​​​​Wisconsin Alliance for Drug Endangered Children

History of DEC in Wisconsin

WIDEC began in November of 2004, when a focus group of community members and interested professionals from around Wisconsin met and learned about the National DEC Program. The program was positively received and the participants held further discussion regarding ideas for implementing DEC in Wisconsin. These individuals became what is known today as the WIDEC Steering Committee. In 2005, this group, with a team of consultants, outlined the DEC program in Wisconsin, and drafted goals and language for a Memorandum of Understanding and Strategic Plan.

In the same year, National DEC assisted us in hosting the initial, basic DEC training to over 700 participants from around Wisconsin. In subsequent years, WIDEC would go on to host annual conferences to provide the state’s professionals and community members with DEC updates and technical support for DEC teams at all levels.

As community members in counties across the state were being recognized as programs, the committee worked further with consultants to develop a definition for ‘drug endangered child,’ created a clear vision and set short- and long-term goals for WIDEC. The strategic plan was further revised for program sustainability. An executive board was eventually created from members of the steering committee to focus on funding issues.

Active Wisconsin DEC Programs
As of January 2017 there are 53 active DEC programs in Wisconsin. There are also programs in various stages of development and some may be close to implementation. Ask us how to get a program started in your community! See County DEC Program Contact Info.

What is a Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Program?
A DEC program is a multidisciplinary team most commonly composed of members of law enforcement, human services, prosecutors, the medical community, health departments, probation and parole, schools, treatment centers, non-profit groups and concerned community members. Representatives are determined by agencies at the county or tribal level.

DEC in Wisconsin exists on three levels:

  1. County/Tribal – Local effort and direct response
  2. State – County and tribal coordination, resources and training
  3. National – State coordination, resources and training

All states have the ability to tailor DEC programs to their needs based on available resources and the community’s judicial structure. DEC programs work within their county or tribe to define ‘drug endangered child’ and the specific types of drugs that harm their community and endanger their children. Once the program defines the roles of each player, they can more easily provide resources to the children.

Implementing a DEC Program

"Social Services can’t do it alone. Law enforcement can’t do it alone…We’re looking at the approaches as far as social change…This is a holistic approach that’s going to take all of us working together…."

Lori Moriarty, Former Executive Director, National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (NADEC)

The primary goal of a community DEC program is to pull together resources from participating agencies to help children living in drug endangered environments. Before the drug endangered child has even been identified, DEC program members agree on a Memorandum of Understanding and establish protocols to ensure a smooth transition from identification to the child’s rescue and support to ultimate release back to the child’s family or placement in foster care.

Implementing Checklist:

  • Make the Call. WIDEC encourages anyone who is interested in forming/implementing a DEC program in their community to contact us.  Coordinators from WIDEC and other members from our steering committee are willing to discuss the following steps in more detail. WIDEC assists DEC programs in their initial steps and provides on-going mentorship to encourage independent community programs.
  • Gather Members. When forming a DEC program it is important to obtain the cooperation and support of the leadership of all disciplines involved.  Program members include, but are not limited to, dedicated workers in the following fields:

  1. Children Protective Services/ Indian Child Welfare 
  2. Department of Corrections 
  3. Law Enforcement
  4. Departments of Health 
  5. Educators 
  6. Mental Health 
  7. District Attorneys/Judges 
  8. Victim Witness Coordinators 
  9. Other Governmental Agencies 
  10. Community Members 
  11. Non-Profit Organizations 
  12. Faith-based Agencies 

  • Sign Memorandum of Understanding. Once the program members are established, all should sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to recognize and organize individual roles and responsibilities during each phase of interaction with the drug endangered child(ren). These signatures also confirm a members’ dedication to the DEC program and its end goal: to make children safe.
  • Write Protocols. Establishing protocols provides a breakdown and clarification of tasks in order to avoid repetition of assignments and confusion for the identified drug endangered child’s process. For examples of MOUs or what to include in protocols, select the contact person from a particular community on the Find My DEC Program page or contact the Statewide DEC Coordinator.
  • Refine the Program. Constant analysis of protocols, how they are applied to DEC cases and how program members respond. Contact WIDEC for continued support.

DEC in Indian Country

Initial NADGI/WIDEC Training
Conference highlights included an overview and awareness of DEC, case identification, child protective service referrals, medical information on DEC, unborn child exposures, victim/witness identification and processes, prosecution, corrections, family reunification.

