Mediate BC Blog

Proposed Research Project - Evaluating Impacts of Earlier Child Protection Mediation

Posted by Heverton.Oliveira

Mediate BC Society (MBC) has received funding from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) to research (1) when mediation is most effective during the child welfare process, and (2) what the impacts/outcomes of earlier mediated intervention are.


The purpose of this proposed research project is to develop clear, evidence-based guidance on the best timing(s) for the use of mediation in child welfare work to support better outcomes for children, families and communities.


The Child, Family and Community Service Act (CFCSA) provides that children and families involved in child protection matters should be informed of services available to them and encouraged to participate in decisions that affect them. Since 1996, child protection mediation has been available to support this participation in decision-making in the face of systemic and situational power imbalances.

Mediation can be requested at any point during a social worker’s involvement with the family (on behalf of the Provincial Director of Child Welfare). Historically, early projects in child protection mediation were designed to facilitate early intervention in the process. With the increased availability of alternative processes for collaborative decision-making, mediation tends to be viewed as a tool on a spectrum of possible approaches. Mediation is increasingly being used once conflict between parents and social workers has already escalated, and less frequently in the early stages of the child welfare process. Anecdotally, Mediate BC and MCFD have heard that child protection mediators believe the shift away from the use of mediation as a form of early intervention is a missed opportunity to support family preservation.

Existing research on early mediation intervention in BC is limited, however the Surrey Court Project evaluation had promising findings; issue resolution achieved through early intervention facilitated planning meetings (the term used for mediations in that project) reduced the number of days children were in care by an average of 30%. In addition, the 34 cases referred to a planning meeting between Sept 2001 and Feb 2002 saved 82 scheduled trial days.

Outside of formal research, there are conversations around the potential positive impacts of early mediation. Some mediators believe that early mediation has the potential to reduce animosity and adversarial relations that are exacerbated by the Court process. If this is the case, then early mediation might also serve to reduce conflict and support social workers in healthier working environments (e.g. reduction in conflict and stress, reduction in workloads, reduction in social worker burnout and/or staff turnover).  It is also believed that earlier mediation intervention would benefit child protection workers in case settings (i.e. Intake; Family Service, Resource, Guardianship), as each time families work with different child protection workers, rapport must be rebuilt in order to establish a good working relationships; mediation may facilitate the transition to enhance that process. In some instances, mediation is used to introduce new social workers to the family or to bring guardianship workers into discussions prior to an application for a Continuing Custody Order; however, this use of mediation is not widespread and has not been researched to determine any potential benefits (e.g. improved case continuity).

Research on mediation as an early intervention tool aligns with the goals of family preservation within the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s Strategic Framework. Mediation is a flexible process that engages the child’s extended family and the community in decision-making. It can be designed and adapted to support Indigenous processes and the use of traditional Indigenous practices for decision-making during and following mediation. 

Research Questions

  • When is mediation most effective during the child welfare process (e.g. at what stage of the social workers’ continuum of service to families, or as it relates to or interacts with other available collaborative practices)?
  • What are the impacts/outcomes of earlier[1] mediated intervention on children, youth, families, Indigenous communities and/or social workers? What are other impacts of early mediation particularly related to costs and time?

Deliverables/Suggested Approach

  • Research workplan
  • Logic model
  • Field study research proposal
  • Field study
  • Report on field study findings, recommendations and analysis of cost implications associated with proposed recommendations (cost analysis subject to access and feasibility)
  • Executive Summary of outcomes and analysis of field study, and recommendations

Researcher Qualifications

  • Knowledge/understanding of child welfare
  • Knowledge/understanding of mediation processes
  • Knowledge/understanding of Indigenous context and history with child welfare
  • Qualitative and quantitative research expertise and experience:
    • Collection of data (i.e. interviews, focus groups, surveys).
    • Analysis of data (i.e. qualitative and quantitative analysis).
    • Summarizing and writing up research findings.

Research Proposal Process

MBC and MCFD will select a suitable researcher to undertake the project through the following iterative approach:

  • Prospective researchers are invited to submit a very brief Expression of Interest by March 15, 2021 at 12:00 p.m. Expressions of Interest should be under 1-page in length and should briefly identify the researcher’s knowledge and experience as it relates to the proposed research and the identified Researcher Qualifications.
  • MBC will invite up to five applicants to a 30-minute videoconference conversation regarding the project. Interviews will take place March 17 and 18, 2021.
  • Following those conversations, MBC will identify one researcher who will be invited to shape a brief 4-5 page written research proposal. MBC will engage with the researcher in shaping the proposal through an iterative dialogue approach (if desired by the researcher).  

The draft research proposal of the identified researcher should be submitted by March 29, 2021 (via email to

Final deliverables for this research project must be completed by May 31, 2022.

Research Proposals should include:

  • Objectives of the research project
  • Theoretical and practical significance
  • Research/activity plan and method
  • Duties of graduate and/or undergraduate students, if any
  • A detailed budget, taking into account information from the Budget section below
  • A realistic timeline for activities and outputs
  • Indicate if your project requires human research ethics or any other regulatory approval


  • An upper limit of $60,000 will apply, including expenses. 
  • All expenses, supplies and operating/administration costs must be justified in the application and relate to the direct costs of the research project. 
  • Please itemize in-kind and other sources of contributions in your budget.
  • Funds must be expended and final deliverables received by May 31, 2022.  


MBC Contact

Sharon Sutherland, Director of Strategic Innovation


MCFD Contacts

Penny Lloyd, Director of Legislation and Legal Support


Phone: 778-698-9232

Potential Information Sources
Contextual Documents and Links 

[1] Earlier is defined as taking place before or within two months of the Presentation Hearing.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

About this Blog

Mediate BC tries to provide valuable information to inform the public about effective conflict resolution. This blog is one of the ways we're doing that. See all the blog posts here.


Are you a conflict resolution practitioner?

We also have a Mediator Blog tailored to you. 




The thoughts and opinions expressed here may change from time to time. We consider this a necessary consequence of having an open mind and a commitment to continued learning. As such, any thoughts and opinions expressed within out-of-date posts may not be the same, or even similar, to those held by contributors today.


Access to Justice

Posts related to: Access to Justice


Posts related to: Education


Posts related to: Families