Child Protection Mediation (CPM) is a specialized area of family mediation, proven very effective, when families experience and must address matters of family violence, answer questions about the health and safety of their child/ren and develop effective parental and residential plans for the future. Mediators enhance the families’ ability to appropriately communicate and interact with community resources. CPM is one form of mediation focused on situations where children, youth, and care providers are deemed ‘high risk.’
When this is used.
When Provincial Directors of Child Protective Services [CPS] have determined, through an initial investigation, that a child is at risk, or maybe become at risk of harm, a child protection file is opened with just cause. Supplementary circumstances may also exist that would cause a CPS Worker, by way of the Director, to take a child into care or to open a supervision case on a child/ren. In such matters the CPS policy is to immediately advise parents and/or care providers that their child/ren have been taken into care and highlight, in writing, the reasons for such action(s.) Legislatively, it is at this point or at the earliest opportunity, that the CPS worker recommends, in writing, to the parent/care provider the reasons for the action and that they engage legal counsel and/or a mediator to assist with the building of an acceptable residential plan and a communication plan going forward.
The Director and/or the court determines whether litigation, a supervision order, or children must be taken into permanent care should ensue. Matters like this are determined only by the court and accurate data. Should the court or the family decide an opportunity to resolve matters regarding a child can be arrived at by engaging a mediator to assist with a plan of care, services to parents or guardians, placements, services to the child, concerns about legal proceedings, visits, limitations, and so on can be addressed. Child protection social workers are an extension of the Director of CPS and the usual first course of action preferred in the progression and interaction between the Director, the child and the parent. Should the trauma of lawful actions proceed, frequently the cessation of communications prevents the voices of participants from being heard.
While the court has a duty to approve and oversee agreements reached by mediation participants. Progressive family courts prefer to allow families a forum in which they might discuss and explore common ground in the presence of an independent third party leading the discussions. Child protection mediation, in these instances, reduces the numbers of cases going through the courts (through pre-application agreements) and for many, they considerably reduce the amount of court time taken up managing highly volatile and contested issues. Trained child protection mediators use the participants’ own potential to shift quickly from intensely adversarial roles to more collaborative, problem solving roles. Additionally, mediators must have a good working relationship with family resource professionals who support the families’ parenting plans, in the community going forward. Experience and the success of child protection mediation has been built on professional and community safety net supports grounding successful, efficient, and long-lasting resolutions.
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