CCN

CP Mediation

CHILD PROTECTION MEDIATION (CPMED)

Child Protection (CP) Mediation is one of the prescribed methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) contemplated in the Child & Family Services Act of Ontario. Like other types of ADR, CP Mediation could be used in many cases. However, there must be a clear decision made by a Children's Aid Society that a court intervention is being considered, is pending or is in process. The family and a representative of the CAS meet together in the presence of a CP Mediator, who is an impartial person with no power to make decisions.


WHAT DOES A CP MEDIATOR DO?

First, let's be clear about what the CP Mediator does not do. The Mediator does not decide what happens. The Mediator's job is to help the family describe the parts of the plan they oppose and explain why. The CAS representative -- usually the worker assigned to the case -- presents the CAS viewpoint. Maybe by having this discussion, they can find a new plan that is acceptable to the CAS and to the family.


DO THE CHILDREN ATTEND?

No. Some teenagers may want to attend but this is not common. The Mediator helps you decide who will be at the mediation table.


DOES THE FAMILY REQUIRE A LAWYER?

Everyone who uses CP Mediation should have a lawyer or at least ask a lawyer to review any mediated agreement before signing it.


WHAT IS A MEDIATED AGREEMENT?

This is a document written by the CP Mediator outlining what everyone agreed to during the mediation. Each person takes a copy of the agreement for review by a lawyer.


IS THERE A COST FOR THE FAMILY?

No. Costs associated with the mediation process are covered by the Ministry of Children & Youth Services.


WHAT ISSUES CAN BE MEDIATED?

Many things including conditions of a supervision order, length of a court order, specifics of the service plan, child's placement, client/worker conflict, custody or access, and features of an adoption.


WHAT ISSUES CANNOT BE MEDIATED?

You cannot use Mediation if one or more key party does not agree to mediation or feels forced into it. It also cannot be used to determine if a child is "in need of protection." In other words, all parties must want to try Mediation and all parties must accept that the CAS should be involved with the family.


WHY USE CP MEDIATION?

When contested cases go to court, they take a long time to finish and can cost a great deal of money, time, and emotional pain. Children may be left in limbo, not knowing what the future holds for them. Also, the process becomes a competition where only one side can "win." When a judge decides the outcome after a trial, someone always walks away unhappy with the outcome. Mediation helps the parties "have their say" and may result in a workable plan for the children to keep them safe. It can also improve the relationship between a CAS worker and the family which, in turn, benefits the children.


IS THE PROCESS FAIR TO FAMILIES?

To ensure fairness, these are important points:

  • the Mediator is an independent professional who does not work for the CAS;
  • the Mediator has no power to make decisions about the case;
  • the Mediator is not paid by the CAS and the Mediator assigned to the case is not selected by the CAS;
  • all Mediators listed on the roster are trained in Child Protection Mediation and accredited by the Ontario Association for Family Mediation;
  • accredited CP Mediators agree to follow the Code of Professional Conduct of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation and they carry liability insurance;
  • any party can stop the Mediation at any time (or withdraw his or her participation); and
  • all parties are encouraged to review any mediated agreement with their lawyers before signing it.

Also, if you believe the Mediator has a bias or conflict, you can ask for a different Mediator to be appointed.


HOW LONG IS THE PROCESS?

The CP Mediator needs time to arrange a meeting with all parties. Next, all parties come together for one or two meetings. If an agreement is reached, each party reviews the draft agreement with a lawyer. Finally, everyone returns to sign the agreement. Ask the CP Mediator for an estimate of how long this process may take.


CAN MY LAWYER ATTEND?

No, in most cases lawyers will not attend. That means neither the lawyer who acts for the CAS nor any lawyers who act for family parties. One purpose of CP Mediation is to help everyone have an open discussion outside the court environment. However, a lawyer from the Office of the Children's Lawyer who represents the child or children may be asked to attend. If an agreement is reached, each party is given a written copy to show their lawyers.


CAN I SAY "NO" TO MEDIATION?

No one can be forced to participate in mediation. You are free to decline the option.


WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND?

It is important that all parties at the mediation table want to be there. People may think that once you start mediating, you are required to keep going until everyone agrees; that is not true. It is your right to stop at any point, even if that means standing up and leaving the mediation meeting.


HOW DO I REFER?

Anyone can suggest a case for CP Mediation, including lawyers and family parties named in the court application. However, the referral to CCN ADR comes from the CAS.


WHAT ARE THE STEPS IN THE MEDIATION PROCESS?

  1. Determining if the case qualifies for CP Mediation. (CAS does this)
  2. Securing consent of all key parties for the referral to CP Mediation. (CAS does this)
  3. Consulting the Band if the case involves a First Nations family. (CAS does this)
  4. Notifying the Office of the Children's Lawyer. (CAS does this)
  5. Making a referral to CP Mediation. (CAS does this)
  6. Matching a CP Mediator from the roster. (CCN ADR Program Coordinator does this)
  7. Setting up and conducting the mediation. (CP Mediator does this)
  8. Gathering feedback about the process. (CCN ADR Program Coordinator does this)


WHAT IF CP MEDIATION DOES NOT END IN AGREEMENT?

If no agreement is reached, the case continues through the court system, just as it did before it was referred for mediation. Sometimes the parties agree on a few issues in mediation and the others will be presented to the judge for resolution.


WHAT IF I HAVE A COMPLAINT ABOUT THE PROCESS?

The CCN ADR Coordinator asks for your opinions and feedback when the process ends. Having your feedback helps us to continually improve the process for users of the service. Some participants may want to voice their concerns directly to the CP Mediator. If you believe the CP Mediator violated the Code of Professional Conduct of the Ontario Association for Family Mediation, you may write to the President of that organization. You may also ask your lawyer for advice.