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What is alternative dispute resolution with a CAS?
Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) with a Children's Aid Society (CAS) means that you work with a professional to try to resolve child protection issues outside of court. This professional is called a "facilitator" and is trained to help you agree on your issues without taking sides.
ADR is free for parents in child protection cases. The government pays for it.
CAS must consider using ADR as a way to resolve issues with parents. It can be used instead of going to court, and also after a court case has started.
ADR is voluntary. This means that you and CAS need to agree to try it. You can't be forced to use ADR. If ADR isn't working or becomes uncomfortable, any party can end the process at any time.
Facilitators don't make decisions and can't force you or CAS to agree. They help you speak with each other and understand each other's position. Their goal is to help you agree on things.
Some lawyers, social workers, and other professionals are trained to be facilitators.
Types of ADR
There are 3 types of ADR available for families involved with CAS:
- Child protection mediation: Mediation is when CAS and the parents meet with a neutral person, called a mediator. The mediator helps them talk about the concerns CAS has for the child and reach an agreement about plans for the child.
- Family Group Conferencing, also called family group decision making: A facilitator or coordinator brings together:
- the child's family, this can include extended family and sometimes foster parents and family friends,
- the CAS workers, and
- professionals working with the family, such as a therapist.
Before the conference, CAS prepares a list of what they need to happen before they can accept any plan for the child. After hearing information from CAS and other professionals, the family meets privately and comes up with a plan for the child. If the family plan takes care of everything on the CAS list, CAS usually accepts it.
- Indigenous ADR: There are types of ADR available for First Nations, Inuk, or Métis families based on their traditions. Many are traditional circles, in which a facilitator brings the extended family together with the CAS worker and other professionals to talk about the child. The goal is to come up with a plan together for how the child will be cared for.
If the child is or identifies as First Nations, Inuk, or Métis, a person representing their band or community has to be told about ADR and can take part. CAS must also talk to them about the best type of ADR process to use.
Children usually don't come to mediation, unless they are older and want to. Children usually do come to family group conferences and Indigenous ADRs, but they may be in another room for certain parts.
If your child has a lawyer through the Office of the Children's Lawyer (OCL), they usually come to ADR. If your child doesn't have a lawyer, CAS has to tell the OCL about the ADR. The OCL may ask one of their lawyers to represent your child and participate in the ADR.