What is alternative dispute resolution in a child protection case?

Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) with a  (CAS) means that you work with an ADR professional to try to resolve child protection issues out of court.

Some lawyers, social workers, Indigenous community members and other professionals are trained in ADR. They are trained to help you talk about your issues and try to agree on how to resolve them without taking sides.

CAS must consider using ADR as a way to resolve issues with parents. It can be used before CAS decides to take a parent to court, and also after CAS starts a court case. Sometimes a judge may also suggest that you first try ADR.

ADR is voluntary. This means that you and CAS need to agree to try it. You can't be forced to use ADR. And If ADR isn't working, you, CAS, or the ADR professional can decide to end it at any time.

ADR professionals don't make decisions and will not force you or CAS to agree. They help you speak with each other and understand each other's position.

ADR is free for parents in child protection cases. The government pays for it. You can also get an interpreter, if you need one.

Types of ADR

There are 3 types of ADR available for families involved with CAS:

  1. Child protection : A Child Protection Mediator works with CAS and the parents to help everyone talk about the concerns CAS has for the child. The mediator is neutral and does not take sides. They work with you to see if you can agree on a plan for the child.
  2. Family Group Conferencing, in some communities this is called Family Group Decision Making: A Family Group Conferencing Coordinator brings together the:
    • child's family, such as extended family, family friends, and sometimes foster parents, and supports,
    • CAS workers, and
    • professionals working with the family, such as a therapist.

    Before the conference, CAS prepares and shares a list of what they want to happen before they will accept a plan for the child. At the conference, everyone discusses what needs to happen. Then the family meets privately to come up with a plan for the child. This plan is reviewed with everyone and if it takes care of CAS' concerns, the plan is usually accepted. Then the family group and CAS work together to implement the plan.

  3. Indigenous Approaches to ADR: ADR is available for First Nations, Inuit, or Métis families based on their traditions. Many are traditional circles, in which the ADR professional brings the extended family or someone representing the child's band or community together with the CAS worker and other professionals. They talk about a plan for the child that reflects the community's traditions.

Children usually don't come to ADR, unless they're older and want to. If they take part, and if your child doesn't have a lawyer, CAS must inform the  (OCL) about the ADR. OCL may ask one of their lawyers to represent your child at the ADR.

If your child doesn't get an OCL lawyer, then the ADR professional will arrange for a family member to support your child during the ADR process.

Children usually come to the family group conference or Indigenous circle, but they may be in another room with caregivers.

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