Washington County: Children’s court improvement program

(WEST BEND, WI) – Washington County is improving services in its Children’s Court through placing equipment in additional county locations to facilitate remote participation in child welfare cases. The Wisconsin Children’s Court Improvement Plan (CCIP) has received supplemental federal funding to address the needs stemming from the COVID-19 public health emergency to ensure the safety, permanence, and well-being needs of children are met in a timely and complete manner.  Funding is available to circuit courts to purchase equipment and technology to facilitate remote participation in hearings.  

“Creating additional public access for videoconferencing technology will ensure our justice system and county Human Services department remain accessible for those without internet access or transportation options,” said County Executive Josh Schoemann.

Committed partners to date include Washington County, specifically the Information and Technology (IT) and Human Services departments; Washington County Sheriff’s Office; Hartford Police Department; Kewaskum Police Department; Slinger Police Department; Jackson Police Department; Germantown Police Department. Currently, equipment is located and available in the Washington County Jail, Hartford Police Department and Jackson Police Department.

Sandra J. Giernoth, Circuit Court Judge, said, “this is an example of community stakeholders partnering to bring resources to Washington County. Our courts, health and human services department, and law enforcement worked together on this unique opportunity to bring more technology to our community.  I thank Hartford Police Chief MacFarlan, Jackson Police Chief Vossekuil, Sheriff Schulteis, Chief Health & Human Services Officer Julie Driscoll, and Assistant IT Director Dawn Sericati for their work on this endeavor.”  

Remote participation in child welfare cases includes court appearances; meetings with social workers; meetings with the guardian ad litem (GAL); child virtual visitation; and virtual treatment or counseling.  Services provided by the Washington County Human Services Department, including for individuals incarcerated in the county jail will also benefit from the new equipment. The current videoconferencing capacity of the Washington County jail is insufficient to meet the increased need for videoconferencing as a result of the pandemic.