Recent Initiatives

OUR 2017-2018 RESEARCH PROJECT: 

Court-Based Mediation Services In Ontario: An Evaluation of Participation, Success and Best Practices, is underway.

The AFCC is an interdisciplinary and international association of professionals dedicated to the resolution of family conflict. AFCC members share a strong commitment to education, innovation and collaboration in order to benefit communities, empower families, and promote a healthy future for children.

Our vision is a justice system in which all professionals work collaboratively through education, support and access to services to achieve the best possible outcome for children and families.

AFCC-O continues to initiate and participate in important research, and hold symposiums to identify changes and new initiatives that will be beneficial to Ontario families.

AFCC-O’s 2017 RESEARCH PROJECT

Exploring the Benefits and Challenges of Mediation Services in Ontario

Description of Project:

The AFCC-O is providing financial and other support to a research project on Court-based Family Mediation Services in Ontario, being undertaken by Dr. Denise Whitehead of the University of Waterloo and Dr. Rachel Birnbaum of King’s University College, Western University.  The project is intended to examine what works and what is not working with respect to court-based mediation services as well as private mediation in Ontario. The project is beginning in the Fall of 2017, and a final report will be completed and made available on the AFCC-O website by December 1, 2018.

This project will employ multiple methodologies, including:

(1)   A literature review on public and privately funded mediation to examine what has been done and what are the gaps in knowledge;

(2)   A survey of Ontario professionals about mediation services:  The survey will have questions related to both court-based and government subsidized mediation and private mediation. This survey will have some questions directed to professionals who refer individuals to mediation (i.e. lawyers and counsellors) as well as a section for mediators; it will distinguish between those doing publicly funded mediation, those doing private mediation and those doing both;

(3)   In-person interviews of professionals about their views and experiences with mediation at eight court sites (Sudbury, Guelph, Windsor, Newmarket, London, and in Toronto at 311 Jarvis, 47 Sheppard, and 393 University);

(4)   Subject to the approval of the Offices of the Chief Justice, interviews with both OCJ and SCJ judges at these eight sites;

(5)   Online survey of participants who have utilized court-based publicly funded mediation services and telephone/in-person follow-up interviews with some of them; and,

(6)   Online survey and in-person interviews with litigants who are contemplating using public mediation services.

The researchers contact information is as follows:

Dr. Denise Whitehead denise.whitehead@uwaterloo.ca, and

Dr. Rachel Birnbaum rbirnbau@uwo.ca

VIEW the “Supervised Access as a Stepping Stone Rather than a Destination” research paper by Nicholas Bala, Michael Saini and Sarah Spitz.

AFCC-O RESPONSE TO THE FAMILY LEGAL SERVICES REVIEW

In May 2017, AFCC-O provided a written submission in response to the release of the Family Legal Services Review. AFCC-O engaged a working group to draft the response on behalf of the organization and in consultation with our membership.  In April 2016, AFCC-O submitted a detailed submission about the potential for an expanded role for non-lawyers in the delivery of services to families, following a survey of our members. In May 2016,  AFCC-O attended a meeting with Justice Bonkalo, the author of the review, to discuss areas of consideration and concerns. Please click on the links below for AFCC-O’s recent response, and our initial submission.

MAY 2017 RESPONSE TO THE FAMILY LEGAL SERVICES REVIEW

APRIL 2016 SUBMISSION TO THE FAMILY LEGAL SERVICES REVIEW

Not all AFCC-Ontario members agree with the AFCC-O’s response to the Bonkalo Report and that is, of course, just fine. It ensures there will be healthy debate and dialogue, which are good things. One AFCC-Ontario member who disagrees with the AFCC-Ontario’s position is Dr. Bernie Mayer. Dr. Mayer delivered one of the keynote addresses at the AFCC 2017 annual conference in Boston, in which he challenged AFCC members to engage fully and enthusiastically in the access to justice debate. Dr. Mayer’s comments on the AFCC-Ontario’s response to the Bonkalo Report can be found here:

Bernie Mayer Letter- June 2017

AFCC-O Symposium: “The Intersection of Domestic Family Law Cases and the Child Welfare System”

On November 25, 2016, the AFCC-O hosted a family justice symposium, entitled the “Intersection of Domestic Family Law Cases and the Child Welfare System”. The AFCC-O symposium was designed to build on the recent research conducted by Claire Houston and Professor Nick Bala (see “The Challenge of High Conflict Family Cases Involving a Child Protection Agency: A Review of Literature and an Analysis of Reported Ontario Cases“, and “Child Welfare and Family Justice Suggestions for Good Practices” research papers below) with the goals of developing strategies, better practices and next steps to improve how custody and access cases that intersect with child protection system are identified and managed. The full-day program also explored how Children’s Aid Societies across Ontario may improve on service delivery in cases involving high conflict custody disputes. Over forty-five professionals attended the symposium, including: legal and policy advisors from the Ontario government and Legal Aid Ontario, community and legal organizations, lawyers and child protection workers/supervisors from Children’s Aid Societies, judges, mediators, parents’ and children’s counsel, the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, mental health professionals, assessors and members of the AFCC-O Board of Directors. Please refer to the below documents available for download that provide details of what discussions took place at our symposium, and a summary article which includes recommendations for improvements:

Symposium Summary Notes

AFCC-O Symposium Summary & Recommendations

Results of Part I – Literature Review/Caselaw Review of the Intersection of Custody/Access Cases and the Child Welfare System

Part II – Qualitative Research into the Intersection of Custody/Access Cases and the Child Welfare System

Increasingly, custody/access cases are colliding with the child welfare system, with children being found in need of protection as a result of parental separation involving high-conflict, and accusations of child protection concerns about each parent, etc. Part I of this research project explored the social science and legal literature, including case law in the last five years detailing the intersection between these two systems. Part II of this research involved qualitative interviews with child welfare professionals including front line and managers, as well as justice professionals in the court system about how the courts respond to the intersection between family and child welfare.

Ms. Houston and Prof. Bala have completed phase II of this study which involved a series of interviews with key informants, and recommendations for best practices for these cases.

Child Welfare and Family Justice Suggestions for Good Practices-Houston & Bala May 2-16