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ADR: Paths to Settlement

Resolución Alternativa de Disputas: Vías a la conciliación

The New Mexico Children's Court Mediation Program is a collaboration between the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and the Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD).

Mediation services are available in all judicial districts and CYFD county offices. The program works closely with and supports the First Judicial District's in-house child welfare mediation program.

Cases are mediated at all stages of an abuse and neglect case from investigation to reunification or termination of parental rights (TPR), including post adoption contact agreements until adoption is finalized.

A trained professional mediator meets with the parents, attorneys, CYFD case workers and other interested parties and assists in achieving agreements regarding placement, visitation, treatment and permanency. Any party involved with abuse and neglect cases may request mediation.

The program assists the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) goals of permanency, child safety and child well being. Annual program evaluation results indicate that mediation conserves judicial and CYFD resources, by reducing the time parties spend in post-mediation court hearings, and improves the quality of and compliance with treatment plans. Mediation also facilitates enhanced communication and problem solving by clarifying issues, exploring new options, and providing opportunities for collaboration.

The program is coordinated through the AOC with local autonomy for the district courts and CYFD offices. The AOC Liaison oversees regional coordinators and case managers who work directly with the implementation teams that include judges, respondent's attorneys, guardians ad litem (GAL), youth attorneys, CYFD staff and attorneys, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), and other interested parties. The teams are responsible for developing protocol that meets the needs of that particular court. The AOC monitors each site to provide quality assurance by offering ongoing training and education for mediators, professionals and families and supervising program evaluation.

The mediation program is funded by state recurring funds, an ongoing grant of Title IV-B and Title I-E funds from CYFD, and supplemental in-kind support from CYFD and local district courts.