Child Protection Co-Mediation Project

About the Child Protection Co-Mediation Project

Inspired by the success of Mediate BC’s Child Protection Mediation Practicum Program (CPP), the Child Protection Co-Mediation Pilot Project was created as a year-long joint initiative between the Child Protection Mediation Program, Mediate BC. Funding for the program was generously provided by Legal Services Society of BC, the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), Mediate BC and the Law Foundation of BC.

The Co-mediation project provided high quality mediation services to children and families throughout the province, while providing opportunities for mediators to enhance and enrich their knowledge and skill through experiential practice. Throughout the program, mediators were paired to work as a team and share the responsibilities of the mediation. The benefit of co-mediation was the sharing of best practices between mediators.
The Co-Mediation program’s three main objectives were:

  • To provide professional development and practice support for child protection mediators
  • To increase internal capacity of the Child Protection Mediation Program (CPMP) to deliver culturally relevant mediation services through mediators on the Child Protection Mediation Roster
  • To design, develop, and provide opportunities to explore the effectiveness of a new model of mediation service delivery in child protection mediation.

How the Co-mediation Project Worked

The Co-mediation project used child protection mediation referrals from various sources, including MCFD collaborative practice coordinators and social workers, Delegated Aboriginal Agencies, counsel, or child protection mediators’ own referrals. Once a case was referred to the Co-mediation project, the Scheduling Coordinator contacted the parent(s) or guardian, social worker, lawyers, and any other persons attending the mediation to set mediation times, book mediation venues, and make any other necessary scheduling arrangements. The coordinator also assigned two mediators to the file based on geographic proximity, areas of interest (as indicated by a brief survey), experience, and availability.  

The two co-mediators then created a pre-mediation plan in which they discussed their own background with mediation, the co-mediation model to use (dividing the tasks between the mediators, taking turns, “front seat/ back seat”), and a plan for their personal learning and development objectives. This first point of contact for the mediators was a key part of the process of running co-mediations smoothly.

After the co-mediation, mediators each individually completed a post-mediation debriefing form. This was an opportunity for mediators to independently reflect on their experiences and learn from the co-mediation process.

The Co-mediation Assessment

In the spring of 2012, an assessment of the Co-mediation project was completed by CA Walker & Associates. The assessment used basic questionnaires conducted on the date of the mediation, and the pre- and post-mediation planning forms from Co-mediators. The assessment also used follow-up questionnaires from mediation participants, including mediators, parents, children, their families, and various representatives and professionals such as social workers and counsel.

The assessment’s conclusions were overwhelmingly positive. It notes, “Overall, the assessment of outcomes for the Child Protection Co-Mediation Pilot Project indicates that the project was clearly a success”. Based on the information from the surveys, the assessment found support for each of the three main objectives of the Co-mediation program, and also noted an ongoing need for professional development programs for mediators in BC.

Many participants also voiced their support for the Co-mediation project through the questionnaires. One person wrote, “This was an excellent opportunity and I felt that it met the needs of both the mediators and the participants. I think everyone walked away from the co-mediation feeling satisfied with the process and the outcome.”

Others remarked that the Co-mediation project was important not only for skill-building and peer partnership, but for cross-cultural dialogue with other communities and other people. One participant emphasized, “…I did enjoy the experience of working with an Aboriginal mediator in her own community and observing how she handled the perception of conflict with the participants”. It is these types of rich experiences that the Co-mediation project was designed to facilitate in our participants.

The following recommendations were made in the assessment for future professional development programs for mediators:

  • Continue to offer co-mediation as a means of providing professional development and practice support for child protection mediators, and for delivering culturally relevant mediation services through mediators on the CPM Roster.
     
  • Further explore the effectiveness of co-mediation as a means of managing a variety of types of cases, including those involving: large numbers of parties, domestic violence, substance abuse, and developmental or other disabilities.
     
  • In order to accommodate mediators practicing in remote areas, explore ways of giving priority to mediators who do not have peers in close proximity while still respecting travel budget limitations.
     
  • Communicate clearly about the main purpose of a co-mediation program, to both mediators and mediation participants.
     
  • Develop additional materials and design resources such as pod casts or other Internet accessible information to guide mediators participating in a co-mediation program.
     
  • Continue offering incentives such as professional development hours for participation in co-mediation.
     
  • Explore ways of helping mediators better meet their learning goals in co-mediation, perhaps by  involving mediators in the process of matching co-mediators or in selecting cases with particular fact patterns.
     
  • In order to support newly qualified or less experienced mediators, offer co-mediation on a priority basis to mediators who have recently come on to the Child Protection Mediator Roster or who otherwise have a greater need to develop their mediation skills.
     
  • If necessary, and if the time between pre-mediation orientation meetings and mediation sessions is short, encourage mediators to connect with parties and participants by phone or tele/web-conference prior to pre-mediation orientation meetings.
     
  • As part of the pre-mediation orientation, ensure that the purpose of having two mediators is explained to mediation participants.
     
  • Provide more structure to the post-mediation debriefing process by developing a debriefing questionnaire, or otherwise suggesting specific categories of content that should be explored following a co-mediation.

 

Co-Mediation Assessment Report by mediateBC

 

Co-mediation Completion

The Co-mediation project was completed in March 2012. For information on similar upcoming professional development programs for mediators in BC, please visit the Training and Development Program