A little over a year ago I joined the Board of Directors for the Virginia Mediation Network. VMN is an energetic group of over one hundred mediators in Virginia. While most of my mediation sessions are in West Virginia or Washington D.C. (where I am also licensed to practice law) I also mediate in Winchester, Woodstock, and Front Royal.
When I joined the board, VMN hosted two conventional conferences annually: one in the spring and one in the fall. Since mediators in remote areas often feel isolated, we decided to try something new in spring 2015. We offered two regional “mini-conferences.” Mediators gathered regionally to participate in a program that combined pre-recorded presentations by experts in the mediation field with an on-site discussion about the topics. Attendees appreciated the convenience of attending close to home and the level of expertise offered by the panelists.
When deciding how to proceed this year, we were tempted to repeat that format. However, we want to reach mediators who are more remote than the regional conferences or perhaps too busy to take the time to attend regional meetings. This year we will again offer one regional meeting in March, and additionally offer two one-hour webinars in April and May.
A committee including Karen Richards, Skip Mertz, and Mone Rowen-Ardura have been working to develop programs. This year, the theme will be “Children and Mediation.” The first regional meeting is designed to receive two (2) hour credits in ethics. In the session, panelists will address ethical problems related to the reporting child neglect and abuse as a mediator, how to ethically include children in the mediation process, and how to avoid the unauthorized practice of law when calculating child support in difficult cases.
The format will include presentations by the panelists. Conference attendees can then address further issues raised in the case studies during live discussions at each regional site. We are applying for two (2) ethics CEU credits for the session. The experts who will be presenting in this session include Virginia State Bar Ethics Counsel, James M. McCauley, certified mediator Andrea Palmisano, and attorney James Q. Pope. VMN board member, Izabela Solosi will facilitate their discussion. The dates and times for the regional meetings vary but can be located at http://www.vamediation.org/conferences.
The first webinar is scheduled for April 7 and will address mediation in cases involving children. We will be focusing on children and child dependency mediation, joined by Judge Leonard Edwards, who has significant experience in this area. Restorative justice expert Jacqueline Roebuck Sakho who will be presenting materials about truancy mediation will also join us. VMN board member, Pat Anderson, will facilitate this session. Attendees will be able to call in or text in questions for the experts. We will apply for one credit hour in both family and general for this session.
The second webinar is scheduled for mid-May, and we are still working to finalize the date and speakers. This final session of the spring “mini-conference” will focus on how to develop a trauma-informed mediation practice. Our experts that will be joining us for this session include Jamie Austin-Morgan, director of Pathways in Culpepper, Virginia.
Mediators in Virginia, and in other states, will be able to participate in these sessions this year. The sessions are offered at a significantly reduced and very low cost to VMN members. It's easy to join VMN and enjoy the benefits of membership.