Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Translate
Dane County Department of Human Services

Frequently Asked Questions

Where / how do I apply for Food Share (formerly Food Stamps), Child Care Assistance or Medical Assistance?

Please visit our Economic Aid, Healthcare, Housing, and Jobs page for more info.

Journey Mental Health Center is not a County agency. It is a private non-profit agency dedicated to comprehensive mental health and substance abuse services. Journey Mental Health Center can be reached at (608) 280-2700 or on the web at journeymhc.org.

To report suspected child abuse or neglect, call the Dane County Department of Human Services' Child Protective Services hotline at (608) 261-KIDS / (608) 261-5437 during regular business hours or (608) 255-6067 after hours.

To report suspected abuse or neglect of adults who are elderly or at risk, please visit our Report Abuse page for more details.

Learn more about your client and privacy rights, as well as Dane County's HMO Advocates on our Privacy and Clients Rights page.

Out-of-Home Care FAQ

What is foster care?

Foster care is temporary care and supervision of a child placed in a home licensed by Dane County or a Private Child Placing agency.

Foster care is needed when children cannot safely remain with birth families, or have needs that the birth family cannot provide care for.

Placement in foster care is usually temporary and gives families time to make necessary changes so the child can safely live in his or her home and community. Most children in foster care return home to their families, which is called reunification. When children cannot return home, they find permanence through adoption, guardianship, or other means.

No. We license single adults, married couples, and partners living together as long as they are at least 21 years old. All eligible adults in the foster home must be licensed.

No. We provide funding for childcare when foster parents are employed outside the home.

Each foster family receives a monthly stipend determined by the age and needs of children placed in their home.

  • Preplacement, initial and ongoing training designed to help you meet the needs of foster children.
  • Support and guidance from foster care consultants and community treatment providers.
  • New foster parents are matched with a foster parent mentor for additional support.
  • The reward of knowing you have helped a child in need.

Renters and homeowners are both encouraged to become foster parents.

No. Foster children may share a bedroom with other children dependent on their needs and as long as there is sufficient space.

Foster children are vulnerable and need special care. Extensive screening is completed on all foster families to assess for overall stability. The length of the licensing process is dependent on each family situation.

Each child and family situation is unique. Permanency plans are developed for each child in out-of-home care.

With prior approval, children in foster care can accompany their foster families on vacation. When a foster child cannot accompany you, we will work with you to find respite care during vacation or times of need.

No. You will have input as to the type of foster care you provide with regard to the age, gender, and needs of children you will accept. You always have a right to say “No” to a placement.

Aging & Disability Resource Center FAQ

How much do ADRC services cost?

ADRC services are free. The information and assistance provided to you is at no cost. The services you are referred to may charge a fee.

No, you do not have to give your name to the ADRC when you call. If you do give us your name, the ADRC may call you back to make sure the information we gave you fit your need.

No, you can call the ADRC or request the ADRC staff come to your home for a home visit. The staff will also meet you at a location that you choose.

That is up to you: ADRC staff will come to your home, speak to you over the phone, meet with you in a private office in the ADRC or meet you at a location that you choose.

Yes, the ADRC is located in the North Towne Center, which is on a bus line (served by bus routes 21 and 22 during normal business hours). We are in the Madison Metro+Plus service area for individuals who are eligible for Metro+Plus services.

You will be connected directly with one of the expert staff at the ADRC. The ADRC is ready to answer your call, and has people on phones during our hours of operation, from 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM.

We are here to provide information and assistance and will help you connect with resources. Although we do not provide ongoing case management, we will work with you for up to 90 days at a time. However, after this period you may call back about other issues.

Just once! The person who answers the phone when you call will be the same person who follows up with you.

Call us at (608) 240-7400 and talk with one of our on-call experts who can offer you free and unbiased advice. We can help sort through your concerns, identify the problems, link you with services, and possible solutions for you and your mother.

The ADRC will help match you with resources and services that are reliable and trustworthy, at costs that are based upon your ability to pay.

