A Brief History of the
Academy of Professional Family Mediators
When the field of “Mediation” was emerging, a succession of national organizations also emerged to bring together professionals who had like-minded approaches to conflict. The first such organization was the FAMILY MEDIATION ASSOCIATION (FMA), which was founded in 1975 by O.J. “Jim” Coogler and several of his colleagues. Coogler’s book, Structured Mediation in Divorce Settlement, was the very first book published in the field of divorce mediation. The second organization, The ACADEMY OF FAMILY MEDIATORS, (AFM), was founded in 1981 by John Haynes, Steve Erickson, and other colleagues, and it became the primary national membership association of family mediators in the U.S. At first, AFM provided divorce mediation training, in order to raise seed money to get the organization started. By the mid-1980s, AFM had an Executive Director (Jim Melamed), and a newsletter (Mediation News) and journal (Mediation Quarterly), which were benefits for all members. By the mid-1990s, AFM had grown to a membership of 4000 plus.
During that period of time, other non-family ADR organizations were also growing: the SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONALS IN DISPUTE RESOLUTION (SPIDR), CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN EDUCATION NETWORK (CRE-net), as well as the National Association for Community Education (NAFCM), and the National Association for Mediation in Education (NAME). All of these organizations were fortunate to receive much of their funding from the Hewlett Foundation. This funding continued until the late 1990s, when the Hewlett Foundation decided that it would fund only an umbrella association of these organizations. So, in the year 2000, AFM, SPIDR, and CRE-NET merged to form the ASSOCIATION FOR CONFLICT RESOLUTION (ACR).
When the merger came about, there were over 7,000 members from the combined organizations, with Sections for each of many separate areas of practice. During the 2000s, ACR offered annual conferences, as well as a newsletter (Family Mediation News) and new journal (Conflict Resolution Quarterly) which replaced the AFM journal. As time passed, the mediators in the Family Section began to have their own separate conferences.
Though the Family Section had the largest number of members in ACR, it had difficulty attracting members to its conferences, partly as a result of ACR having other priorities. The ACR Family Section Conference was held in Minneapolis in 2011. It was at this conference that a group of 12 long-time family mediators supported the idea of re-forming a separate organization that was exclusively focused on family mediation—and hence, the ACADEMY OF PROFESSIONAL FAMILY MEDIATORS was born. The goals that became the basis for APFM included:
- Creating a separate identity of Professional Family Mediators;
- Raising the level of professionalism among family mediators and developing a system for credentialing of family mediators;
- Educating the public about family mediation;
- Strengthening the education and training standards of family mediators; and
- Revising the Mediator Standards of Practice to specifically address the professional practice of the family mediator.
The first APFM Board of Directors was constituted in 2011-2012; membership took off and our organization has grown ever since. Each of the above goals are works-in-progress, and our Board members meet regularly to move APFM forward. We have modernized our website and are now in the process of adding content and functionality, within an entirely new format. We are so appreciative of all of the support for APFM given by Jim Melamed, who so graciously provided our first website and worked tirelessly in helping to formulate the core of APFM.
APFM is now at a place where the initial organizing is complete. In just four years, we have established APFM as the premier organization for Professional Family Mediators. Our non-profit status is in place. Our Standards of Practice have been revised and accepted widely. Our practice-focused webinars have been highly successful. Feedback on our quarterly newsletter has been exceptionally positive. Our membership is continually increasing. Each of our four annual conferences was an intellectually stimulating, interpersonally satisfying and emotionally exciting. We look forward to developing public service announcements and offering new liability insurance to our members — insurance that provides for mediation before arbitration for any complaints regarding a member. We are on a roll, and we are very excited about things to come. Thanks for joining us, and WELCOME TO OUR NEW WEBSITE!