Note: The information that follows has been prepared by a non-lawyer. It should not be taken as legal advice. Readers are advised to consult with a lawyer or to review Wisconsin Statutes themselves.
How do I get a Youth Justice social worker?
Dane County Youth Justice social workers have a limited access to intervention services outside of the formal court system. Caregivers of youth who are experiencing behavioral problems such as truancy, running away, drug/alcohol use should first attempt to utilize services on their own. Examples of this would be seeking an individual therapist, AODA evaluations through UW-AADAIP, meetings with the school, Briarpatch, Restorative Circles, your local Joining Forces for Families Office, or other informal services. If you have attempted to access these services without success, then you may call the Dane County Department of Human Services Access line to make a report (261-5437). The Access social worker will take your information and it will be determined whether Human Services will open your case for assessment/services. At this time most referrals to Youth Justice social workers come via a youth being charged formally by law enforcement.
What does it cost when my child is involved with a Youth Justice social worker?
There is no cost for the majority of the services provided by the Neighborhood Intervention Program, including youth on deferred prosecution agreements in the Court Diversion Unit.

Costs may be charged based on the ability to pay for other delinquency services. There is a $25.00 per month fee for all youth placed under formal delinquency or JIPS supervision with Dane County Department of Human Services. This fee is waived if the youth is placed outside the parental home. In these instances, however, a monthly fee is charged for the placement. Parents are sent information by Dane County fiscal representatives which help determine the amount of the fee.

For youth who go to court there are usually additional fees charged by the court. Please contact Juvenile Court (608-266-4983) for information on these costs.
What happens when my child is arrested?
  1. Municipal Citation
    If your child is issued a municipal citation then they are expected to address the charge through the municipal court. Youth who have only municipal citations are not referred to Dane County Department of Human Services and are not assigned a Youth Justice social worker.
  2. Deferred Prosecution
    Following an intake assessment, some youth who are referred formally to circuit court by law enforcement are offered deferred prosecution following an assessment conducted by a Youth Justice social worker. In these instances, if the youth cooperates with all of the terms of the agreement, they are able to avoid a formal delinquency adjudication.
  3. Formal Delinquency
    Some youth who are arrested and charged with serious crimes are held immediately in the Juvenile Detention facility, or held in custody at some other location (parental home, relative home, Shelter Home etc.). These youth will be assigned a Youth Justice Intake social worker by the next business day. That worker will begin an assessment to determine whether the youth should continue under a custody order and if they have been placed out of their home, whether they should remain out of the home. The Court Commissioner or Judge will make the final decision in this regard.

    Youth charged with a formal delinquency who are not held in custody will be assigned a Youth Justice social worker within several weeks of the law enforcement referral. The Youth Justice social worker will interview the youth and family to determine appropriate services and consequences, and then will make a recommendation to the District Attorney regarding whether formal court involvement is necessary. Once a youth is determined to have violated the law (either by admitting or after a trial), the JJ Social Worker will make recommendations to the court as to placement, services, and accountability if there is a victim. The caregivers for the youth, District Attorney, as well as the youth’s attorney will have an opportunity to also make recommendations to the court. The judge will have the ultimate decision making authority. These outcomes will not occur if the District Attorney drops the charges or the youth is found not to have committed the offense at trial.
What if I think my child is not guilty of the offense they are charged with?
Dane County Youth Justice social workers are not responsible for determining guilt or innocence and are prohibited from giving legal advice. Their role is to conduct an assessment of the youth and their family in order to make recommendations regarding service needs and appropriate consequences should it be determined that the youth did violate state statutes. If you have questions about this process, you should consult with the District Attorney’s Office (608-266-4211) or inquire at the State Public Defenders Office (608-266-9150).
What is the role of the Youth Justice social worker?
Once the dispositional court hearing has been held or a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) is signed, the delinquency case is transferred from the Youth Justice intake social worker to a Youth Justice ongoing social worker. The goal of the ongoing social worker is to assist a young person and his/her family to successfully complete the conditions of the delinquency court order, Consent Decree, or DPA. Typically, the ongoing social worker will send a letter to the family requesting them to set up an appointment time to meet each other, review the court order and discuss any concerns or questions they may have about being under juvenile court supervision. The level of involvement, frequency of contact and types of service depend on the seriousness of the offense, the level of risk the youth presents to re-offend, what has been court ordered and the needs of the youth and family.
What is expected of parents?
EIt is the obligation of the youth and his/her parent(s) to maintain regular contact with the assigned social worker, notify the social worker of any changes in address or phone number and sign release of information forms when information from school or treatment providers is needed for case planning or monitoring progress. A young person has the best chance to successfully complete court ordered obligations when they have the full support and assistance of his/her parent(s). Things parents can do to help include: schedule necessary appointments in a timely fashion, attend appointments with their child when required, provide or arrange transportation to appointments, be involved with their child's education by checking on attendance and academic progress, being aware of the child's friends, activities and whereabouts, helping their child find opportunities to be successful, and holding them accountable should they make poor choices. It is also important for parents to work cooperatively and collaboratively with the social worker and service providers. Parents need to be prepared to evaluate their parenting style and be open to alternatives that might be more effective with their child.

