court Improvement.


Honorable Marshall Murray

Honorable Joe Donald

Implementation of best practices/initiatives

Child Safety Framework Initiative

Milwaukee has focused their efforts on reducing out of home placements and increasing the number of families that remain intact while active in the child welfare system.  The Child Safety Framework Initiative, lead by the Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare and supported in full by the Milwaukee Children’s Court, has been at the center of systems and culture change in Milwaukee.  Initiated in the Spring of 2012, strategic planning sessions involving all members of the Model Court collaborative were conducted to develop a plan for county-wide training and implementation.  For the remainder of 2012, through the assistance of the ABA, NRCCPS, NRCLJI, and the Bureau, training on the Child Safety Guide was conducted to judicial officers, Deputy DAs, PDs, Private Bar attorneys, GALs, social workers, caseworkers, and administrative and line staff from private providers.  An additional strategic planning session was conducted to design the rollout of the initiative throughout Milwaukee.  As of January 2013, implementation of the Child Safety Framework began with the target date of Spring 2013 for full implementation.  The goals of reduction in out of home placements and increase the number of reunifications are set.  Baseline data is being collected prior to full roll out and will be weighed against data collected after implementation.  Outcome data will be available at the end of 2013.

Reasonable Efforts to Achieve the Goal of the Permanency Plan

Milwaukee created a questionnaire that is sent to individuals involved in the case, such as parents and caregivers, to provide written information and input at the permanency plan review.  In addition, Milwaukee developed a process which the permanency plan hearing is scheduled within the statutory timeframe at the conclusion of every dispositional hearing or prior permanency plan hearing.

Notice of Hearings

Milwaukee created a form to be completed and updated by the caseworker that provides the court with current contact information for all parties involved in the case.

Representation for Parents

Attorneys, through the Private Bar, are made available for immediate appointment for parents at temporary physical custody hearings in CHIPS (Children in Need of Protective Services) cases.

Representation for Children

Milwaukee developed a policy requiring GALs to meet with or contact the child unless excused by the court.

Court Orders

Milwaukee practices the distribution of court orders at the conclusion of each hearing.

Model Court Goals

  1. Reducing the # of children entering out of home care/placement
    • The collaborative is actively engaging in discussions for development and implementation of program framework to include informal family triage processes, conducting legal analyses, data collection to determine baseline, family education, and front-end training on triage and information collection for direct care staff
    • Outcomes include 100% of staff trained on new processes, establishment of Parent Partner program, and a 10% (60) reduction in children in out of home care
  2. Increase the efficiency in case processing
  3. The current approach involves resolving TPR and CHIPs cases within 90 days, develop a directive for stip order, developing attorney expectations on extensions, begin a pilot program with top 20 families, develop a problem list, and find solutions for quick resolution, and develop a survey measuring satisfaction of case processing
  4. Outcomes include stip directive completed, 50% of cases resolve in 90 days, survey completed and in use with a 50% increase in satisfaction, and increased appearance by all parties