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Children Come First is a program that coordinates care for youth in Dane County who have a mental health challenge, so they can stay in their home and/or community. Youth who are enrolled in Children Come First have a team of people working together to develop and carry out a plan of care that meets their specific needs. This team includes a Children Come First coordinator, the youth’s family, and other people the youth or youth’s family would like to be involved, such as the youth’s social worker, teachers, and therapists.
Youth stay enrolled in Children Come First until they are no longer at risk of being placed out of home. This is generally less than 18 months but can be longer if necessary.
See If a Youth May Be Eligible
To be eligible for Children Come First, a youth must:
- Be a member of BadgerCare Plus or Wisconsin Medicaid.
- Live in Dane County.
- Be 0–18 years old.
- Be diagnosed with a mental health disorder by a psychologist or psychiatrist. (The specific diagnosis is called a “DSM” diagnosis.) The symptoms of the disorder must be showing for at least six months and must be expected to last for a year or longer.
- Have a behavioral or emotional challenge that puts the youth at immediate risk of being placed out of home.
- Be involved with at least two of the following:
- Child protective services
- Juvenile justice system
- Mental health services
- Special education
- Social services
- Need more help with at least two of the following:
- Community safety
- Family relationships
- Social relationships
Refer a Youth
Parents and guardians do not need to fill out an application for Children Come First. Instead, they can email or call Children Come First at 608-250-6634, ext. 135, to refer a youth to the program. If emailing, parents and guardians should be sure to include their contact information and the best way and time they can be reached in the email. Do not include any medical information (sometimes called protected health information or PHI) in the email as email is not secure.
A referral specialist will then contact the youth’s parent or guardian to schedule an interview. The interview can be by phone or in person. During the interview, the referral specialist will ask questions about the youth, such as diagnosis and behavioral information. The youth’s parent or guardian will also need to sign and return an informed consent form.
The Children Come First Enrollment Review Board will review the information the youth’s parent or guardian provided. The referral specialist will contact the parent or guardian with the board’s decision. They will also get a letter in the mail with the board’s decision.
Work With Children Come First
If a youth is approved for Children Come First, a Children Come First coordinator will meet with the youth and youth’s family at a time and place that works best for them. During this meeting, the Children Come First coordinator will:
- Learn about the youth’s and family’s needs.
- See who should be involved in working with the youth.
- Work on developing plans for care and emergencies.
More information on what to expect once a youth is approved for Children Come First is available in the Children Come First Family Handbook.
Pick a Doctor
Children Come First* will cover the mental health services the youth gets. Parents and guardians can pick any provider in the Children Come First Provider Directory to provide the youth’s mental health services.
Any other services the youth needs while enrolled in Children Come First will be provided on a fee-for-service basis. Fee-for-service means that a person’s doctor is paid for each type of service he or she provides. Sometimes fee-for-service is called “medical assistance” or “card services.” The youth can go to any doctor who accepts the ForwardHealth card to get these services. The youth should be able to keep his or her regular doctor and dentist.
If a youth is getting services from a BadgerCare Plus or Medicaid HMO, he or she will need to leave the HMO plan while enrolled in Children Come First. This will be done automatically. Once the youth’s enrollment in Children Come First ends, the youth will need to go back to getting services through a BadgerCare Plus or Medicaid HMO. If you have questions about this or if a youth is leaving Children Come First and needs to join a BadgerCare Plus or Medicaid HMO again, call the HMO Enrollment Specialist at 800-291-2002.
* Children Come First is a prepaid inpatient health plan (PIHP). Shawn Tessmann serves as the director.
Contact Children Come First
If you have questions about Children Come First, you can contact Children Come First staff by email or by phone at 608-250-6634, ext. 135. Children Come First staff is available from 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Note: Do not include any medical information (sometimes called protected health information or PHI) in your email as email is not secure.