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ADR: Paths to Settlement

Resolución Alternativa de Disputas: Vías a la conciliación

Families

Two young children with backpacks sitting on a hill

The Children's Court Mediation program serves children and families involved with CYFD Child Protective Services due to allegations of abuse, abandonment, and/or neglect. A trained professional mediator meets with parents, attorneys, CYFD case workers and others to help everyone talk about disagreements related to the safety and well being of the children. Anyone involved with an abuse and neglect case may request mediation. Mediation is confidential and free.

Family Frequently Asked Questions

What does the mediator do?

The mediator encourages good communication and an atmosphere of respect. They will not take sides, give advice or make decisions for others. The mediator makes sure everyone gets a chance to voice their concerns. This helps people explore and negotiate their own solutions. If the parties can agree on a solution, the mediators will assist all the parties to draft a written agreement.

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Open Adoption Mediation

What is Open Adoption?

Open adoption is an adoption that allows for an ongoing relationship among the birth family, adoptive family, and adopted child. Open adoptions may include extended family members such as birth grandparents and siblings.

There are many degrees of openness ranging from a very limited exchange of information between birth and adopting parents, such as regular exchanges of letters and photos (either directly or through a third party) to actual contact between birth parents and adopted child.

In every adoption with any amount of openness, it is important that the birth family and adopting family have the same understanding of what "open" means and that they remain committed to meeting the needs of the child throughout the child's life.

What is open adoption mediation?

Open adoption mediation refers to a process for mediating of a Post Adoption Contact Agreement (PACA). This is an agreement between the birth parents and prospective adoptive parents that allows for some type of contact between a child's adoptive family and members of the child's birth family after the adoption has been finalized. Consistent with New Mexico Statute 32A-5-35, a PACA is filed as part of the final Open Adoption Decree and is enforceable by the Court.

PACA mediation is a voluntary, confidential process facilitated by a specially trained and experienced mediator. The mediator helps parties explore and consider different types of contact that support the safety and best interests of the child. The mediator does not make decisions for the parties nor does the mediator give legal advice or psychological counseling.

Who is involved in open adoption mediation?

Usually, mediation involves the adopting parent, the birth parent and the mediator. In some cases, the children, other siblings or their families, grandparents, and/or other people important to the child may be a part of the mediation.

How does open adoption mediation work?

Open adoption mediations are conducted consistent with the New Mexico Court Improvement Project (CIP) CIP Best Practices for Open Adoption and Mediating Post Adoption which includes the CYFD Guidelines for Completing a Mediated Open Adoption.

Once there is a plan of adoption, an identified adoptive family and the birth family and prospective adoptive family have agreed to mediation, a referral is made to the regional coordinator.

Parents and their attorneys, CYFD, the GAL, Youth Attorney, CASA or the Court may request mediation. A stipulated court order is filed by the CYFD Attorney.

The regional coordinator assigns a mediator to the case. The mediator contacts all the interested parties to schedule an initial meeting and to answer questions about how mediation works.

What happens during open adoption mediation?

The mediator meets first with all interested parties and their attorneys to review the mediation process and to clarify issues, including who is responsible for writing the final PACA. All parties sign a Mediation Agreement.

The mediator then meets with birth and adoptive families only to discuss and identify contact terms and conditions. The mediator is responsible for distributing a  Post-Adoption Contract Agreement to all parties and their attorneys for review. If parties are unable to reach an agreement, the mediator will distribute a No Agreement Letter.

The Adoption Attorney or other designated attorney drafts a final agreement, circulates it to all parties and their attorneys, and ensures that the agreement is signed by birth and adoptive parents and is filed with the Court as part of the final adoption decree. A copy is also placed in the CYFD case file.

Follow-up mediation sessions may be scheduled to resolve outstanding issues. The mediator may also reconvene all parties to finalize the PACA.

Who gets copies of the PACA?

In addition to the birth and prospective adoptive parents, a copy of the PACA will be placed in the CYFD case file, as per CYFD Guidelines. Consistent with New Mexico Statute 32A-5-35, all Post Adoption Contact Agreements are filed, as part of the final Open Adoption decree, and are enforceable by the Court.