Gillian Krajewski, Mediator
Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties,
Simon Hughes, gave a notable speech at July’s ‘Voice of the Child’ conference
convened by the Family Justice Young People’s Board. Why notable?
First because Simon Hughes actually mentioned
mediators and mediation - several times in fact, which is not something I’m
used to. Secondly, I think
, that we mediators were invited to
contribute, too. The Minister said: ‘[I]t
is at the moment less clear how children and young people are involved in other
processes, such as family mediation. That is why I have announced the policy of
involvement in the future in mediation and other out of court processes
too.’ He went on to say, ‘We will also
work with the mediation sector to arrive at a position where children and young
people of 10 years old and over have appropriate access to mediators too in
cases which affect them.’National Family Mediation mediators
and others, have been listening to children and young people in mediation for
many years. We don’t do it often enough,
that’s for sure, but it is happening and here’s one of the ways how.
My approach to listening to young people in
mediation departs, in some ways, from standard models and I am interested to
hear feedback from anyone, and particularly from young people as well as
mediation practitioners, about how this approach could be developed or
improved. Here it is, in broad outline:
– Parents are working well in mediation.
– Parents have had at least one joint, face
to face mediation meeting where they have reached or are working towards
agreement on some issues.
– there is little point inviting a young
person to mediation if there is no mediation.
Parents have to do their part and demonstrate a willingness to work
together on resolving, in a future focused way, the challenges which the family
and its members face. In my personal view, it is disrespectful to invite a
child into mediation, to take the trouble to share his/her views, if the adults
are not themselves ‘stepping up’.
– Check: are these parents really ready and
willing to hear their child/children’s views?
– I’m likely to ask parents what might they
hope their child/ren would say as well as what they might be afraid of
hearing? I am sure to book and secure a
follow up meeting with the parents within a week or so after the consultation
with the young person has taken place for them to discuss and process any
– If parents aren’t ready to hear the
worst, as well as the best, from their child, then let’s not invite the child
under the pretence that their parent is willing to hear their views, whatever
those views may be.
– Find out more about the child(ren) from
– Some questions I might ask: what’s s/he
like? What’s s/he in to? How would s/he describe her/himself? What does s/he
enjoy, not enjoy. How might s/he feel
meeting me here if s/he decides to come? Are there things you think I should
know that could help her/him to speak freely?
– I capture this information so it can
be shared with the young person(s) at the start of their meeting so they know
what’s been said about them in mediation (and can correct it if they
wish). This information can also
potentially help me in connecting, knowing what kind of things – books,
snacks, magazines, toys – I might have around in the room.
– Invite the young person(s) to take part
(and plan logistics in some detail).
– I usually discuss the best approach with
the parents and tend to send the child/ren a letter or email. Often, this letter or email is from me but is
sent to each parent to share with the child.
– I’d like the young person to have a
direct invitation from me and for each parent, where appropriate, to be able to
support their child in deciding whether or not to come.
– It’s OK not to take part. Sometimes
children say thanks but no thanks.