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Findings from an Evaluation of Eight Foreclosure Mediation Programs

Jennifer Shack, December 5th, 2018

As I mentioned last month, I recently completed a comprehensive evaluation of eight foreclosure mediation programs in Illinois. One great benefit of evaluating eight programs with different approaches to resolving the same cases is that it allowed me to uncover program design factors and other variables that promote program success. The three big takeaways from the evaluation are that proper program design is essential, provision of services has an impact on homeowner outcomes, and data is crucial to program improvement. The evaluation was a final look at the eight programs that were funded by the Illinois Attorney General, encompassing up to four years for each program. Seven of the eight programs used relatively uniform data that was collected on the same online case management system. Further, I worked with each program to define the variables used so that we had a clear understanding of the meaning of each variable. This allowed me to develop uniform measures for the programs that enabled comparisons of program performance across them.

First, some basic findings. The eight programs helped 4,766 homeowners, representing 23% of all foreclosure filings in their jurisdictions. They saved 1,100 homes. Once homeowners entered the programs, 21% to 40% saved their homes, depending on the program. More than 90% of homeowners who completed surveys said that they gained a better understanding of their options and how to work with their lenders. Almost all homeowners felt that they were treated fairly and with respect. Most felt that they were able to talk about the issues and concerns that were most important to them and almost all felt the mediator understood what was important to them. Most were satisfied with their experience.

Now to the takeaways. Program design played a significant role in how many homeowners a program was able to help and how many homeowners participated in the program. The two variables are different because most programs helped homeowners to understand their options and the foreclosure process, even if they could not or decided not to participate. Those programs that told homeowners that they must appear for their initial session and provided a date and time for that had significantly higher proportions of homeowners appear and participate than programs that had them contact the program in other ways. And those programs that told homeowners they had to call the program coordinator, provided a deadline to do so and sent additional reminders had significantly higher proportions of homeowners contact the program and participate than those programs that informed the homeowners of the program and told them how to start the process to participate.

Participation rate is very important, not just because higher participation means that more homeowners are helped. The greater the proportion of homeowners facing foreclosure who participate in the program, the greater the proportion of homeowners who save their homes.

Other aspects matter as well. Having the homeowners meet with a representative for their lender from the outset appears to improve program completion rates and possibly improves the probability that participating homeowners save their homes. Within individual programs, those homeowners who worked with a housing counselor are more likely to complete the program. Those who worked with attorneys were much more likely to complete the program. Interestingly, they weren’t more likely to save their homes.

It was very gratifying to see that those programs that made changes based on the data they were collecting and the recommendations from my first evaluation were improved by those changes. For example, the 19th Circuit and 20th Circuit programs made changes to the manner in which homeowners contacted and entered the program, significantly improving participation. The 16thand 19th Circuits worked with mediators to improve their skills, leading to fewer mediator issues and more participants leaving mediation with a good experience.

For a quick take on the evaluation, see the Executive Summary.
To access a digital summary of the evaluation, click here.
For the Full Evaluation, download PDF .

Support RSI This Giving Tuesday

Just Court ADR, November 27th, 2018

Happy #GivingTuesday!

For over two decades, RSI has been the leader in enhancing court ADR systems. In this season of gratitude and celebration, we invite you to reflect on the important, unsung work being accomplished by people working in court ADR. Today, we ask you to celebrate #GivingTuesday by supporting RSI with a tax-deductible donation. Your donation will be put to work improving access to justice through quality court ADR.

To donate to RSI, click here.

To support RSI through Amazon Smile, click here.

We thank you in advance for your support!

RSI’s Director of Research Jennifer Shack Appointed to the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution’s Research Advisory Committee

Nicole Wilmet, November 6th, 2018
Congratulations to our Director of Research Jennifer Shack on being appointed to the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution’s Research Advisory Committee!
 
The Research Advisory Committee is charged with bringing science to the delivery of conflict prevention and dispute resolution services and sharing cutting-edge conflict resolution research with the Section. Other appointees to the committee include Donna Shestowsky, Doug Van Epps, Howard Herman, Tom Stipanowich and Lin Adrian. The committee is chaired by Nancy Welsh.
 
As the Director of Research here at RSI, Jen conducts complex evaluations of court-based mediation programs and researches the effectiveness of mediation in court settings. In addition to this work, each month, Jen shares the latest court ADR research in our Court ADR Connection newsletter. Jens work can be found on AboutRSI.org. To start reading Jen’s articles, research and program evaluations, click here.
Congratulations again to Jen and each of the other appointees!

