Prior to its implementation, the certification assessment process was pilot tested and evaluated in four Canadian jurisdictions – New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, and British Columbia (with spaces reserved for applicants from other jurisdictions) – by an independent, external researcher: Dr. Desmond Ellis of York University. FMC members from across Canada and all of the BC Family Justice Counsellors participated in the pilot certification project. 168 applicants were invited to apply for certification during the pilot process without charge. In return, they agreed not only to participate, but also to comment on the process, participate in the evaluation and allow the use of non-identifying certification data in research. The candidates were selected to create a sample of applicants who would reflect the diversity of FMC practitioners in terms of gender, place and style of practice, professional and academic discipline, and choice of certification designation (family relations and comprehensive). It is important to note, though, that in one important respect the applicants for certification were not representative of family mediation practitioners in general.
Most applicants were seasoned practitioners with education and training far in excess of FMC’s minimum standards. Many were mediation trainers. This selection bias offered advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand seasoned, experienced, knowledgeable practitioners are those best placed to offer suggestions and evaluations of certification assessment processes. On the other hand, as expected, the pass rates were high. During the pilot study 136 mediators successfully completed the certification process. At the conclusion of the pilot study Ellis reported that FMC’s certification process was reliable and recommended national implementation.
In 2008 Judy Beranger and Linda Bonnell, as Chair of the Certification Committee, proposed that Family Mediation Canada (FMC) adopt a Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) process to award equivalency credit when appropriate for a portion of the mandatory training hours required for FMC Certification. Nym Hughes, from the Justice Institute of BC, was contracted to develop a detailed plan for PLAR implementation as an option within the FMC Certification process. Her report, “A Proposal for the Use of Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) in the Process for Certifying Mediators by Family Mediation Canada”, issued in July 2009, was adopted by FMC. Assessors were trained, the objectives for each of the four knowledge areas that form the PLAR process were firmed up, and an introductory video was created to explain the process to potential applicants. Our work with the PLAR process and its integration into the regular certification process continues.
Since the pilot project many FMC members have taken advantage of the opportunity to complete the certification process. Many other organizations both within and outside Canada have expressed an interest in learning more about the elements of our certification process, and, without exception, the feedback has been positive. In 2010 FMC was approached by the International Mediation Institute (IMI) and asked if FMC would like to apply to IMI to become a Qualifying Assessment Program. After completing a rigorous application process in 2011 FMC was pleased when it qualified to recommend its certified mediators for IMI certification.