Mediation Clinic expands to include child protection cases

The Mediation Clinic at University of Wisconsin Law School has added child protection mediation services to its offerings, thanks to a grant from the Morgridge Center for Public Service.

Donna Erez-Navot
Donna Erez-Navot

Since the clinic opened in 2011, staff and students have been mediating Dane County small claims cases—disputes involving contracts, landlords and tenants, property damage and the like. The new Morgridge Center funds support a partnership with Dane and Waukesha Counties to serve children who need the court’s protection.

Child protection mediation brings in a neutral third party—the mediator—to work with families of abused and neglected children, as well as with social workers and lawyers, to create plans that put children’s needs first.

Issues surrounding foster care placement are common to child protection mediation: mediators help families and child advocates consider the child’s wishes, determine whether and how parents may communicate with foster families, and settle on the conditions of parent visits.

According to Clinic Director Donna Erez-Navot, the process can offer advantages over lengthier, more expensive courtroom litigation, both for affected families and for backlogged juvenile courts. The clinic’s plans for mediating 40 cases in its first year will help alleviate juvenile court overflows. And because parents in child protection mediation have had a hand in creating their own case plans, they’re more likely to comply with them.

Students participating in the clinic for the full year have the opportunity to become certified mediators. Besides assisting with case development and reviewing case files, students will observe Erez-Navot and a collaborator mediate the sessions. Coursework in the clinic has been expanded to include juvenile law.

Erez-Navot says the clinic has already seen success with the pilots: “Based on feedback from families and child advocates so far, we know participants feel their concerns were heard, that power was equally distributed among all parties, and that outcomes were clearly explained.”

To learn more about the Mediation Clinic, contact Donna Erez-Navot at erez@wisc.edu or 608-262-4870.

Submitted by Tammy Kempfert on October 10, 2013

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