Monday, April 25, 2022

Mediation: Request for Mediation

In the previous post, I suggested making a record to contrast your (the parents) attempts to negotiate adoption assistance in accordance with federal and state policy with the actions of the county agency.  If the agency recognizes the validity of your approach and engages in a genuine negotiation, great!  Most likely, the agency will not respond to your questions and statements in any reasonable fashion, or neglect to respond at all.

You might give the agency a couple of weeks to respond.  Depending on the nature of the response, or lack thereof, you might give negotiation one more try or request mediation.  You request mediation by completing the JFS 01470 form and submitting it by email to the ODJFS Bureau of State Hearings at

In the space devoted to reasons, you can put something like: “the agency failed to negotiate my child’s Title IV-E Adoption Assistance Agreement in accordance with Federal and state law.  Specifically, . . . .”  Then, you can list areas of non-compliance such as:

·         Failure to negotiate at all. (Example).

·         Failure to consider family circumstances (Examples).

·         Failure to consider “anticipated” needs. (Example).

·         Insistence on an adoption assistance payment that is (half, less than half) of the foster care maintenance payment she receives as child determined by the agency to require a high level of care.  (Specific Example).

·         The agency has threatened to look for another family if we don’t reach an agreement.

If you need more space, put “See Attached” in the space on the form.

When you get a response from the Bureau of State Hearings.  The mediator will contact you and the agency to set up separate phone meetings without the other party present.  I suggest telling the mediator that you are going to submit a written statement, so you can have a more productive conversation with him or her.

In your e-mail message to mediator, I think it is important to communicate that

1.      You know that mediator will not determine the amount of adoption assistance.

2.      But, as a neutral third party, a kind of referee, the mediator apply federal and state criteria for negotiation in discussions with both the parents and county agency.

3.      You believe that the agency’s failure to comply with negotiation requirements is a major cause of the current impasse.

4.      By applying the federal and state requirements for negotiation, the mediator can establish a common framework for the parents and agency try and reach an adoption assistance agreement.

Example of an E-Mail Message to the Mediator Prior to the Initial Phone Conference

We recognize that as a neutral third policy you may not impose an agreement on either party.  Nevertheless, we regard your role as critical one in our mediation with         County.  We believe that the negotiation process is at an impasse because the agency does not recognize, much less comply with the requirements for negotiation established in federal and state law.  As an official with Ohio’s designated Title IV-E agency, you have the authority confirm state and federal policy for both contending parties.  While this does not guarantee an agreement with the agency, clarification of the rules and policies can move us past the current impasse and serve as framework for constructive dialogue. 

Throughout this frustrating process, we have presented information about how adjustments in our family circumstances affect our capacity to meet our child’s current and anticipated needs.  We presented this information as grounds for a higher, more adequate adoption assistance payment.  In refusing to consider an adequate adoption assistance payment, the agency either failed to respond or offered reasons that are not recognized in any federal or state regulation or policy.  Through mediation, the parties, at least, must confront the real expectations of the negotiation process, long established in law.

In preparation for our initial discussion, I am including a set of questions and statements we sent to the agency in an attempt to establish a common understanding of the negotiation process.  Unfortunately, the agency failed to respond in any helpful way.  [Explain how the agency did respond or fail to respond].  We hope it will convey the need for a third party to clarify the necessary elements of the negotiation process.

Note: Attach the statements and questions you e-mailed to the agency, which was discussed in the previous post.  In the initial phone conversation ask the mediator if she or he read it, whether it was accurate, and if you clearly conveyed the agency’s response or lack thereof.  Be prepared to cite needs and family circumstances that should have been considered but were not.  These become the major reasons why your child needs a higher rate of adoption assistance.  Finally, you might mention that if mediation fails and you are forced to go to a hearing, the likely outcome is an order to the agency to resume negotiations according to established policy.

Note: The mediator may expect a somewhat brief initial phone call.  Politely insist on giving the mediator a picture of the most important needs and family circumstances that have been ignored or rejected, the agency's noncompliance with the negotiation requirements and the importance of the mediator to confirm the negotiation requirements in speaking with the agency.