3600 American Blvd West, Suite 105
Minneapolis, MN 55431
March 13, 2012
Dear Professional Family Mediation Colleagues,
Returning to our roots, Family Mediators have come together and have chosen to form a new organization of our own, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators.
As a national organization, APFM will be in an excellent position to cast wide-reaching and aggressive marketing strategies designed to enhance our members’ mediation practices and client bases. No longer will Family Mediation be the best kept secret in the world! APFM will embrace current media marketing methods that include effective social media strategies, actively utilizing radio, internet and focused television advertising opportunities and seeking NPR underwriting to encourage those involved in family conflict to choose mediation. Additional resources will be provided for disseminating pertinent information to referral sources and potential mediation clients.
What Happened to Family Mediators? The Back Story to APFM
The field of Family Mediation is now 38 years old, having been started in 1974 by Jim Coogler in Georgia with the first national organization, the Family Mediation Asssociation (FMA). This was followed by the creation of the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM), with John Haynes as its first president. Then, in 2001, the merger of three organizations took place: the Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (SPIDR), Conflict Resolution Education Network (CRE-Net) and the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) merged into the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR).
We had optimism and high expectations for the merger.
Those of us who were active in the Academy of Family Mediators (AFM) joined the newly merged organization of ACR with great anticipation that we would not only be able to further develop the benefits of AFM membership but we would also be able to receive enhanced benefits by being part of a larger and more diverse organization. Those of us who were not a part of AFM also had great expectations for an organization that would provide services which would enhance our professional growth and create a network of diverse practitioners. We were well aware that the Academy of Family Mediators brought into the merger the largest number of members and the most well developed procedures of the three organizations. We anticipated that the merger would only enhance those strengths and facilitate a stronger, more efficient organization.
Merger goals for family mediators were not achieved.
At the time of the merger, the ACR Family Section had some 4,000 members. Five years later, at the Cape Cod Family Section Conference, membership was down to 1,600. In spite of a great turn-out for the conference, and while there was continued dedication of efforts in the Family Section, an increasing number of members experienced deep organizational problems. The efficiency of the organization decreased dramatically. Many of us have sacrificed long hours and personal income trying, on a volunteer basis, to fill in the gaps left by the paid staff working on Family Section matters. Those of us who were on the ACR Family Section Advisory Council spent countless hours deliberating and discussing how we could meet the needs of Family Mediation practitioners. It eventually became very clear that, in order to achieve our goal of creating a recognized and respected profession of Family Mediation, our efforts really required a different venue, one that had greater focus and more significant staff resources than what ACR has provided. The Family Section has continued to dwindle to levels currently hovering around 1,000 members and most of those members are not yet aware that the professional offerings of ACR to Family Section members now appear to be absent.
Thus, many of our expectations for the merger were not achieved. Since the merger, we seem to have lost our focus and identity as a Family Mediation field. The form and function of this larger organization did not adequately apply to the uniqueness of the field of Family Mediation. As time progressed, many of us simply burned out in our futile efforts to keep Family Mediation afloat within this larger organization. We now feel the need to contribute our time and energy to a new organization that is solely dedicated to Family Mediation and adequately serves our passion by providing the necessary support and leadership for the development of our unique area of practice.
Need to renew camaraderie and spirit
As membership in ACR has dwindled, so have the camaraderie, collegiality, spirit, and synergy of our Family Mediation connections, which in previous years had supported the growth and vigor of our passion to help families. Those of us who were a part of the pre-merger Academy of Family Mediators had experienced it as a vibrant organization and we served as early “movers and shakers” in the development of the art and practice of Family Mediation. We gave much of our time and energy to build a new profession that would be recognized and respected as an alternative to litigation of family matters. The energy within the Academy was contagious and new members often commented about it. Our conferences were dynamic, stimulating, motivating, supportive and well-attended. Our name (Academy of Family Mediators) had become well known and respected as the professional organization for family mediators. Many states had accepted the stamp of certification for 40-hour trainings as the criterion for state certification or practice.
We had hoped that mediation would become the standard of practice for resolving family conflicts. We believed passionately and were confident (as supported by later research) that, in most cases, mediation provided families with resolution of their conflicts and preservation of the best aspects of family (whether intact, divorced, or stepfamily). Our vision had extended far beyond the initial arena of divorce mediation. This included the mediation of a range of conflicts within intact families, involving all levels of intergenerational conflicts, such as elder-care and family business disputes. It also included other types of family disputes, such as those in real estate transactions, home renovation and construction, and conflicts involving non-traditional families, such as same sex couples and grandparent adoptions. At the time of merger, our journey toward creating a recognized and respected profession of mediation was well on its way.