Start by contacting the Social Security Administration or by calling the ADRC and getting assistance with the application process based upon your need for help.

There are case managers located in 15 agencies throughout Dane County that can assist individuals age 60 and older with determining their options for prescription drug coverage, including Medicare Part D and SeniorCare. If you are unsure which agency serves your area, call the ADRC, and staff can assist you. You can also contact the Part D and Prescription Drug Helpline, a service through the State of Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long-Term Care. The Helpline has insurance counselors available to assist you. They can be reached at 1-855-67PARTD / (855) 677-2783.

You may contact the Prescription Drug Helpline at (800) 926-4862 or call the ADRC for information on prescription drug plans.

You may contact the Prescription Drug Helpline at (800) 926-4862 or call the ADRC for information on prescription drug plans.

Rest assured that you are not alone. The ADRC can assess your situation, offer suggestions for assistance, and connect you with other caregiver resources that are available in your area.

Call the ADRC to learn more about meal programs in your area which can help out until you're back on your feet.

Youth Justice FAQ

How do I get a Youth Justice social worker?

Referrals to Youth Justice social workers come via a youth being charged formally by law enforcement. Charges against youth do not guarantee they will become formally involved with Youth Justice or the Court system as sometimes charges may be dropped by the District Attorney’s office or youth can be referred to the CDU without further involvement with formal Youth Justice social workers or the Court system.

Dane County Youth Justice social workers have limited access to preventative or intervention services. 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 UWHC-BHYF, meetings with the school, Briarpatch, Restorative Circles, your local Joining Forces for Families Office, or other informal services Please visit the “LINKS” page above to further explore some of these resources, or call ‘211’ on your phone to access resources through United Way Dane County.

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). An Access social worker will take your information and it will be determined whether Human Services will open your case for assessment/services. 

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.
However, there are costs and fees associated with youth who are placed out of the parental home. 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 maybe additional fees charged by the court. Please contact Juvenile Court at (608) 266-4983 for information on these costs.

  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 the 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 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 YJ 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.

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.

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.

It is the obligation of the youth and their 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 a 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
  • be aware of the child's friends, activities, and whereabouts
  • help their child find opportunities to be successful
  • hold 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 attorneys to represent their children. Parents generally are not provided representation by the court in youth justice cases

  1. 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 may be maintained at home with services such as the Home Detention Program.

    If a 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 a 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 youth or his/her family.
     
  2. Plea Hearing
    There are three plea options:
    • Admission (guilty)
    • Denial (not guilty)
    • No Contest (not admitting guilt but also not contesting the charge)

    At this stage, the assigned Social Worker has generally met with the family/youth, administered the YASI assessment tool, and then submitted a Youth Justice Assessment (YJA) 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 psychological
    • What services should be ordered
    It should also include if there is an agreement between all parties as to the charges and recommendations, some cases go to Disposition at the same time as the Plea Hearing.
     
  3. 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.
     
  4. 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 specific period of time and, if there is compliance with the terms of the Consent Decree, the case is then dismissed.
    If the youth violates the Consent Decree, then it is likely the case will return to court, a delinquency finding may be made by the court, which can include changes to the dispositional recommendations for additional services, evaluations, or changes to the youth’s placement. 
  5. 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 a waiver.
     
  6. Pretrial Hearing
    If a denial has been entered into 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.
     
  7. 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.
     
  8. Dispositional Hearing
    Dispositional Hearings determine the length of time youth will be under formal court supervision and may formalize the recommendations made in the Youth Justice Assessment, including determining evaluations, services, and placements for the youth. .
    The following decisions are routinely made at disposition:
    • How long the youth will be under the supervision of the court?
      Typically 6-12 months.
       
    • 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, which may include youth placement in a youth Correctional facility ().
       

What services may be required?
Services could include out of home placements, anger management, drug/alcohol counseling, individual or family counseling, mentoring, 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.