Note: Youth are typically assigned an attorney to represent them in Juvenile Court matters. Certain fees will apply. Consult with the State Public Defenders Office for more information. Families may also choose to hire their own private attorney to represent their child. Parents generally are not provided representation by the court in youth justice cases.
What is the Court Process?
  • Custody Hearing
    If a youth alleged to have committed a delinquent act is held in Secure Custody, or was released by the Juvenile Reception Center (JRC) under an order of Non-Secure Custody, a custody hearing must be held within 24 hours to determine the legality of that decision, along with what is the most appropriate way to proceed. If continued under a non-secure custody order, youths might be maintained at home with services such as the Home Detention Program. If return home is not appropriate at the time of the custody hearing, the youth may be placed in the home of a relative, a foster home, or in a temporary community facility, such as Youth Shelter. The Department of Human Services Social Worker will make temporary placement and/or custody recommendations to the Court in cases where they are already familiar with the youoth or his/her family.
  • Plea Hearing
    There are three plea options:
    1. Admission (guilty)
    2. Denial (not guilty), or
    3. No Contest (not admitting guilt but also not contesting the charge.)
    The assigned Social Worker has generally met with the family/youth, administered the COMPAS assessment tool, and then submitted a Youth Justice Assessment to the court prior to the plea hearing. This document includes dispositional recommendations for the Court to consider. These recommendations include:
    • Where the youth should live,
    • What evaluations may need to occur, such as alcohol/drug abuse or a psychological, and
    • What services should be ordered.
    If there is agreement between all parties as to the charges and recommendations, some cases go to Disposition at the same time as the Plea Hearing.
  • Deferred Prosecution
    If all parties agree, the case can sometimes settle at the Plea Hearing with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA). The court case is put on hold pending the youth successfully completing the terms of the DPA.
  • Consent Decree
    A consent decree is an agreement whereby the parties all agree to the disposition recommendations, however, there is no actual finding that the youth is delinquent. The case is held open for a period of time and, if there is compliance with the terms of the Consent Decree, the case is then dismissed. This is similar to the First Offenders program in adult court.

    If the youth violates the Consent Decree, then it is likely the case will return to court, a delinquency finding will be made, and changes to the court order (including possible out of home placement) will occur.
  • Waiver
    Depending on the age of a youth, his/her prior history, and the seriousness of the charge, a request to waive the case into adult court may occur. The Social Worker is required to conduct an assessment to determine whether the youth's current situation meets the criteria for waiver.
  • Pretrial Hearing
    If a denial has been entered to the delinquency petition, then it is generally set for trial. A pretrial hearing is sometimes held between the plea hearing and trial in an effort to resolve differences between parties and to avoid a trial. Social Workers do not always attend these hearings since their recommendations have most often already been submitted.
  • Trial
    If found not guilty at trial, the Department of Human Services involvement ends unless the youth is under supervision for other charges or has additional charges remaining. If found guilty, the case is set for a dispositional hearing.
  • Dispositional Hearing
    These are similar to the sentencing hearings in adult court. The Human Services Youth Justice Assessment is like a pre-sentence investigation.

    The following decisions are routinely made at disposition:
    1. How long the youth will be under the supervision of the court
      Typically 6-12 months.
    2. Placement of the youth
      Most often in a parental home, but the youth could also be placed outside the home in a relative home, foster home, group home, or residential care center. If the crime was serious enough, the youth could also have his/her supervision transferred from Dane County Department of Human Services to the State Department of Corrections and be placed in Corrections (youth prison).
    3. What services are needed
      Services could include anger management, drug/alcohol counseling, individual or family counseling, sex offender treatment, restitution, community service, school support, victim-offender conferencing, letter of apology, no contact with victims or co-defendants, meeting regularly with the Department of Human Services Social Worker, etc. Parents are generally required to participate in some services as well. There is a fee of $25.00 per month for all youth placed under Human Services supervision. This fee is waived if the youth is placed outside a parental home. In some instances, however, there is a monthly fee charged for the placement. Parents are sent information by Dane County fiscal representatives that help determine what the fee will be.
What happens when a youth does not comply with their court order or deferred prosecution agreement?
If the youth is not complying with his/her court order or deferred prosecution agreement, the social worker may consider the use of sanctions with the goal of getting the youth on a more positive track. Generally, if a youth is not responding to consequences imposed by parents, school or a community supervision program, the social worker will refer a youth to the Weekend Report Center at Neighborhood Intervention Program. For youth on formal supervision, If that is not effective in turning things around, the social worker may request a court hearing so the Judge can impose court ordered sanctions, which could be time in Detention or Shelter Home, electronic monitoring, community service or loss of driver's license. Non-compliance can also lead to the court order being extended.

For youth on deferred prosecution, non-compliance can result in the deferred prosecution agreement being revoked and the youth would then be subject to formal prosecution for that offense.

For youth on deferred prosecution, non-compliance can result in the deferred prosecution agreement being revoked and the youth would then be subject to formal prosecution for that offense.

Depending on the seriousness of the violations and the seriousness of the underlying delinquency charges, youth who are not following their court order could be brought back to court with a recommendation for placement outside of their home such as at a foster home, group home, child care institution, or even Juvenile Corrections.

Youth Justice Offices:

2306 S. Park Street, Madison, WI 53713



1227 N. Sherman Avenue, Madison, WI 53704



Monday to Friday, 7:45 AM - 4:30 PM:
Call 608-261-5437

All other hours:
Call 608-255-6067