Child Protection Mediation (CPM) accepts case referrals at any time that a case is before the family law court – from recently filed cases to those pending adoptions. This mediation program handles issues around child abuse and neglect.
CPM is a collaborative problem-solving regime involving an impartial and neutral person who facilitates constructive negotiation and communication among parents, lawyers, child protection professionals, and possibly others, in an effort to reach a consensus in resolving issues of concern when allegations of abuse, neglect or abandonment confront the parties.
The child’s voice in the decision making process is essential and is typically presented either directly by the child or by other means, such as by an advocate for the child.
CPM encourages constructive communication and information sharing, and fosters an environment where genuine engagement and agreement are possible. Being a consensual decision-making process means no agreement can be reached unless all the involved parties agree. In addition to reaching important decisions regarding children and families, CPM can lead to a greater sense of teamwork and a greater understanding and ownership of resulting agreements.
CPM is a social service. The mediator expedites dialogue among parents, guardians, social workers, attorneys, foster parents, and other concerned individuals who are involved in the case. The mediator is neutral in helping the parties share their views and reach viable agreement, if possible.
The role of the CPM mediator is to guide a large group discussion that may result in an agreement. The mediation is centered on the best interest of the child or children and resolving the court case.
Abuse, neglect, guardianship, permanency, custody, adoption, visitation, placement options, the child’s wishes, legal issues – all may be aired in CPM.
Today, CPM is widely recognized as an invaluable service by child welfare stakeholders around the world. Numerous research and evaluation efforts have confirmed that CPM programs, once instituted, produce noteworthy benefits.
Research indicates that CPM:
- is highly rated by participants, with both families and professionals seeing it as fair and believing they had an opportunity to have their concerns heard;
- produces a great number of settlements, with 60 to 80 percent of mediated cases reaching full agreements and another 10 to 20 percent reaching partial agreements;
- expedites permanence by resolving or reducing the contested issues;
- is effective at all stages of case processing;
- engages parents, with 70 to 80 percent of the professionals who work with families in the child protection system reporting that parents were more involved in case planning when mediation was used;
- helps to engage extended families, “with studies showing that programs typically invite extended family and friends to participate whenever the parties believe their participation would be useful”;
- effectively addresses problems that are rarely dealt with in a court hearing including communication issues among the parties;
- reduces case processing time, with a number of studies suggesting that mediation helps families achieve permanency more rapidly;
- encourages greater parental compliance, as shown by reduced number of contested review hearings, and generally better performance on the treatment plan;
- saves courts and agencies money and staff time, with evidence that mediation can help the system to reduce the length of time a child spends in foster care and to meet legislated time frames for case processing.