Mediation in child protection cases

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What is mediation?

Mediation is an option of collaborative (shared) decision making where someone with special training (a mediator) helps people solve problems. The mediator works to help both sides listen to and understand each other and then together come up with a solution that feels fair. Mediators aren't judges and they aren't supposed to take sides. They won't tell you what to do.

Under Section 22 of the child protection law (the Child, Family and Community Service Act), parents, children, and child protection workers or anyone directly involved in a child protection case can ask for or suggest mediation to help solve various problems. Both sides have to agree to try mediation for it to go ahead.

When can mediation help?

Whenever possible, try first to make plans for your child's safety by working with the child protection worker, family members, or community support people. Always include your child in planning if he or she is old enough.

If you and the child protection worker can't reach a good agreement, you can use mediation or some other form of problem-solving help.

  • You can use mediation at almost any time when there are concerns about your child’s protection. For example, mediation can be used before your child is removed from your home or after your case has been in court.
  • Mediation can help in child protection cases if family members and child protection workers disagree on the best way to meet a child's needs.

Mediation can help you deal with issues such as:

  • What do you want to have happen
  • What does the child protection worker want to have happen
  • What are you expected to do (or not do) to get your child back
  • What services can be provided for you and your child
  • How long will your child stay in care
  • Where will your child live temporarily
  • How and when can you or others have access to a child
  • What terms and conditions should be put in a consent order or supervision order

What does mediation cost?

Child protection mediation is free. The Ministry of Children and Family Development may also pay for some of your costs so you can be at the mediation sessions, such as day care, meals, and transportation. Make sure you ask for that help.

How can I get started?

You and the other side(s) (parties) choose a mediator together and set up an appointment to meet.

  • You can look at a list on the MediateBC website of approved mediators available in your area. Mediators approved by the government to do this kind of mediation must have passed certain training, tests, and reference checks. They must also know the law about child protection (CFCSA).
  • Not all parts of the province have mediators and some areas may only have one. If your community has more than one mediator, click each name on the list to find out about her or his training and experience, attitudes on culture, parenting, religion, gender, or any other issue that is important to you. If you have any concerns about the mediator, discuss them with your lawyer before the orientation session.

Child protection mediation often begins with an orientation session. This is a private meeting between you and the mediator.

  • It is a good time to ask the mediator any questions you might have.
  • The child protection worker will have his or her own orientation session with the mediator.
  • If there is violence or abuse in your family relationship, discuss it with your lawyer before the orientation session and also tell the mediator about your concerns.

How does mediation work?

Mediation works best if the power on both sides is fairly equal.

  • The mediator's job is to help balance the power between the sides. That is hard when one side is a large government ministry, such as the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and the other is a single parent or child. You may have to remind the mediator about that and how it feels for you.
  • If you have the help of a skilled child protection advocate or victim assistance worker, ask the mediator and the child protection worker if your advocate can join the sessions to help equalize the power imbalance. The Ending Violence Association of BC has a list of community-based victim assistance services on their website.

Mediators are supposed to be neutral.

  • Speak up clearly if you think the mediator is taking sides or acting unfairly in any way.
  • Everything you tell the mediator in your sessions can be shared with the other party unless you specifically ask the mediator not to share something.
  • State your needs, opinions, and suggestions clearly and honestly. It's the mediator's job to help you do that.
  • You can ask to have a private session with the mediator at any time during the mediation process if you have concerns.

Only agree to what is fair and fits for you and your family.

  • Be willing to hear and understand the child protection worker's concerns.
  • At any point, you have the right to talk to a lawyer before making a final decision. You may be able to have your lawyer come with you to the mediation. Contact legal aid if you don't have a lawyer. For information about legal aid, see Legal aid services on the Legal Aid BC website.
  • You have the right to stop mediation if you find it's not working for you. If you can, let the mediator know your reasons.

Tip: For more information, see the Child Protection Mediation Program page on the Attorney General website, or the Collaborative Planning and Decision-Making in Child Welfare page on the Ministry of Children and Family Development website, or read the online brochure What Is Child Protection Mediation?

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