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New Tool Helps Ohio Juvenile Judges Navigate Child Protection Disputes

Image of the toolkit document cover

Ohio juvenile judges have a new toolkit to help navigate child protection mediation.

Image of the toolkit document cover

Ohio juvenile judges have a new toolkit to help navigate child protection mediation.

Henry County Family Court Judge Denise McColley has used child protection mediation to help families resolve their differences for years.

“It’s been tremendously helpful in settling permanent custody cases in which a child is placed in a foster-to-adopt home and the potential adoptive parents are willing to sit down with the parents to discuss ways the parent might continue to have contact with the child,” Judge McColley said.

Now a new toolkit is available for Ohio juvenile judges and court administrators to help navigate everything from arranging parenting time with temporary custodians to adoption of case plan terms in child protection matters.

“Mediators in child protection cases have extensive training and they navigate family, court, and child welfare systems,” said Cathy Geyer, manager of the Ohio Supreme Court’s Dispute Resolution Section.

“Courts who elect to offer child protection mediation to families have the ability to impact a child’s life, safety, future, and well-being towards a better future,” Geyer said.

“The toolkit includes the practical elements of a successful program and is grounded in years of research and experience. Child protection mediation is not the easiest type of mediation process, but it is among the most-lasting and worthwhile court experiences for a family.”

Judge McColley has used child protection mediation when the parents have not made sufficient progress to allow for reunification but there is a relative or kinship provider willing to take legal custody of the child.

“In those instances, mediation allows for the parent(s) to agree to the grant of legal custody and for them and the kinship care provider to arrive at a schedule that will allow for parenting time or at least contact between the parent(s) and child,” Judge McColley said.

“With the assistance of the mediator and other professionals involved, they are able to arrive at a schedule that is workable for them and is deemed to be safe for the child. The result is only positive,” she said.

Mediation offers a supportive, flexible way for people to address matters relating to their family following the removal of a child for safety. Parents may have more investment in a case plan they helped fashion, which can lead to faster reunification.

After the mediation, the court must still approve whatever resolution has been reached.