Academic journal article Child Welfare

Community Involvement through Child Protection Mediation

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Community Involvement through Child Protection Mediation

Article excerpt

Mediation has been used in child protection cases to help resolve conflicts involving child protection workers, parents, and other family members. This article explores whether mediation can foster greater community involvement with families that have experienced child abuse or neglect, and if so, how.

With newspapers and other media rife with stories about the failings of child protection systems, service providers and administrators have been exploring alternative means of helping children and families in need. One trend in recent years is the push for greater community involvement in child welfare [Kufeldt 1997], due in part to public demands for increased accountability. Another innovation has been the introduction of mediation in child protection cases.

This article explores the extent to which the use of mediation contributes to community involvement in child welfare. It describes the model of mediation used in the Canadian cities of Toronto, Ontario, and Whitehorse, Yukon; discusses whether mediation enhances community involvement; and compares mediation with other child protection processes. A case example illustrates ways that communities can become involved through mediation. The concluding section offers suggestions for fostering increased community involvement.

The Mediation Process

Child protection mediation (CP mediation) refers to a problemsolving process in which a third-party professional assists child protection workers, family members, and others involved in a child protection proceeding to resolve conflicts among themselves. The mediator has no decisionmaking power, but promotes constructive communication between the parties, using techniques such as separating people from the problem, focusing the parties on the best interests of the child, reframing, positive connotation, metaphoric storytelling, and establishing ground rules for dialogue [Barsky 1995b; Carruthers 1997].

Various jurisdictions have offered child protection mediation since the late 1980s. The objectives of such projects include: Resolving issues in a timely and consensual manner (including settling legal issues in the least intrusive manner); Reaching decisions that promote the best interests of the children;

Crafting durable solutions that facilitate permanency planning for children; Improving communication between social workers and family members (broadly defined to include extended family and foster family members);

Satisfying the various stakeholders in the child protection system (family members involved in the system, Family and Children's Services, lawyers, judges, representatives of First Nations communities*); Creating perceptions of fairness in the process, empowerment, recognition and understanding, and satisfaction with the outcomes; and

Using resources cost-effectively [Barsky 1995b; Campbell & Rodenburgh 1993; Carruthers 1997; Savoury et al. 1995; Wildgoose & Maresca 1994; Wildgoose 1987].

Although the existence of a child protection proceeding indicates a concern that the child is at risk of maltreatment, the child's immediate safety and welfare must be established before mediation can proceed. Subjects suitable for mediation include the types of services that the agency will provide, services that the family will use, conditions that must be satisfied before a child in placement returns home, long and short-term child care options, terms of child-parent visitation, parental expectations for the child, appropriate nonviolent responses to family conflict, redefinition of parent-foster parent roles, termination of parental rights, and open adoption in jurisdictions where permitted by law [Barsky 1997a; McNeilly 1997]. CP mediation is not used to determine whether or not abuse or neglect has taken place. If this issue must be determined, traditional social work or police investigations may have to be used.

Various jurisdictions have operationalized CP mediation in different ways, such that the use of a single term, mediation, to describe all of these processes is misleading. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.