Agency Primer: Department of Children and Families

Agency Primer by IRG:

Wisconsin’s Department of Children and Families

Wisconsin was one of the first states in the nation to adopt laws providing for general child welfare. When Wisconsin enacted the Wisconsin Children’s Code in 1929, it was among the most comprehensive at the time. It wasn’t until the 1930’s that the federal government, in the throes of economic calamity, would enact welfare programs. In 1939 the Wisconsin legislature consolidated all of the state’s welfare functions into one agency with the creation of the State Department of Public Welfare. In 1967, the state’s executive branch was reorganized and the Department of Health and Social Services was created. The agency retained this title until 1996, when it was renamed the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS).

Finally, DHFS split into two agencies known today as, the Department of Health Services and the Department of Children and Families. Under the new law, DCF would be charged with overseeing county programs to assist children and families including, adoption, child care and child welfare. DCF then took over the following programs from the Department of Workforce Development: Wisconsin Works, child care subsidy program, child support enforcement, and programs related to temporary assistance for needy families. Today the Department of Children and Families has a nearly $3 billion biennial budget and employs roughly 800 people.

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