In this study of child protection mediation in seven Nevada counties, the evaluators examined post-mediation surveys to determine not only the participants’ level of satisfaction, sense of fairness and experience of procedural justice, but also whether any variables were associated with more positive responses. They found that most participants had a positive experience. This was correlated with whether the parties reached agreement in the mediation. The evaluators also found that when participants believed others in the mediation had “really listened” to what they had to say, they were more likely to express satisfaction with the mediation regardless of whether an agreement was reached.
Description of Study: Study of seven jurisdictions that focused on factors affecting participant experience with mediation.
Method: Those who participated in mediation were asked to complete post-mediation surveys. For the purposes of this study, these people were divided into program participants (these are natural parents and foster parents) and system stakeholders (the attorneys and case workers involved in the case). During the study period (July 2016 through April 2017), participants completed 113 post-mediation surveys and stakeholders completed 267.
Variables Examined: Satisfaction with process/outcome, Fairness of process/outcome, Court appearances/motions
Program Variables: Mediation can be used at any point of the case. However, most cases used the mediation program at the termination of parental rights (TPR) stage of a case. (This finding regarding the timing of mediation is skewed somewhat by one county using mediation almost exclusively at the TPR stage.) Time in mediation averaged two hours.
Findings: In their responses, 84% of the participants and 98% of the stakeholders expressed satisfaction with the mediation program. Their satisfaction was statistically related to whether they reached agreement in the mediation.
The participants (or family members) were highly positive about all aspects of the mediation. All of them thought the process was fair. Almost all said they were able to voice their opinions, were treated with respect and were able to be a part of finding answers to the problems discussed. Almost 90% said the others really listened to them. For all practical purposes, these responses did not vary based on whether they were foster parents, natural mothers or natural fathers.
The evaluators analyzed whether there was a relationship among the participants’ responses. One that stood out was that when participants believed others in the mediation had “really listened” to what they had to say, they were more likely to express satisfaction with the mediation regardless of whether an agreement was reached.
The stakeholders (or attorneys and caseworkers) were also highly positive about the mediation, with all or almost all believing the process was fair, that they had an opportunity to express their opinion, were treated with respect, were listened to and were able to be a part of finding answers to the problems discussed.
Both participants and stakeholders were most likely to mention communication as what was most helpful about the mediation. Both groups were also most likely to say that parties being unable or unwilling to compromise was the reason no agreement was reached.
The study also found that hearings were vacated after 51% of the mediations held.