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Medicaid: The Children Come First Program

What is the Children Come First program?

The Children Come First program helps coordinate mental health services for children and youth in Dane County who have a mental health or substance use diagnosis.

Everyone in the program has a team to help develop and carry out their care plan. The team may include:

  • A Children Come First coordinator
  • Their family members
  • A social worker
  • A teacher
  • A therapist

The program helps children and youth stay in their home or in community care. This is usually less than 18 months. It’s run by Dane County.

Learn more about the Children Come First program

Six smiling kids

Who is eligible?

Children and youth are eligible for the program if they:

  • Qualify for Wisconsin Medicaid.
  • Live in Dane County.
  • Are 18 or younger.
  • Have a mental health diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
  • Have symptoms that started at least six months ago and are expected to last for a year or more.
  • Have a behavioral or emotional challenge that puts them at immediate risk of not being able to stay in their home or community care.
  • Are involved in at least two of the following:
    • Child protective services
    • Mental health services
    • Social services
    • Special education
    • The juvenile justice system
  • Need more help with at least two of the following:
    • Community safety
    • Family relationships
    • School o Self-care
    • Social relationships

How can I refer a child or youth?

You don’t need to fill out an application. You can simply email or call the program at 608-250-6634, ext. 135, to make a referral. If you send an email, make sure you include your contact information and the best way to reach you. That should include the best day and time. Do not include any medical information in the email because email isn’t secure.

Someone will contact you to schedule an interview. This can be done by phone or in person. During the interview, you’ll answer questions about the child or youth, such as their diagnosis and behavioral information. You’ll also need to sign and return an informed consent form.

The program will contact you to let you know if the child or youth is approved for the program. You’ll also get a letter in the mail.

What happens if a child or youth is approved?

If a child or youth is approved for the program, a coordinator will schedule a time and place to meet with you and your family.

During the meeting, the coordinator will:

  • Learn about your needs.
  • Decide who should be involved in the child’s or youth’s care plan.
  • Create a care plan, including one for emergencies.

Who to contact for help

Our staff is available from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You can contact them by emailing, or by calling 608-250-6634, ext. 135.



Last revised March 1, 2023