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Report: CPM is effective in child welfare cases.

Byline: Lee Dryden

A new study touts child protection mediation (CPM) as an efficient means of achieving positive outcomes for children.

The report, which focuses on cases in medication centers in Petoskey, Gaylord, Jackson, Marquette and Traverse City, shows that CPM participants in those areas are more satisfied than others who took part in traditional court proceedings.

It found that CPM improves time to permanency, which is defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as "a legal permanent family living arrangement, that is, reunification with the birth family, living with relatives/guardianship, or adoption."

CPM also brings high parental compliance and positive stakeholder perceptions, while improving judicial efficiency, according to the report.

"Our goal in child protection cases is always to establish safety and stability in a child's life," Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack said in a statement. "Child protection mediation is a valuable and effective method to accomplish exactly that while also benefiting the family, the community, and the court."

The report was conducted by the Grand Valley State University College of Community & Public Service and School of Criminal Justice with input from the Michigan Supreme Court, regional mediation centers and courts.

CPM in Michigan

CPM has a history of about two decades in Michigan as pilot programs were first implemented throughout the state in 1998 as part of the federal government's Court Improvement Program, according to the report.

In 2018, amendments to Court Rules 2.410 and 2.411, along with the adoption of Rule 3.970, further reinforced the use of CPM in Michigan, the report stated, as they provide "explicit authority for judges to order mediation in child protection proceedings."

CPM can be used at every stage of child protection court proceedings in Michigan, but many cases are referred to CPM at the preliminary hearing. CPM can be used multiple times in a case to achieve permanency.

The report lists stakeholders who may be included in a typical CPM proceeding: parents, case workers from the Department of Health and Human Services, attorneys representing the children, attorneys representing the parents, a prosecutor, a mediator, a guardian ad litem, court-appointed special advocates, foster parents, other family members, and other child services workers.

"Key issues mediated at the preliminary hearing stage can include the wording of the petition, placement of the child(ren), guardianship, family contact plans, and visitation issues. If mediated at this stage, a dispositional hearing is held often on the same day that CPM is concluded," the report stated. "At the dispositional hearing, the service plan is reviewed, and an order of disposition is entered by the court, allowing parties to begin services immediately. If not done at the preliminary stage, CPM can be ordered by the court to resolve any subsequent issues that arise with the case. A plea is also typically entered as part of a combined adjudication/dispositional hearing."

Outcomes

The report states that "jurisdictions that utilize CPM achieve permanency faster, and more frequently, than comparison jurisdictions that do not utilize CPM."

It cited outcomes such as: permanency is achieved, on average, in 559 days with CPM compared with 619 days in non-CPM jurisdictions; during the 2-year study period, jurisdictions that used CPM were almost twice as likely to close a case compared with non-CPM courts; and the most common permanency outcome from CPM is reunification with parents (54.8%).

The report also shows that about 70% of CPM cases achieved full or partial agreement as most (about 63%) were mediated to full agreement while about 6% were mediated to partial agreement. In the majority of cases (73.3%), the court fully accepted the agreements reached in CPM.

Research shows that "parents who are more satisfied with the CPM process are subsequently more likely to comply with the outcomes," according to the report.

"This is because parents had the opportunity to be engaged and share their opinions about important issues."

Summary

"Overall, this evaluation suggests that the use of CPM has a number of important benefits in the State of Michigan," the report stated in its conclusion. "Most notably, it improves permanency outcomes.

"The most common type of permanency achieved in this state is reunification with the parents, followed by placement in long-term foster care."

CPM support is particularly strong among court professionals such as judges, prosecutors, attorneys representing families and children, and DHHS field workers, the report stated, adding that the findings also suggest that "working relationships amongst these individuals is typically improved through their participation in the mediation process."

"Support, however, is somewhat lower (though still positive) among respondent families. Furthermore, the state-wide comparison of satisfaction levels between CPM and non-CPM jurisdictions does suggest marginally higher satisfaction among citizens utilizing the courts in counties that utilize CPM," according to the report.

While the report states that most CPM participants are satisfied with both the process and outcomes, it warns that CPM is "certainly not a panacea for all child protective issues."

"CPM is not always appropriate in cases where respondent parents are facing serious criminal charges; in this context, they may be advised by their attorneys not to participate in CPM. Furthermore, parental compliance with mediation agreements, and associated service plans, may be limited in cases where families are facing serious substance abuse issues," according to the report. "Some stakeholders also expressed the opinion that post-adjudication CPM may be of limited value: CPM is likely a more appropriate 'tool' when used early in the child protection process."

If you would like to comment on this story, email Lee Dryden at ldryden@mi.lawyersweekly.com.

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Title Annotation:child protection mediation
Author:Dryden, Lee
Publication:Michigan Lawyers Weekly
Date:May 8, 2019
Words:938
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