This study examines child protection mediation (CPM) at five centers in Michigan (Gaylord, Jackson, Marquette, Petoskey, and Traverse City). The study focuses on descriptive statistics, participant and stakeholder perspectives, and time to permanency. For participants, data was collected through statewide surveys that asked participants going through the traditional process and those going through CPM how satisfied they were with their experience. Additionally, researchers also interviewed ten stakeholders for the report. Overall, the findings indicate that CPM participants had a positive experience in the process and gave slightly higher satisfaction ratings in case resolution, staff courtesy and courtesy of the judge than participants going through the traditional process. Moreover, the information gathered by stakeholders indicated that stakeholders were largely supportive of the process. Finally, the study results also indicate that CPM reduces time to permanency.
Description of Study: Comparative study of child protection mediation (CPM) conducted at five community mediation centers (Gaylord, Jackson, Marquette, Petoskey and Traverse City) that provide mediation services for 24 counties. It focused on descriptive statistics, participant and stakeholder perspectives, and time to permanency.
Method: Examined case management data from the five community mediation centers involved in the study. Also examined post-mediation surveys collected by two of the centers. Compared responses to satisfaction surveys completed about the general court processes in those counties with mediation programs to those in the comparison counties. Compared the average time to permanency in the mediation jurisdictions to those in the non-mediation counties. Interviewed ten stakeholders about the effectiveness of the process.
Comparison Groups: Five jurisdictions with child protection mediation and a sample of comparable jurisdictions without child protection mediation. The comparison jurisdictions were selected based on the structure of their courts and the number of case filings.
Variables Examined: Satisfaction, time to permanency, settlement rate, court acceptance of agreements
Program Variables: Mediation in the five sites is voluntary and primarily takes place early in the case, on average within 60 days of the filing of the petition. In the five sites, the number of mediated cases during the study period (January 2016 – October 15, 2018) ranged from 6 to 105.
Findings: Participants in counties that utilize CPM reported higher “Satisfied/Very Satisfied” combined scores relative to counties that use traditional court processes on three metrics: case resolution (84.5% vs. 81.3%), staff courtesy (95.5% vs. 92.9%), judge courtesy (92.5% vs. 88.3%). Post-mediation surveys in Petoskey and Gaylord indicated that the participants had high levels of satisfaction with the mediation process. In Petoskey, the mean response of the 707 respondents to whether the process was fair was 4.61 (on a scale of 1 – 5). The mean for being able to express their views was 4.62. The mean was 4.44 for whether they gained understanding of the issues through mediation. The respondents were also satisfied with how their case was handled, with a mean of 4.61. In Gaylord, the response options were yes or no. The 185 respondents gave high marks to the mediation, with almost all saying they were satisfied with the process and believed that mediation could help resolve future issues. Almost all said they would use mediation again.
Time to permanency was shorter in the mediation jurisdictions, averaging 559 days compared to 619 days in the non-mediation jurisdictions. Mediation jurisdictions were almost twice as likely to close during the 2-year study period than the non-mediation jurisdictions.
About 70% of CPM cases reached full or partial agreement: most (approximately 63%) were mediated to full agreement while a further 6% were mediated to partial agreement. The court fully accepted 73.3% of the agreements reached in CPM.