The Arkansas Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission has awarded the Bowen School of Law a $10,000 grant to expand its services for Arkansas’s at-risk children and families. The grant provides funds for professional mediators to serve families throughout the state through the Arkansas Youth Mediation Program and Juvenile Mediation Mentorship Program.
Kelly Browe Olson, Director of Clinical Programs at Bowen, and Tiffany Kell, Mediation Program Coordinator at Bowen, will lead the grant-funded efforts. Though these are ongoing programs, this grant will allow them to build upon their current projects. The Arkansas Youth Mediation Program runs the Dependency/Neglect Mediation Project and provides Families in Need of Services (FINS) and Juvenile Delinquency Mediation to families and children facing a variety of behavioral, relational, and legal issues. Additionally, the Juvenile Mediation Mentorship Program, founded by the UALR Mentorship Clinic, provides the only avenue to Juvenile mediation certification in Arkansas. These programs have been able to reduce the amount of time a child spends in foster care, keep dependency/neglect situations from escalating, and increase positive communication between families and social work and legal professionals.
Professor Olson and Ms. Kell have seen mediation work as a powerful tool for resolving high-stress situations and keeping kids on the right track, so they’ve made it a priority to train future mediators. The Mediation Clinic, which will also receive support from the new grant, trains current Bowen students in the art of mediation. Through this hands-on learning experience, “law students gain the listening and communication skills vital to any successful law practice while they increase their knowledge of substantive law and alternative dispute resolution procedures” (ualr.edu/law). Not only do law students receive specialized training, but community members receive these mediation services for free through the Clinic.
The Clinic also reaches out to established law professionals throughout the state, offering informational and training meetings to spread the word about Bowen’s mediation programs. According to the program coordinators, these sessions encourage judges and other law professionals to utilize Bowen’s mediation resources and implement mediation in their own practices. The grant will allow Bowen to expand these outreach programs.
This funding meets an immediate need in Arkansas—one that Ms. Kell is passionate about filling. “For years there has been a desire for the legal community to be more supportive of mediation as an effective tool for conflict resolution,” she explained in their proposal. “This is a chance to encourage and be supportive of those desires.”