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Career Story: Court-Referred Family Counselor And Mediator

Court-Referred Family Counselor And Mediator

Job Title: Mediator/Arbitrator/Facilitator

Type of Company: Most of our cases are referred from Family or Supreme Courts. We offer mediation services, supervised visitation and parenting education after separation.

Education: BA, Urban Planning and Sociology, University of Massachusetts •• Certificates in Mediation and Arbitration, New York State Unified Court System

Previous Experience: I started out as a small claims court referred case, took training and got certified as a mediator. I volunteered for several years at the agency before being hired to start a Family Mediation Program. But after a few years I was promoted to Director.

Job Tasks: Our business offers parents and families support services during times of turmoil and transition. Mediation sessions assist parents in joint decision-making for their children as part of a non-adversarial process.

Parenting classes offer parents information and new skills for cooperative co-parenting. Developmental stages and ages of children are presented in the context of reducing the child's exposure to parental conflict. The parents are also presented with an hour of relevant legal information presented by a local family law attorney. Videos, interactive exercises and local resources for families are all used in the six hours of instruction. Parents are screened out for domestic violence and child neglect; they do not attend at the same time.

Supervised visits between non-custodial parents and their children happen in a safe, child friendly environment. Sites include children's museums, libraries and other easily accessible public venues.

Our business, because it is small, can be flexible and address a group of special needs. We have worked with fathers' groups, re-entry programs for returning parents into the community from jail or prison, and military families. We also collaborate with other programs and agencies in the county.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: the best part of this work is the positive impact it can have on families during difficult times. Watching parents have an "ahaa moment " in their shared learning classes makes the effort worthwhile. Statistics show that keeping both parents in a child's life can improve their development.

The hardest part is hearing parents complain about all the conflict and anger directed at them from the other parent , often through their children.

Job Tips: I would encourage students to get a degree in Social Work or Law or Psychology. They should get training, too, in conflict resolution while in middle school and high school. Become an active Peer Mediator while in school.

Additional Thoughts: Having first been exposed to mediation in a landlord/tenant case in Small Claims Court, I sought out information about it and tried it out as a volunteer before investing more in education. Be open to all possibilities...

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