Youth Justice social workers are focused on working with youth to ensure community protection, youth accountability, and youth competency development.  Our approach and philosophy is based in identifying youth and families strengths in order to best support the youth’s goals and their ability to stay on a positive track, both at home and in community. Generally, if a youth is not responding to consequences imposed by parents, school, or a community supervision program, the social worker may work with the family to determine the need for additional services, which may include additional referrals for therapeutic services, or other informal and formal interventions to get a youth back on track. Often these interventions are not meant ot be punitive, but restorative for the youth and an opportunity to turn things around.
If the youth is not complying with their formal court order, the social worker may consider a number of options to work with the youth and their family to get back on track, which may include requesting a hearing in front of the assigned juvenile court judge.  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. Youth under a Consent Decree with the court cannot be sanctioned, but are at risk of having their CD revoked and being placed under a formal court order for an extended time length of supervision.

For youth on a 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.

Aging & Disability Resource Center FAQ

Is there judicial involvement?

No. There is no municipal or criminal judge assigned to the Community Restorative Court (CRC).  The community, partnering with the anchor stakeholders and CRC staff process the cases referred to CRC. Approved misdemeanor level offenses are transitioned out of the formal court system and into CRC where a harm reparation process is created to restore the victim and the impacted community. 

Restorative justice practices see crime as more than breaking the law—it looks to the harm done to the people, relationships and community. Restorative justice practices require the cooperation and collaboration of the community and the government.  Restorative justice focuses on healing the injury caused by harm, balancing effective services for victims and when appropriate, the respondent.  

Restorative justice programs exist all over the United States and across the world.  Canada, New Zealand, Austria, Japan and several other European nations practice forms of restorative justice.  Dane County’s Community Restorative Court takes after successful examples in Red Hook, San Francisco’s Community Justice Center, and Baltimore’s Community Conferencing Center.

Research on restorative justice has found:

 a) victims who meet with a respondent are far more likely to be satisfied with the response to their case than those who go through the traditional justice system;

 b) after meeting the respondent, victims are significantly less fearful of being re-victimized;

 c) respondents who meet with their victim are far more likely to complete their restitution obligation to the victim; and

 d) considerably fewer and less serious future crimes are committed by respondents who meet their victim.

The Dane County CRC has 5 goals: 

  1. Reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

  2. Efficient case resolution.  Participants can have a case resolved more quickly than in the criminal courts.

  3. Community-driven solutions.  The community that is affected by the crime gets to direct the plan for repairing the harm.

  4. Reduce burden on criminal courts.  The Dane Count CRC has the potential to significantly save both time and money for criminal courts and the agencies that work in them.

  5. Reduce recidivism.  By keeping low-level offenders out of the traditional system—and keeping convictions off their record (and off CCAP), the community court removes an obstacle to meaningful participation in the community.  As individuals gain a true understanding of the impacts of their actions, they may be less likely to reoffend.

Studies in neuroscience have shown that a young person’s cognitive development continues into this later stage and that their emotional maturity, self-image and judgment will be affected until the prefrontal cortex of the brain has fully developed (guidelines currently state age 25).

CRC accepts two types of referrals from within the justice system. Individuals facing misdemeanor charges are referred through the Dane County District Attorney’s Office. Individuals with a municipal citation are referred by law enforcement agencies. Each of these stakeholders utilizes a department screen process for appropriateness of referral to the CRC program.

Even for perceived “victimless crimes,”, there can be significant harm done to the community.  In cases like these, our Peacemakers represent the community to explain how the crime may affect their community.

What does the Behavioral Health Resource Center (BHRC) do and how can it help me?

The BHRC connects Dane County residents—individuals, families, children—with the behavioral health care they need.  The staff provide people and families with information about mental health, substance use and related resources in Dane County.  Staff help people navigating the system.

BHRC staff work with people to identify and remove barriers to getting the services they need.  The BHRC staff provide “warm hand-offs” to help ensure people connect with care and services that can help.  The BHRC also provides follow-up and support to people waiting to access other services.

No.  The BHRC is not a crisis service. 

Journey Mental Health Center (JMHC) provides Dane County’s 24/7/365 suicide prevention hotline.  JMHC’s Emergency Services Unit provides crisis risk assessment, intervention, and crisis stabilization.  The BHRC works with Journey’s Emergency Services to help get people connected to care.

