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BC Family Mediation Practicum Project

Year: 
2004
Description: 

BC Dispute Resolution Practicum Society project to provide free mediation services from new mediators for family disputes about custody, access, guardianship, child support, and simple property matters.

Status: 

Permanent implementation

Jurisdiction: 

British Columbia

Court: 

Provincial Court of British Columbia (New Westminster Registry)

Body Responsible: 

BC Dispute Resolution Practicum Society

Timeline: 
January 2004 Project launched as a pilot at New Westminster Registry
June 2005 Results of evaluation released
June 2005 Project made permanent
Development: 

The Family Mediation Practicum Project has been operating in New Westminster since January 2004. It is funded by the Law Foundation of BC and the BC Ministry of Attorney General and is administered by the BC Dispute Resolution Practicum Society, a non-profit society.

Description of Reforms: 

The Project provides free mediation services for family disputes about custody, access, guardianship, child support, and simple property matters.

The Project was initiated as a means of providing trained, but inexperienced family mediators with more opportunities to practice their skills. In particular, it was intended as a way of meeting the specialized training requirements in family mediation, and of supervising mediators as they learn to manage the unique circumstances characterizing family disputes within the mediation process. At the same time, and in this context, family clients were to be provided with high quality mediation services.

Report at i

Each mediator is guided by a senior, highly trained mediator (or mentor), who assists the mediator to prepare for and conduct each session.

Results: 

 

Results of an evaluation of the Family Mediation Practicum Project were released in June 2005. The Report concludes that:

[T]he Family Mediation Pilot Project has clearly been a success. It has been both client-centred and appropriate in tailoring its operations to the needs of its clientele. Its structural or operational features, as well as program outcomes, have been declared a practical success. Finally, its relationships with other family justice agencies and practitioners have been collaborative and constructive, building a firm foundation upon which the Project can build a place in the family justice and mediation communities.

The Practicum Project has successfully achieved all four of the objectives articulated in connection with the project goal. As a test of a delivery model in which mediators practice their skills under the supervision of senior mediators, it has been found to be a highly effective way of providing mediators with practical experience in mediating family disputes. At the same time, high quality mediation services have been delivered to family clients - in an environment in which they feel safe, and able to participate fully in the mediation process.

Exceptionally high satisfaction ratings were reported by both of the client groups the Practicum Project serves: practicum mediators and mediation clients. Additionally, innovations such as "fast tracking" 1st joint mediation sessions, imposing a 3-session limit on mediation, and a draft or evolving Memorandum of Understanding have achieved both efficiencies and improved mediation outcomes. The biggest challenges to the Project lie largely in its external operating environment. Although gradually changing, conditions are not particularly supportive for mediation as a favoured option in dispute resolution - with the consequence that many of those who have an interest in the practice of mediation must pursue it without any particular hope of a return on their investment in it.

Obtaining ongoing, sustainable funding of the fixed cost component of the Project is a continuing source of concern. Funding agencies can, however, be assured that the Project has been cost-effective, and has contributed to our knowledge of best practices both in mediation practicum programs and, more generally, family mediation. It has, as well, been an excellent example of partnership between a government and non-profit organization - the BC Dispute Resolution Practicum Society and the Dispute Resolution Office of the Attorney General's Ministry have worked together very successfully to produce a very high-quality service. If a decision is made to confirm the Family Mediation Practicum Project as a continuing program, it can be expected that this program will make a positive contribution to the infrastructure for collaborative approaches in dispute resolution within the province.

Revision History:
This summary was last reviewed in Apr 09, 2013:custom:F, Apr 09, 2013:custom:Y.