Dependency Mediation serves children and families involved in the court system because of allegations of abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Juvenile Dependency Mediation?
Mediation is a process whereby a neutral third person called a mediator encourages and facilitates the resolution of disputed issues. Juvenile Dependency Mediation provides an opportunity to resolve issues that arise when a family has entered the Dependency system. The mediation may take place at any point in the dependency process.
Mediation is not counseling. The purpose of mediation is to resolve differences, not to explore who is at fault for existing difficulties. Mediation is also not legal representation - the mediator is a neutral third party who does not represent any party. The mediator does not make the decisions. Any decisions reached occur through the agreement of the parties.
What issues are mediated?
Some of the issues which may be involved in Juvenile Dependency Mediation include:
- Case planning
- Shared parental responsibility
- Temporary and long-term placement
- Foster care
- Relative placement
- Non-relative placement
- Shelter care
- Family dynamics
- Parent education
- Available services to families
- Family reunification
- Termination of parental rights
Who participates in the Mediation?
All parties to the issues may participate in mediation. This may include the parents, and their attorneys if they are represented, a Guardian Ad Litem volunteer, coordinator, and attorney, and Children and Families caseworker and attorney. Other people who are involved in the issues to be mediated, such as counselors, child caretakers, foster parents, relatives, and the child(ren) may also participate if ordered by the court or agreed to by all parties.
How does Mediation work?
On the day of the scheduled mediation appointment, all parties will meet at a scheduled place with the mediator. The mediator will begin the process by determining what the issues are to be mediated. After this, the mediator will help the parties to discuss these issues in an effort to reach an agreement. The mediator may meet with individual parties or with the group as a whole in discussing these issues. If a total or partial agreement is reached, the parties will sign a written agreement prepared for review and approval of the agreement by the judge. If an agreement cannot be reached, the case is returned to the court.
Is Mediation confidential?
Yes, the issues and matters discussed during the mediation are confidential. Each party will sign a confidentiality agreement at the beginning of the mediation. The exception to this is that Florida law may require some professionals involved in the mediation process to report new instances of child abuse or neglect. Any discussion about previously reported abuse or neglect remains confidential.
What are the benefits of Mediation?
- More options are available to the parties than a court may otherwise order
- Reduces hostility and trauma to parties and children involved
- Quicker resolution of issues and faster receipt of services
- Less stressful atmosphere in mediation than in court
- All parties participate and give input
Who are the Mediators?
The Juvenile Dependency Mediators participating in the Eighth Judicial Circuit Program are mediators who have been certified by the Florida Supreme Court as Dependency Mediators. These mediators have received special training in the area of dependency mediation.