Source: (1982) Alternative Means of Family Dispute Resolution, pp. 511-537, 1982, Howard Davidson et al, ed., American Bar Association.

Families are referred to the Children's Hearings Project (CHP) by the courts, the schools, and social service agencies. Upon referral, one of two staff case coordinators meets the family, describes the project, and seeks voluntary participation from the child, the parents, and any other person involved. Hearings are scheduled within 2 weeks of the initial contact with the family and at times convenient to the family. At the hearing, a panel of two or three community volunteers mediates among the parties present. The goal of mediation is a written agreement in which all parties assume responsibility for future actions. The case coordinator monitors the agreement for 3 months. Initially, the volunteer mediators are selected for their sensitivity, objectivity, understanding, and communication skills. A 42-hour training course is built around role-play situations involving parent and child disputes. Although the principles and techniques which guide the mediation model are consistent with those applied in non-family cases, the involvement of children in mediation requires the use of skills and principles appropriate for family mediation; e.g., a pre-mediation and a post-mediation followup are included. The aim of the agreement is to resolve the conflict by having all parties feel that the others involved are committed to making changes in their behavior that contribute to a resolution of the conflict. The experience of the CHP with specific types of family conflict holds promise for a broader use of mediation in family crises that involve children. Case histories and sample mediation agreements are provided.