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2022 Grants Challenge

Children's Court is no place for kids.

Giving peace a chance for thousands of children, families, and communities of LA, proven since 2014. Our highly skilled volunteers provide free mediations for underfunded and underserved families caught-up in the massive LA Children’s Court system. Day-long “agreement creation workshops” designed for the highest-conflict situations teach parents how to negotiate together safely, and how to create their own Parenting Plan Agreements.

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What is the primary issue area that your application will impact?

Support for Foster and Systems-Impacted Youth

In which areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

Central LA

East LA

San Gabriel Valley

San Fernando Valley

South LA

West LA

South Bay

Antelope Valley

County of Los Angeles

City of Los Angeles

LAUSD (select only if you have a district-wide partnership or project)

In what stage of innovation is this project, program, or initiative?

Expand existing project, program, or initiative

What is your understanding of the issue that you are seeking to address?

Imagine, you are the young parent. You’ve been attacked by your partner, and find yourself lost in a behemoth court system, charged with child endangerment. You haven’t seen your kids in weeks. English isn’t your first language. You’re so confused & upset that you hear yourself yelling at your appointed attorney who has 200 other clients. No one can hear you. There are 30,000 of you in LA County. Your 2-year journey begins with a Disposition hearing, where you see your kids, but you may only speak through your attorney who isn’t hearing you. Two years later, it’s Graduation day, and you are left alone to workout the details of a visitation schedule with a co-parent who you hate & who hates you. Likely, a screaming match in a Sheriff’s station parking lot with your baby in your arms is going to send you back to the dependency system. As court becomes normalized for your older kids, they will be back, as young parents. There are 30 dependency courts, with four more added in 2022.

Describe the project, program, or initiative this grant will support to address the issue.

SCFM mediators give parents a voice with pre-disposition-hearing mediations. Our volunteers are specially trained to hear through the vitriol to the cries for help. Through mediation, parents get a voice in what the charges will be and negotiating the language of the "Petition", which determines their "family reunification" (FR) Plan. The language can mean the difference between unaffordable private therapy and affordable group counseling. During their 2-year journey, some co-parenting relationships are so high-conflict that a judge, social worker, and the four attorneys (for parents, kids & county) can’t make visitation happen. Our mediators are often called in to help parents create their own agreements through day-long “agreement-creation workshops”. Adversarial court systems shatter family relationships. Mediation avoids the violence suffered by families who leave the system with “Exit Orders” reading, “Parents will agree to a visitation schedule.” Self-determined co-parenting plan agreements are customized, detailed, and durable. We keep young parents, and later, their kids from returning to this growing system. More funding means more families served. Also, due to the success of our processes & education strategies, the Court has requested that we secure our own funding to create a “Conflict Communication Education” system for families in the system. These course could also be made available online, on-demand to educate the public.

Describe how Los Angeles County will be different if your work is successful.

Peace begins at home. School attendance begins with peace at home. Community peace begins with peace at home. All the other noble programs must be built on a requisite foundation of peace. You have a chance, today, to get at the core of social conflict for families, where they need you most, when they need you most. We give young parents a voice in the biggest challenges affecting their & their children’s lives. “A specific visitation schedule for families enhances the chances that they will not return to the child dependency system.”-Comm. M. Mordetzky This better form of social peace & justice, with 94% family success rates, is the proven way. Ret. LA Dependency Court Presiding Judge, and head of the LA County Office of Child Protection, M. Nash says, “I’ve always found mediation to be the best bang for the buck.” LA will be a more peaceful, prosperous city, modeling a better form of social peace & justice for the world to learn from, with the long-run success of this program.

What evidence do you have that this project, program, or initiative is or will be successful, and how will you define and measure success?

This established, proven, privately funded program needs to grow service capacity and launch new core strength-related projects. Recently retired LA Dependency Court Presiding Judge, Greenberg stated, “When parents and children engage in successful mediation, those cases are more likely to result in dependent children returning to safe and healthy homes…and diminished recidivism”. Impact is measured by families served (604 in 2021). Family success rates are measured by agreement percentage, documented in-person 94% and online 88%. We send surveys. “It was a healing thing…” “The entire experience was…beautiful.” “This has undone years of conflict." "The mediators’ attention to detail provides understanding and a stable footing for the families so they don’t have to keep coming back to the juvenile justice system." “…a sophisticated, equitable, meaningful agreement...if they know what to do, it alleviates the stress and confusion, and makes for a much more peaceful coexistence."

Approximately how many people will be impacted by this project, program, or initiative?

Direct Impact: 9,600

Indirect Impact: 1,000,000