My Favorite Resource Featuring Annalise Buth

Just Court ADR, November 2nd, 2018

Our series, My Favorite Resource, features interviews with our court ADR friends across the country to learn about their favorite resource. This month, Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet spoke with Annalise Buth, M.R. Bauer Foundation Fellow in Dispute Resolution at the Center on Negotiation and Mediation at Northwestern Pritzker School of Law Bluhm Legal Clinic to learn about her favorite resource.

NW: What is your favorite resource?

AB: I would like to share about the combination of two restorative justice resources that I value. The first is the book Peacemaking Circles: From Crime to Community by Kay Pranis, Barry Stuart, & Mark Wedge. It provides an explanation of the theoretical framework of the circle process. The second resource is the guide Heart of Hope by Carolyn Boyes-Watson & Kay Pranis, which provides suggestions and ideas for circles.

NW: Why do you value these particular resources?

AB: Restorative justice theory informs practice, and practice informs theory. The combination of these resources is helpful in building an understanding of theory and supporting practice. I share them with students and others who are interested in learning and developing their skills.

NW: How did you first learn about these resources?

AB: I learned about these resources from a friend who is also a circle facilitator. Ultimately, my relationships with others are my most valuable resource.

NW: For those unfamiliar with these resources, what is one part of this resource that you wouldn’t want someone to miss?

AB: There is a section of appendices in Heart of Hope that includes examples of circle openings, closings, check-ins, topics and round prompts. The examples can be adapted for different situations and needs.

If you have a favorite resource you would like to share, please reach out to our Resource Center Director Nicole Wilmet at nwilmet@aboutrsi.org!

RSI Hosts Child Protection Mediator Training for Kane County Program

Eric Slepak-Cherney, October 31st, 2018

About eighteen months ago, we trained our first cohort of volunteer neutrals to co-mediate child protection cases in our newest court program. That training was the culmination of nearly two years of program development, in which we developed court rules and program procedures, and brought together stakeholders all in service of a shared vision to offer stability to vulnerable children. Since then, the program has assisted in over two dozen cases, providing a forum for over 150 family members, social workers, GALs and others to work out the roadblocks facing them.

On September 29-30, we trained our second cohort. Though a smaller group than the original, we are astounded at the depth of experiences they bring to the Kane County, Illinois Child Protection Mediation Program. Their backgrounds include running law, mediation and coaching practices, as well as serving in the State’s Attorney’s office. Given these cases often come loaded with emotional firepower and complex interpersonal dynamics, it is a real boon to have such accomplished neutrals with a real diversity of experience.

When we did our last training, I wrote up my takeaways, and thankfully, those lessons held up well! One other lesson we learned from surveys administered following the last training was that people left feeling apprehensive about how prepared they were to mediate these cases. Some part of that apprehension in unavoidable – we were asking our volunteers to step into a brand new program to mediate emotionally fraught, multi-party cases that few neutrals ever have the opportunity to mediate! To the extent we were able to, this time around, we as the trainers addressed that fear more directly: naming it, validating it, sharing stories about times we failed and how we rebounded.

I think we in the ADR field have an archetype of the ideal neutral as someone who confidently controls the room and the process. There’s good reason to hold that standard up, but we also have to remember it takes time, experience and at least some failure to reach that level. If our most recent training reassured our mediators of that so they can more confidently go forward and serve these families, I’m content to call it a success.

A huge thank you to our trainers Stephanie Senuta, Kevin Malone and Susan Yates. We are grateful to the Court Improvement Program and the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts for providing the funding to put on this training*,  and to the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Kane County, Illinois and Flavors of North America International for furnishing the space for this training.

*In September 2015, the Illinois Equal Justice Foundation awarded Resolution Systems Institute $40,000 to develop the pilot Child Protection Mediation Program in conjunction with the 16th Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois in Kane County. That funding was supplemented in July 2016, when the Illinois Bar Foundation awarded RSI $5,000 to support the program’s mediators. Most recently, for the 2018 fiscal year, RSI has been awarded $40,000 from the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts’ State Court Improvement Program. Overall, $40,000 of the Kane County Child Protection Mediation Program’s.

Trainer Stephanie Senuta and Kane County Mediation Programs Manager Kevin Malone leading a session during the September training.