I attended my first mediation session last week as the authorized representative of the adoptive family. Note: Contrary to the language in OAC rule 5101:2-49-05, which limits participation to county agencies and parents only, parents may chose an attorney or other authorized representative to participate with them
It is difficult, of course, to generalize on the basis of one mediation session, but I came away hopeful about the potential of mediation process to enable many adoptive families negotiate an adequate amount of federal Title IV-E adoption assistance for their special needs children. In the next several posts, I will offer some observations and suggestions based on my recent experience and conversation with Dan Shook, newly appointed Deputy Director at ODJFS and policy chief over adoption assistance.
As readers of previous posts may recall, I was quite skeptical of mediation as an effective tool to solve disputes over the amount of adoption assistance. The skepticism was based on previous experience, before mediation became a recognized option for parents in the amendments to OAC rule 5101:2-49-05, which went into effect on July 1, 2014.
In my conversation with Dan Shook prior to the mediation session, he assured me that the mediators had undergone training and although the process was just underway, he was encouraged by some of successful outcomes in which the parents and county agency had come to an agreement over the children’s adoption assistance. He urges adoptive families to request mediation when negotiations break down. He is hopeful that the mediation process will serve to educate the mediators on the radical adjustments and sacrifices that are characteristic of so many special needs adoptions. Discussions between parents and state officials should promote a better understanding of the crucial importance of adoption assistance to those adults who feel a strong calling to provide permanent, nurturing families for abused and neglected children.
Dan Shook and I have agreed to share monthly phone calls. I am convinced that he is fully committed to improving the support for families through adoption assistance. He will be my source on any internal trends and problems at the state and I will inform him about any potential problems I see about the conduct of mediation from the adoptive families' perspective. I invite any readers to share their experiences with me, so I can pass them along. The following are some impressions gained from my recent involvement in a mediation case. They, of course, are subject to change as the mediation process evolves.
The next several posts will address each of the above points in an effort to help parents prepare for mediation.