Monday, September 22, 2014


By Ray Ferris (This piece is one of a series Ray will write here.)


Mediation is another problem area that needs to be considered. Prior to the enactment of the CF&CSA, discussion, negotiation and mediation were considered to be social work skills. Supervisors would sometimes need to mediate disputes between social workers and clients and this was a much-needed supervisory skill. Mediation is usually most successful when there is no great power differential between the parties. It must also be completely voluntary on both sides.

The legislated mediation often fails for various reasons. First, there is a huge power imbalance between the parent and the social worker. The mediation often takes place when the children have already entered care, and so the parties are already in an adversarial situation. So much so, that some parents feel they need their lawyer present at mediation---even at $2,500 at a time.

Second, there is no hope of mediation if the parties are totally opposed. As in the B. Case (one which Mr. Ferris mentions earlier in this series), the director said you deliberately hurt your child and the parents said absolutely not. The director said unless they admitted it we cannot move on. What is the point of mediation?

Third, when the ministry pays the mediator, how can there be impartiality? What is the incentive for the mediator to terminate mediation? These situations come up frequently on child protection websites. The Act allows for judges to postpone protection hearings when mediation is underway. The result of this is that mediation usually derails the mandatory time lines of the act and the priorities get all skewed. The priority, as clearly intended in the act, is to make sure that parents get their day in court as soon as possible and the director should be made accountable by requiring him to present good evidence under due process. Only after such process should children be deprived of the care of their parents.

Separations of more than three months without proper process should not be tolerated.

The systemic change would be to take mediation right out of the act and instead defined as a core-training requirement for both social workers and their supervisors.

Ferris retired after a career that included significant years with the MCFD. He has written a book entitled 'The Art of Child Protection.' This is the first in a series of pieces Ray will write here. You can order Mr. Ferris' book entitled 'the Art of Child Protection' by contacting the author directly at

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