Adoption Network Cleveland is currently developing a mediation service that will be utilized initially through referral by Cuyahoga County Division of Children and Family Services (CCDCFS). Select staff members will be trained in Child Protection Mediation (CPM). These staff will then handle referral cases where children are removed from their home, it has been determined that the child cannot safely return to their original home, and where there are multiple competing permanency placement options.
This situation usually occurs when there are multiple potential family placements (i.e. grandparents vs. aunts/uncles vs. foster parents) with both or all parties insistent on receiving placement, and often conflicting priorities (such as keeping siblings together vs some siblings having select paternal relatives interested in placement of some siblings and not others). These situations can lead to difficult agency review meetings, court hearings, and bitter family relationships, which can ultimately isolate the child from positive relationships with additional family or caring adults.
Data from the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts’ Guidelines for Child Protection Mediation states that CPM is very highly rated by participants, with everyone believing they had an opportunity to have their concerns heard. It also results in a high level of settlements, with 60-80 percent of mediated cases reaching full agreements and another 10-20 percent reaching partial agreements.
The goal of Permanency Mediation is to help prevent these situations from reaching the point of CCDCFS having to impose a difficult choice by providing an impartial mediator who can work through the issues of each party and help them focus on the best interest of the child to collectively reach an amicable placement agreement that all parties can support. This service will allow for more effective permanency planning for the youth while maintaining as many positive permanent connections for the child as possible.
This program is currently under development and will launch in 2018.