In April, 2008 the Native American Drug and Gang Initiative (NADGI) and WIDEC conducted the first training with all eleven tribes in Wisconsin on drug endangered children issues and efforts. The goal was for participants to not only share the information with co-workers and family/ community members, but also to have the fundamental knowledge-base to begin assembling members in order to implement DEC programs in their areas. In June, 2008 tribes sent representatives from various professions to a follow-up training to begin the process of drafting protocols and memoranda of understanding.

Indian Country Drug Endangered Children Program
The lndian Country Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Program was established to address problems associated with methamphetamine production and trafficking in homes with children present through a coordinated response by local law enforcement, social services and medical personnel.  While meth may still be an issue, each of the four tribes that have DEC programs each have different priorities.

The Indian Country DEC Program is guided by and promotes the following values:

Safety: We will relentlessly pursue the end of drug abuse to prevent children from experiencing the physical, emotional, and psychological damage that exposure to drug environments cause. We will enhance the safety of children by removing them from dangerous drug environments and providing them with appropriate follow-up care and services. We will return or place children in family environments that are completely free of dangerous drugs.

Collaboration: We will insist on the participation of everyone to actively pursue the end of social tolerance to the abuse of dangerous drugs. We will form alliances, partnerships, and organizations across all government and private services to ensure appropriate tools and resources exist to identify, remove, and treat children in dangerous drug environments. We will identify and implement multidisciplinary services and strategies necessary to break the cycle of drug abuse.

Dedication: We will hold ourselves accountable to appropriately provide the services necessary to accomplish the mission of the lndian Country DEC Program. We will vigorously pursue the institutionalization of the lndian Country DEC Program. We will continually evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts to ensure the Indian Country DEC Program's mission  is achieved.

Sweet Dreams Project

Gina Matthiesen of Marshfield attended her first DEC conference in 2008. Afterwards, she was inspired to take action to help children rescued from endangered environments and to have something to attach to and let them know they are not forgotten. She started Sweet Dreams with the idea of collecting a pillow case care package, which included a brand new pair of pajamas as well as a new blanket or cuddle toy. She began with the initial goal of collecting 200 packages; however, after 3 successful years there are now over 4,500 in distribution through out the state. Gina is now fielding requests from other states. Many community organizations and businesses replaced traditional gift giving with donating to Sweet Dreams; schools, churches, groups and thousands of individuals have donated to this project.

Gina: “People truly pour their hearts into this project and that in return fills mine!”

Given the situation children come out of when leaving a drug household they may not be able to take any of their belongings due to contamination or other circumstances. According to Dave Forsythe, Special Agent In Charge with the Department of Justice: "...pajamas is one of the big things, especially if it's a meth lab where there's contamination issues...there could be children who have lost their favorite pjs their favorite teddy bear...and granted the labs have gone down a lot ...but if there's contamination we have to destroy those things."

Sweet Dreams’ Pajama Party Drive 2011

Sweet Dreams completed its 4th annual pajama drive/pajama party in December, 2011. Another successful year has been achieved by the generous out-pouring of love and kindness shown by so many!! Sweet Dreams once again will be able to provide pajama care packages statewide!! We continue to work behind the scenes on fundraising efforts to be able to provide diapers also. A very special example is my friend Paula Sonsala Bisek, who is hosting a "Pamper Yourself Party" in hopes of collecting Pampers. I purchased wrist bands this year to sell in order to raise diaper funds.

A huge shout out to ALL the amazing volunteers who helped to make this event happen! My friend, Nicky Thurs from Wausau, WI was kind enough to run the drop off site at Cedar Creek Mall as well as all her family and friends...on behalf of WIDEC...Thank You!!

I was very fortunate in Marshfield as well with amazing volunteers! I truly could NOT make this happen without each of them. A special thank you to my wonderful children for donating their 4th Christmas Vacation to help with this project. Also, to Cheri Thom for countless hours over the last 4 years with this project.

We work year round planning for this event and it truly is the most heart warming feeling to know that we are able to provide even a small amount of comfort to these children. Thank you again to EVERYONE who makes this possible! A drug endangered child out there thanks you too!

Sweet Dreams,
Gina Mattheisen
Project Creator