(1) The Department of Children and Family Services shall establish a mediation process for the purpose of resolving disputes that arise between the department and agencies that are operating under contracts with the department.
(2)(a) The department shall appoint at least one mediation panel in each of the department’s service districts. Each panel shall have at least three and not more than five members and shall include a representative from the department, a representative of an agency that provides similar services to those provided by the agency that is a party to the dispute, and additional members who are mutually acceptable to the department and the agency that is a party to the dispute. Such additional members may include laypersons who are involved in advocacy organizations, members of boards of directors of agencies similar to the agency that is a party to the dispute, members of families of department clients, members of department planning councils in the area of services that are the subject of the dispute, and interested and informed members of the local community.
(b) If the parties to the conflict agree, a mediation panel may hear a complaint that is filed outside of the panel’s service district.
(3) Prior to bringing a complaint before a mediation panel, each party must agree to abide by the decision of the panel. A final decision of the panel may not be appealed under chapter 120. However, this section does not limit the right of the department or any agency under contract with the department to file a proceeding under chapter 120 if either party fails to request mediation or refuses to participate in mediation as provided in this section.