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M.A.R.C.H – A Curry Tenant

by Suzanne Licata

Curry Real Estate Services’ tenant, M.A.R.C.H. Inc. (Mediation Achieving Results for Children) offers Missouri parents a service so rare they’ve yet to see it replicated in any other state in the country – no cost mediation, legal services and supervised visitation.

“It is the only statewide service provider of its kind that I know of in the U.S.,” said Dawn Kuhlman, M.A.R.C.H. executive director. She previously worked as a mediator for the Clay County court and started serving as a mediator for M.A.R.C.H., in 2012, becoming its executive director five years ago.

M.A.R.C.H. services are targeted to help divorced and never married, separated parents resolve visitation, custody, child support and other disputes cooperatively and in the best interests of their children.

Eligible families qualify for four hours of free mediation services a year. The two, two-hour mediation sessions are plenty, Kuhlman said, for parents who need to work through child rearing issues such as scheduling, transportation, holidays, tax deductions – the list is endless. To create safety in the process, mediation is available in-person, virtually or even by phone.

“These parents need a map, a parenting plan, and M.A.R.C.H., helps them develop one,” she said. “The parenting plan usually lasts three years and then things change as the kids get older – they get their own friends, expenses and summer activities and more changes. The two-mediation session limit is per year, and we have lots of parents who come back every year.”

Families that are eligible for free mediation also are eligible for free supervised visitation and legal services to assist with court document filing and court costs. Parents with an active child support services case through the state of Missouri qualify. Eligibility is not income based.

“We are a non-profit, unaffiliated with the court, that is here to help parents in a process where they can sit with a neutral person and work things out in a conversation,” Kuhlman said. “Research shows that many parents think that getting together and talking things out is not going to work but after mediation that changes. They come to believe they can do this on their own and that’s what we want.”

For the parents who return for a refresh, some tell her that they are embarrassed by how they acted in the beginning. “I tell them it is a treat to watch everyone get life figured out,” she said. “It’s so fun to watch these parents grow up and, through their stories, watch their children grow up, too.”

M.A.R.C.H. has officed in Curry’s space in Liberty since late 2019. M.A.R.C.H., has grown from a pilot project with under $200,000 in federal funding to, in 2023, a $700,000 budget which allowed them to provide free services to 550 families throughout the state of Missouri.

The 501c3 organization is a collaborative effort with the Missouri Department of Social Services, Division of Family Support. What the mediators look to accomplish seems modest, but it can be so powerful.

“Success is the ability to have a good conversation and that can transform relationships,” said Kuhlman.

If you are interested in learning more about M.A.R.C.H. Inc., call 1-800-595-9750 or visit marchmediation.org.

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