by Virginia Colin
In March 2012, eleven amazing people announced the creation of the Academy of Professional Family Mediators. They had big dreams and grand expectations. Let’s look at how far we have come and where we may go.
The founders optimistically stated that APFM would:
- create a recognized and respected profession of Family Mediation;
- cast wide-reaching and aggressive marketing strategies, including social media strategies, to enhance our members’ client bases;
- actively use radio, the Internet, and television advertising opportunities;
- provide resources mediators could use to convey useful information to referral sources and potential mediation clients;
- recreate the camaraderie, energy, collegiality, spirit, and synergy among family mediators experienced by the early “movers and shakers” in the field;
- help make family mediation the standard of practice for resolving family conflicts;
- present dynamic, motivating, well-attended conferences;
- develop a competency-based credentialing process for family mediators;
- establish a premier family and divorce mediation education program, with a full curriculum;
- establish a practicum series for family and divorce mediators;
- publish a professional-quality newsletter, and a professional journal, developed in partnership with a college or university, and a digital library of innovative process developments, research papers, and articles;
- provide educational programs and opportunities through partnering with universities and mediation trainers, and provide educational teleconferences.
It was a tall order. Fulfilling it would require varied kinds of expertise that Board members did not yet have, huge amounts of volunteer time, and hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Virtually all of the work of APFM has been done by volunteers, ranging from leaders in the field to new members with passion for our work. All have had limited time for volunteer service, so progress has been slower than we had hoped.
Nevertheless, operating on a tight budget, and in just six years, we have built a strong foundation. We have an engaging, useful website that educates both mediators and members of the public. We are able to stage conferences and provide member benefits funded entirely by dues and conference fees.
We now provide an excellent set of benefits for our members:
- Free access to past and present APFM webinars;
- Peer consultation opportunities, including monthly online discussions and a case consultation/reflective practice group;
- Discounts for our dynamic, educational annual conferences;
- A listing in APFM’s searchable Directory of Family Mediators;
- Mentoring (arranged informally);
- Free listings of members’ family mediation training programs on APFM’s Training Calendar;
- Opportunity for certification based on training and experience (not to be confused with credentialing, which is based on assessment of skills);
- Access to Mediator Liability Insurance; and
- Access to APFM’s Facebook Group, for discussions among professional family mediators;
We have earned recognition as a 501(c)(3) organization, doing work that benefits families, not just mediators. Hence, grateful clients, mediators, and the public at-large can make tax-deductible contributions to APFM’s work.
We have completed the creation and approval of governance documents. Now, when the need arises, we can easily check the policies that we have put in place. And, the Board has learned how to be business-like and efficient in its meetings, with much of the work done by committees, outside of Board meetings. Our committees welcome and benefit from members’ participation in their work.
A big challenge for us is that large numbers of family mediators do not yet know that APFM exists, just as huge numbers of families in need of mediation services do not know about family mediation as an option for resolving their conflicts. We need to reach both groups. The more people that we have in APFM, the more easily we can all help each other improve our abilities both to help families and to let the public know when families should be looking for a skilled mediator.
Think what we could be doing if we had more members and more money!
Consider these new possibilities that lie ahead:
- Establish local chapters for face-to-face case consultations and support;
- Make high-quality training available in every state in the U.S. and in every province in Canada;
- Host conferences for educating the public about family mediation;
- Write model legislation to provide to state legislators;
- Fund and/or conduct research on various aspects of our work;
- Arrange for radio, TV, and print interview opportunities for our members;
- Find ways to support the Professional Mediation Board of Standards in its efforts to develop competence-based credentialing for family mediators;
- Hire an Executive Director to coordinate and lead efforts to do many of the tasks mentioned in this article.
I hope that everyone reading this article will join APFM and/or make a financial contribution to our organization. The world needs many more well-qualified family mediators to serve the countless families in need, and we need the public to know when to seek help from a family mediator.
Let’s continue to have high expectations for our future accomplishments, and let’s get to work!
Virginia L. Colin, Ph.D is the President of APFM and the Director of Colin Family Mediation Group LLC. She is the author of Human Attachment (1996) and, with Rebecca Martin, The Guide to Low-Cost Divorce in Virginia (2014). Formerly a research psychologist and later the host of an Internet talk radio show, she now specializes in helping couples and ex-couples develop good co-parenting plans and financial agreements.