Year started: 2001
Eligibility: All cases in the Child Protection Division
Free Mediation Services Available?: No
The Cook County Circuit Court Child Protection Mediation Program began as a six-month pilot program at the beginning of 2001 under Judge Patricia Martin, Presiding Judge of the Child Protection Division, Circuit Court of Cook County. Its success has led it to become a regular part of court services. The first mediation took place April 25, 2001. The program is governed by Local Rule 29 and Supreme Court Rule 99 (b)(2) and Illinois Supreme Court Rule 905 (a).
When the program started, two courtrooms were referring cases; currently all courts refer cases to mediation. Custody and visitation issues, as well as any matter that impedes a custody or visitation determination, are considered appropriate for the program. The program in Cook County was modeled after one in Santa Clara County, California, but later incorporated elements from other jurisdictions. It utilizes a facilitative co-mediation model in which two mediators are involved in each mediation. Cases are generally referred to mediation by Child Protection Division judges and hearing officers; however, parties, service providers, and attorneys involved in active child protection cases may also request mediation.
The mediation process begins with an orientation session during which the parties, attorneys, and other participants learn about the mediation process and goals. Next, each participant in the mediation discusses the issues as he or she sees them, leading to an identification and narrowing of the issues. A discussion between the participants is then facilitated by the mediators. In this joint session, any agreement is reduced to writing, signed by all present, and taken to the appropriate courtroom for the judge to review and approve.
Most mediations are completed in one half-day session; however, in many mediations participants and mediators agree to return for further sessions to continue discussion of those issues not resolved in the first session. In other cases, the mediators suggest that the participants return for further discussion at a later date when they know that the situation will have changed for the family.
Judge Martin, with the help of the staff at The Child Protection Mediation Pilot Program, set out to create an environment different from that experienced in the courts. The mediation sessions are held on a different floor, in an area and atmosphere totally removed from the courtrooms. The space in which the mediations take place was completely remodeled, designed as an open space along the lines of a huge living room. Their facilities also include two caucus rooms that were converted from offices, and a primary mediation room. Light refreshments are served to those participating in the mediation. Again, the goal is to provide the parties with an environment unlike what they have previously experienced in connection with the court process.
There are four staff mediators in the program and a director, all trained in the facilitative model by the Center for Conflict Resolution in Chicago. As of December 2004, more than 975 individual children's cases had been referred to mediation. The agreement rate over the life of the program is just over 70%. All mediations are free of charge to the parties. The program is governed by Circuit Court Rule 19A.19.
Illinois Circuit Court of Cook County. Jan. 1, 2020
Resource Type: Rules - Court
Abstract: The local rules for Illinois' Circuit Court of Cook County.
Part 13- Domestic Relations Proceedings: Rule 13.4(e) refers to and provides rules regarding the Circuit Court of Cook County's Family Mediation Services.
Part 19 - Child Protection Media...Illinois Supreme Court. Article I - Illinois Supreme Court General Rules, Oct. 10, 2001
Resource Type: Rules - Court
Abstract: This rule authorizes judicial circuits to undertake mediation programs. Circuits electing to establish mediation program are directed to adopt rules for the conduct of mediation proceedings and to submit them to the Supreme Court. The Rule specifies ...
Summary: These statistics detail the number of children's cases referred, the number of children's cases mediated, and the percentage of full and partial agreements for the Cook County Circuit Court Child Protection Medaition Program from January 1, 2010-December 31, 2010.
Summary: This evaluation looked at three areas: program performance, program process, and stakeholder assessment of mediation and understanding of its role and function within the child protection system. The study included data from 164 cases referred to mediation, as well as interviews of mediation participants, judges, attorneys and program staff. Participants, particularly family members, have very positive reactions to the program. However, very few are given the opportunity to experience it. Judges and hearing officers see the value in the program, but do not often make referrals to it. The majority of judges and attorneys interviewed believed mediation could occur early on, but almost always referred cases to the program after the disposition hearing (generally two years after the children were brought into the system). This is the paradox of the program. It works well, is well-regarded by almost everyone, and the participant families find it to be a rewarding experience, but it is underutilized.
The author is an RSI staff member.
Cook County Child Protection Mediation Program
69 W. Washington St.
Chicago, IL 60602