If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call:

Journey Mental Health Center’s  24-Hour  Crisis  Line:   608-280-2600

While the terms behavioral health and mental health are often used interchangeably, they don’t always mean the same thing.

 

The BHRC views “behavioral health” broadly to include not just mental health, but also substance use issues, family and life stressors, crises, stress-related physical symptoms, and health behaviors like eating habits, exercise, smoking, sleep, and getting regular medical care.

There are strong connections--back and forth--between mental health challenges, substance use problems, stress, medical problems, and physical health.  Each area affects the others.  So while mental health is one branch of behavioral health, it is not the whole tree.

Yes!  Many people in the community encounter barriers to getting behavioral health care.

Dane County residents report difficulty navigating through vast networks of insurance, agencies, providers, services and waiting lists.  It can be especially hard for those who don’t have insurance or who live in underserved areas. The resulting frustration can cause some people to give up on finding and connecting to needed services.  When this happens, behavioral health problems can worsen resulting in more serious problems for the individual, their family, other supports, the crisis system, and the community.

The BHRC provides the some of the service improvements recommended in the 2019 Dane County Behavioral Health Needs Assessment.  It also addresses gaps in access to and coordination of behavioral health care, which are priorities in the 2019-2021 Dane County Community Health Needs Assessment.

No, the BHRC is not a clinic or treatment provider.

The BHRC provides information, referral, warm hand-offs, service connection, follow-up and support services.  BHRC staff also provide basic assessments to determine what mental health, substance use, and related services people need, their service eligibility, and any barriers they may have to getting care. BHRC staff work with you and providers to help address and eliminate barriers to services wherever possible.

The BHRC serves adults, children, teens and families who are residents of Dane County and who need assistance connecting to appropriate mental health, substance use and related resources.  The BHRC serves people of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of income or insurance status.

BHRC services are free public services to Dane County residents.  The information, assistance and support is provided to you at no cost.  The services to which you are referred, may charge a fee.

No, you do not have to give your name to the BHRC when you call for information and assistance.

Providing your name and contact info may be helpful to you, however, as the BHRC will then be able to call, email, or text you (your preference) to follow-up with you and make sure the information we gave you fit your needs and that you are connected to appropriate services.  

BHRC services are confidential.  The BHRC staff respect consumer rights, privacy, dignity and preferences.

Yes, you may contact the BHRC regarding someone you are concerned about, like a relative, friend, neighbor, etc.

However, because the BHRC is a voluntary service, staff generally do not provide outreach services.  BHRC staff can share resources and ideas with you, which you can pass on to your friend or relative.  The staff can also talk with you about ways to encourage the friend or relative to contact the BHRC directly for assistance and support. 

Supporting a person who is struggling can be challenging. The BHRC staff can help you take good care of yourself as you offer support to your family member, relative or friend.  The BHRC provides information about, and referral to, services and supports for those supporting people with behavioral health conditions.

Yes, if you already spoke to the BHRC and are still having troubling accessing needed services, please do call (or email or text) us again! 

The goal of the BHRC more than just providing information and referral.  The goal of the BHRC is to help ensure consumers get and stay connected and engaged with services, and that the services are a good fit for your needs.  If something is getting in the way of that connection, please let us know so we can assist you in identifying barriers to getting the care you need.

These barriers may include waiting lists, insurance issues, the cost of care, getting service in the language you prefer and at a time and place that works for you.  Other hurdles that may get in the way of getting the care you need might include lack of transportation, childcare issues, paperwork, legal issues.  Sometimes it is just difficult to find the time and energy to get connected with behavioral health services and still attend to the other parts of your life.  The BHRC is here to help.

The mission of the BHRC is to provide assistance to anyone in Dane County who is seeking behavioral health services in Dane County.  While the BHRC may provide information and referral to other services that make up the social determinants of health such as: employment, housing, education, food, social supports, and healthcare, the primary role of the BHRC is connect people to mental health and substance use services.