The Arkansas Youth Mediation Program encompasses several programs focused on the state’s youth. Mediation provides a confidential dispute resolution process in which a mediator assists the parties with communicating and developing mutually acceptable solutions. Although parties may be ordered to attend mediation, participation in the mediation is voluntary, and there is no requirement to reach an agreement. However, if an agreement is reached, the parties must follow the terms of the agreement.
As part of the program, the trained mediators travel throughout the state to conduct mediations. The mediations are held in neutral locations are free to participants. Because the program is based at UALR Bowen School of Law, mediation clinic students are allowed to observe the mediation for educational purposes. This, of course, is pending approval from all parties involved in the mediation. Student observers are also bound by the Arkansas Confidentiality Code.
Funding for the projects is provided by the Arkansas Supreme Court Administrative Office of the Courts and the Arkansas Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission in conjunction with the UALR William H. Bowen School of Law.
Arkansas Dependency/Neglect Mediation Project
The Arkansas Dependency/Neglect Mediation Project allows parties to participate in a mediation process to help children achieve permanency and safety in a timely and effective manner. Parents, children, ADHS Employees, parent counsel, attorney ad litems, court personnel, or Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) may request mediation. Courts statewide may order cases to the Mediation Clinic. If the request is not an order of the court, the mediation office administrator will contact the court to offer the service.
Family in Need of Services (FINS)
Mediation is also available for families in need of services (FINS). FINS case managers may refer a FINS petition to the mediation clinic before the scheduled court date. The hearing will take place on the scheduled court date if an agreement is not reached in mediation. If an agreement is reached in mediation, the case manager will notify the court of the agreement. If no agreement was reached in mediation, the case will return to court.
A FINS case manager may also refer a case to mediation instead of referring the family to services. In this instance, no action is filed in the court. If an agreement is reached, the case will be closed because there is no pending court action.
Mediation is available for any first offense misdemeanor or juvenile delinquency offenses (thefts, criminal mischief, minor fights with serious personal injuries, etc.). Juvenile delinquency cases referred to the Mediation Program may be diverted by intake before a petition is filed for a formal court hearing.
The mediation clinic may also mediate some truancy cases referred to the program directly by the truancy prosecutor. The truancy prosecutor may refer truancy cases to the Mediation Clinic before a petition is filed for a formal court hearing. The participants in the mediation will be the parent(s), the youth, and a representative from the youth’s school. If the terms of the agreement are successfully completed, the case will be closed and no further action will be taken. If no agreement is reached in mediation or if the terms of the agreement are not completed , the case will be returned to the truancy prosecutor for a hearing.
For more information on the Arkansas Juvenile Mediation Project, contact Cheryl Bigelow at 501.324.9939.