|Jenelle Schneider, Postmedia News|
Child Protection Mediation Program
Sometimes parents or other people who are responsible for the care of a child disagree with child welfare workers in the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) or delegated Aboriginal child and family service agency (DAA) about a child’s safety and well-being. Child protection mediation is a collaborative way to reach agreement on the best plan for a child’s safety with the help of a specially trained, impartial person called a mediator.
Mediators do not take sides, nor do they make decisions or recommendations. Instead, they encourage people to focus on common interests and work towards a mutually acceptable solution that is focused on the child’s needs.
Mediation is a process which brings together the parents, child welfare workers and others in a respectful way to talk about everyone’s interests and seek to understand each other through sharing feelings, ideas, concerns and potential solutions for the child.
The Ministry of Attorney General (MAG) and the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) established the Child Protection Mediation Program in October 1997. MAG and MCFD administer the program. MAG’s Child Protection Mediation Program (CPMP) contracts for mediation services with specially qualified private sector mediators.
In British Columbia, the Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) is the law that describes what steps must be taken if a child is not living in a safe environment or there are concerns about a child's safety or health. The law gives child welfare workers with the MCFD or a DAA responsibilities and powers to take action and make decisions to keep a child safe. This can sometimes include removing children, for their own protection, from their families. A child welfare worker is often called a “delegated social worker.” In most cases, once a child is removed, the Provincial Court of British Columbia becomes involved in the child protection case. The child welfare worker has a responsibility to appear in court within seven days of a
child's removal. A judge will decide if the removal was appropriate. The CFCSA describes other steps in the court process that may be necessary if the parents and the ministry cannot agree on ways to make sure a child lives in a safe and healthy environment.
Court Proceedings and Mediation
Mediation is an option that may be tried any time when MCFD or DAA is involved with a family under the CFCSA, even before a child is removed or after a hearing. If the case is already court involved, a judge may suggest mediation or any of the parties can request an adjournment to the court proceedings so mediation can occur.
Child Protection: What Happens When You Go to Court and Parents’ Rights, Kids’ Rights: A Parents’ Guide to Child Protection Law in BC are information booklets on child protection law in B.C., written for parents, advocates and other people, about what happens in the child protection process.
With mediation, disagreements can often be resolved more quickly and without the formal processes and confrontational approaches used in the court system. In mediation, the mediator helps people to negotiate a settlement to their dispute. In B.C., mediation is used to resolve many kinds of legal disputes, including small claims disputes in the Provincial Court and motor vehicle personal injury cases in the Supreme Court, as well as family disputes that occur when parents separate.
Mediation has been available since 1997 to resolve disagreements about the care of a child. Every year, more parents and child welfare workers choose to use mediation. Most of the time, disagreements are completely or partly settled. Once a referral is made to mediation, the mediator meets separately with the parents and the child welfare worker for an orientation session to: talk about their side of the
dispute; help them list the things they would like to discuss at the mediation andexplain how the mediation
works and give other information about the process. The mediator will then arrange for the mediation meeting(s). At the end of the mediation meeting, an agreement is written and then signed on all the issues that are agreed to by the parties.
How Child Protection Mediation Can Be Used
Parents and the child welfare worker can choose to use mediation when there is a disagreement regarding the care of a child. It can be used to resolve a number of issues, including: what services the family will
receive and participate in as part of the plan of care; the length of time the child will be in care;
the amount and form of access the parent or others have with the child; the specific terms of a
supervision or access order; or other matters relating to the care or welfare of a child.
Who Can Ask for Mediation
Any of the parties can ask the other parties to participate in mediation. The suggestion can come from a lawyer, from a child welfare worker, from the child’s parents or members of the child’s extended family. The child can also request the appointment of a mediator. However, in order for the mediation to proceed, all parties must agree to participate.
How to Set Up a Mediation Session
Once the parties agree to try mediation, they must select a mediator from the Child Protection Mediation Roster. If there is more than one mediator listed in a community location, then the parties must agree on whom to select. They can decide among themselves how they will do it and can review the list and suggest a mediator to the other party. Once they have agreed on a mediator, they simply contact that person to get started. If there is no mediator on the list in the location where the people are, the parties should agree on another mediator, nearby if possible, and contact that person by phone. The parties can contact any mediator to ask questions about their background or qualifications if this would help in the selection process.
Once selected, the mediator will provide advice and information to all parties about the process and will schedule and arrange the locations for pre-mediation orientations and mediation session(s).
Some areas in B.C. have a mediation co-ordinator who can help choose a mediator and sometimes can
make scheduling arrangements with everyone.
How to Find a Child Protection Mediator
If the parents and child welfare workers decide to try mediation, they select a mediator from the Child Protection Mediator Roster and then work with the mediator to settle the dispute.
Click here for the list of approved child protection mediators.
If you are a mediator would like to know what qualifications are required in order to be on the Child Protection Mediation Roster and what is involved in the selection process, see the information sheet Mediator Qualifications and Selection.
To learn more about the Child Protection Mediation Program, read What is Child Protection Mediation? The brochure is especially written for parents. Here are some translated versions of the brochure.
More details about child protection mediation are available in a question and answer style.
For more information on a range of options for collaborative planning and decision making, including child protection mediation, please see Options for parents and families: Collaborative Planning and Decision-Making in Child Welfare.