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.

How to Refer a Case to Mediation

All child abuse and neglect cases, from investigations (i.e., pre-legal, prior to a legal filing) to reunification (i.e., child is returned home) or the termination of parental rights, including open adoption may be referred to mediation.

Parents and their attorneys, CYFD, the GAL, Youth Attorney, CASA or the Court may request mediation. After a legal filing, any interested party, as defined by the New Mexico Abuse and Neglect Act (34A-4-1, NMSA), may request the court refer them to mediation.

All referrals (legal and pre-legal) for mediation are made directly to the Statewide Mediation Coordinator (nmccmp.coordinator@gmail.com) or regional coordinators by submitting a Case Referral Intake Form.

Legal cases require a court order, filed by the Children’s Court Attorney (CCA). Endorsed copies must be mailed to the parties entitled to notice and the regional local coordinator. The orders include provisions requiring that all parties attend the mediation, a confidentiality statement, and the location, date and time of the mediation, if known. The regional coordinator can assist with ensuring an order for mediation is filed with the court.

Child Welfare Professionals

The Children’s Court mediation program is a resource for CYFD staff, families, and the Courts. By providing a non-adversarial approach, the mediation program assists child welfare professionals in their work with families facing long-term issues such as substance abuse, domestic violence, poverty, and mental illness, and work together to reach permanency solutions for children. A trained professional mediator meets with the parents, attorneys, CYFD case workers and other interested parties and assists in achieving understanding and agreements regarding placement, visitation, treatment and permanency for children. Any party involved with abuse and neglect cases may request mediation.

Meetings and Training

The Children’s Court Mediation Program offers training (as funding allows) for the professionals who participate in child abuse and neglect mediation, including CYFD staff, Respondent Attorneys, GALs, Youth Attorneys, CASA and others. Please check for meetings and scheduled training in your area.