The option of establishing an independent Family Mediation organization was first brought up at the 2006 Family Section conference in Cape Cod, as a number of us met to explore what could be done. The dialogue in support of a new organization was renewed this past year at the Family Section Conference in Minneapolis. After much discussion, a group of 12 of us convened for an October meeting in Chicago to organize our efforts and we officially formed our own new organization—the Academy of Professional Family Mediators—dedicated specifically to Family Mediation.
So now we begin anew!
In the spirit of our continued passion for the field and with the credibility of our leadership positions, we intend to promote a professional venue where efficiency and support operate at the highest of standards. In proceeding forward, we by no means wish to detract from ACR. Some of us have continued our membership with ACR, others are no longer members. Ours is a new and different organization with a very different purpose; we are focused entirely on the practice of Family Mediation as a profession. While we will continue to support the broader field of conflict resolution and cooperate with those practitioners in other arenas by both contributing to and learning from the many professionals now active in the field, we cannot give up our own pursuit for a common goal— to create a recognized and respected profession of Family Mediation.
Fostering professionalism and high standards of practice
The Academy of Professional Family Mediators is formed as a professional membership organization of practicing family and divorce mediators. The membership brings together the collective wisdom of advanced mediation practitioners, researchers and educators. There will be various levels of membership, ranging from levels for new mediators to levels for those who have practiced for twenty-five years or more, and we are developing a competency-based certification process for Family Mediators that will guide a member from entry into the field through certification.
To achieve wide-ranging credibility and respect, we will establish a premier family and divorce mediation education program that will fulfill the criteria for an accreditation designation. This program will include a full curriculum, along with a practicum series for family and divorce mediation practice, and will delineate the experience and continuing education requirements and ethical standards needed for accreditation. While the old Academy of Family Mediators’ designation of “Advanced Practitioner” will be continued under a slightly modified “Professional Mediator” designation, our current vision is to establish a more advanced level of accreditation which will require meeting the criteria for more comprehensive education and experience, based on core required competencies (with credit for substantial alternate education, training, and experience).
Providing a wide range of member services
To lead the field as an educational organization, the Academy of Professional Family Mediators (APFM) will serve as a repository and source for a complete mediation education curriculum, including a professional quality newsletter, a professional journal developed in partnership with a college or university, a digital library of innovative process developments, research papers, and articles. Educational programs and opportunities will be provided through pre-conference and conference workshops, partnering with colleges, universities, mediation trainers, on-line distance learning, member-only collegial bulletin boards, webcasts, teleconferences, and a LISTSERV. A well-trained, knowledgeable mediator is an educated consumer’s best friend, and the vibrant resources of APFM will serve as the gold standard for family and divorce mediator training.
Join us now
We welcome all practicing family mediators to join us. We promote quality work in our field and we intend to increase the credibility of mediation as a better option for consumers confronting family conflicts. If you are interested in joining these leaders and pioneers in the Family Mediation field and becoming a member of the new Academy of Professional Family Mediators, please let us know by going to: www.AcademyofProfessionalFamilyMediators.org to enroll as a member.
Reserve the dates for our Founding Conference
And, SAVE THE DATES of September 27-30, 2012 for our Founding Conference—our first national conference to launch our organization and, in spirit, to launch a new Family Mediation Movement! Our Conference will include the sharing and developing of our vision, as well as the sharing of advanced mediation concepts, skills, friendship and lots of fun. It will take place at the family-friendly Sea Crest Beach Resort in Cape Cod, North Falmouth, Massachusetts, the infamous site of the most well-attended conference of AFM!
Please help us plan for the needs of our Founding Conference by replying at our website to the question regarding your intentions for attending our Founding Conference:
a) Definitely Will Attend;
b) Not Sure If I Will Attend;
c) Won't Be Able To Attend.
We will soon send out information about opportunities to volunteer and serve on various Academy committees.
Please feel free to spread the word and forward this letter on to other mediation colleagues and students as well as to local and regional mediation organizations that you think might have members interested in joining us in our new venture.
We look forward to your joining us and helping us launch this exciting, new and fresh professional venture. Please feel free to contact any of us for any additional information.
FOUNDING BOARD MEMBERS