Adult Guardianship Mediation Project
Status Report: September, 1998


Through a recently completed project funded by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, The Center for Social Gerontology (TCSG) has coordinated with mediators, courts, agencies, and others in three states (Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin) to establish adult guardianship mediation programs. We worked with a planning committee in each state, to help develop a network of people who would refer cases to mediation, mediate cases, and provide appropriate services to people who used mediation. Each state organized its own program, in a way that could best meet its needs. TCSG provided training, materials and consultation as the projects were established. In all three states, cases are now being mediated. A brief description of activities in each state follows.

In Ohio, an active planning committee was headed by representatives of the aging network during the formative stages of the program. Operational oversight has now been taken over by Eileen Pruett, Coordinator of the Dispute Resolution Programs of the Supreme Court. The committee chose five counties as pilots, based on interest of their courts in doing the project. These counties all chose a private mediator model. A new court rule in Ohio allows probate courts to charge all probate cases a supplemental filing fee, which is used in these counties to pay the mediators. A consortium of three other counties later joined the project. As of this writing, two of the county programs are functioning well and handling cases (Summit and Licking). In Summit County, the court investigator is the primary initial screener of cases; a committee then makes the referral decision. In Licking, persons in local social service agencies, along with the court investigator, have been trained as screeners. In both counties, the programs are administered by the court, but have broad-based organizing committees, and are accepting pre-filing cases as well. In fact, Summit County proposed a local court rule that would allow court fees to pay for appropriate pre-filing cases. Trumbull and Butler Counties are still in the organizational stages. The Franklin County program has been remodeled by the court. It is a court-based model with attorney mediators, who had no previous mediation training, but did attend TCSG's mediator training program. The three-county project (Greene, Summit, and Montgomery Counties) is the only non court-based program in Ohio, and is being organized by community mediation centers. This project has just started to handle cases. These counties are concentrating on getting pre-filing cases, although they are also cooperating with the courts in court cases.

Oklahoma has established a state-wide program. Most mediators are volunteers through the Settlement Centers, community dispute resolution centers located throughout the state. A few private mediators are also taking part in the program. Sue Darst Tate, the Director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution System in the Administrative Office of the Courts, has been the primary organizing person there. She has worked with judges and agencies to refer both court and non-court cases to mediation. Oklahoma's experience is that courts are slow to refer cases, and that more cases have been referred from other sources than from courts, although a few judges have already welcomed the program.

The Wisconsin program was organized through the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging Groups (CWAG) Elder Law Center. Betsy Abramson, Director of the Center, has worked with mediators, courts, attorneys, and agencies to develop the program in three counties, Milwaukee, Dane (Madison) and Winnebago. CWAG has received two grants to help establish the local programs. At this time, Dane and Milwaukee County programs have mediated cases. These counties are using private mediators. Winnebago County’s program is in a community mediation center.

In addition, two pilot sites TCSG worked with under a Retirement Research Foundation grant, Chicago and Tampa, continue to mediate adult guardianship cases, as do Washtenaw and Oakland Counties in Michigan. (The Albuquerque pilot site has not continued the formal program because of lack of funding, although a few individual cases have been mediated. The other pilot site program, in Denver, we understand has been modified and is being handled by a court magistrate.) We are also aware of guardianship mediation programs that have started or are being started in Nevada, Virginia, Massachusetts, and Georgia by people who have attended TCSG's training and are using our materials. TCSG continues to talk with people in other states who are interested in starting programs as well. Individual mediators who have attended the training programs have also started to offer adult guardianship mediation services in several cities around the country.

The Future

TCSG has recently received an additional grant from the Hewlett Foundation which will enable us to bring together people from the various adult guardianship mediation programs for the purpose of evaluating progress to date and identifying best practices discovered, barriers faced and overcome, and new ideas for establishment and operation of adult guardianship mediation programs. We expect to issue an updated version of Module One (Operational Guidelines) of the Adult Guardianship Mediation Manual as a result of this evaluation.

TCSG will be conducting a two-and-a-half-day training seminar for mediators and program administrators in the spring of 1999 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. For more information on the training, publications, or adult guardianship mediation programs, call TCSG at (734) 665-1126, or send email to Susan Hartman at shartman@tcsg.org.


updated September 24, 1998