Juvenile Program Continues to Help Strengthen RelationshipsBy Rae Kyritsi - Programs Director
Tina and her teenage-daughter Keira had a strong relationship. They talked all the time and both felt confident that they were good communicators who knew each other well. Then, in the Winter of 2015, Keira was arrested at school for stealing from another student’s locker and the case ended up being referred for mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution.
The other student declined to participate in mediation, so CCR staff offered Tina and Keira the opportunity for a Family Mediation.
At the beginning of the mediation both Keira and her mother found the process laughable. “We talk every day,” they said, indicating that their regular communication meant that they had nothing to discuss with the mediator. The mediator, very experienced in family cases, persuaded the women to give it a try and began a conversation with them about their relationship, their home life, and the theft incident at school. During the mediation Tina revealed that she had traveled a hard road to come to her successes. She had been born into poverty and had suffered the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of being poor in Chicago. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, Tina had three young children and was on her own. She vowed that her children would not struggle the way that she had and Tina persevered, creating a life for her children that was secure and safer than hers had been. Tina stated that her insistence on being involved in Keira’s life is why they spoke daily and was keeping Keira safe.
After a lot of candid discussion with Tina and Keira, the mediator decided to take a break and meet with each party separately. This part of a mediation, referred to as caucus, provides both the mediator and the parties with an opportunity to discuss topics that they might not be comfortable talking about in front of the other party. And that’s exactly what happened when the mediator met with Keira.
In caucus, Keira confessed to the mediator that she was bisexual and that she had not told her mother. The private conversation gave the mediator a chance to process with Keira what that meant and why she had wanted to keep it a secret. They talked about the possible outcomes of disclosing her sexuality to Tina and what impact it might have on their mother-daughter relationship. At the end of the caucus, Keira decided that she wanted Tina to know the truth and that she would tell her at the mediation.
When the mediator brought Tina and Keira together Keira told her mother that she was bisexual. Both the mediator and Keira waited for Tina’s response. Tina merely shrugged her shoulders and said, “You can love anybody you want, I just want you to be safe.”
At the end of the mediation, as the mediator was wrapping up the discussion, both Tina and Keira told the mediator that despite their belief that they already knew everything about each other, the mediation had been a powerful experience. Keira, unburdened from her secret, was able to have a truly open conversation with her mother for the first time in months.
In the past three months, CCR has served 18 additional families through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program. These 18 families have had a chance to engage in an impactful conversation about the choices made by juvenile clients and the impact these choices have on indivdiuals and neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. These conversations strengthen community, build communication skills, restore relationships and increase understanding. The story below illustrates CCR's services through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Program:
Melissa’s parents were concerned that she had been “running with the wrong crowd.” For the last six months, she was missing her curfew and skipping classes. Her parents were worried her behavior would escalate. Then she stole a car and ran into a stop sign.
Denise was very surprised when the police called to let her know that her vehicle, left parked in front of her home, had collided with a stop sign three miles away. A teen neighbor, near in age to her own children, had stolen the car.
When the Assistant State’s Attorney told Denise that mediation was an option, she agreed to participate. Denise wanted to know why her car had been stolen and she knew that Melissa was the only one who could tell her. The judge referred the case to mediation and it was agreed that Denise, Melissa, and Melissa’s parents would attend. This case was unusual, because Melissa was still in custody and it was not clear when she would be released. A case manager for the Center for Conflict Resolution was contacted and mediation services were provided two days later at the courthouse.
In the mediation Melissa was given an opportunity to explain why she had stolen the car - she was trying to go to a friend’s funeral. Melissa had never had a chance to tell her parents where she was going. She had been grounded when she asked her parents if she might borrow their car and it had been forbidden. Desperate, Melissa took the car with plans to return it before anyone noticed.
The parties agreed that every Saturday morning Melissa will call Denise to find a time to come over later that day. Melissa agreed to go to Denise’s house for two hours every weekend to help out with chores and yard work. Denise expressed her hope that it would give Melissa a sense of responsibility as well as another place to talk about what was happening in her life.
Melissa was surprised that Denise and the mediator had asked her so many questions. She had expected the mediation to be a time where Denise might yell at her or lecture her or try to make her feel worse. Melissa told the mediator that she did not know there were adults like Denise - people who cared about children who were not their own and who were willing to help them.
Near the end of the mediation, the mediator asked Melissa what she would do the next time she had a conflict with her parents and felt lost. Melissa smiled, “I’ll call her,” she said, pointing to Denise.
A year after partnering with GlobalGiving to raise funds for our juvenile victim-offender work, we have raised nearly $20,000! These funds give CCR the ability to assist hundreds of young people, their families and their communities find ways to repair harm and build strong relationships.
Since our last report in August, we have assisted 78 additional people through this program. Since the initiation of this project on December 1, 2013, we have helped 294 individuals in Chicago. We are really proud of the impact this program has on our communities, and are working every day to serve more young people involved in the juvenile justice system.
The conversations that take place in mediation are often a turning point for young people and their families. After committing an offense, young people are generally face exclusion from school, church and neighborhood communities and sometimes a criminal record. All of these things disconnect young people from healthy communities and sources of support. When opportunities for community connection are limited, offenders often return to problematic behavior or gang activity.
The Juvenile Victim-Offender Medaition Program gives an opportunity for young people to share their story and be heard by their families and community members. People impacted by the offense have a chance to talk about how the events impacted them, which can be healing and restorative for them. Everyone involved talks about how to repair the harm created by the offense. Sometimes that comes in the form of an apology; other times, the offender agrees to do something to help the person affected, or do something to help the community where s/he lives. We see first-hand the impact this work has on young people and their families.
We are really proud of the work we’ve done, and couldn’t have done it without your support.
Since our last report, CCR has continued to serve juveniles, their families and their communities with mediation services. We have served 42 additional people in the last three months, which brings the total number of people served since the beginning of our project (Decebmer, 2013) to 213.
With your support, CCR offers an opportunity for juveniles, their families and community members to come together after an offense has occurred to talk about what happened, the harm created, and ways to repair the harm to those affected.Sometimes, we are not able to include affected community members, in which case we offier an opportunity for the juvenile and her/his parent to have a conversation. Those conversations have given struggling families a huge opportunity: the chance to talk, learn about each other and set a plan for communicating better in the future.
Without your help, we would not be able to provide these services in cases like the one described below:
Sam, 15, comes from a struggling family. His mother, Deeana, supports her three children with multiple part-time jobs. She’s not able to spend as much time at home with her son as she’d like. Resources are limited: Sam is responsible for taking care of his other siblings when his mother isn’t home, and his mother Deeana says she’s going to need him to get a part-time job very soon.
Sam was recently picked up by the police for tagging a CTA train with a group of friends. Sam was with six friends in total; all of them were minors and charged with vandalism.
JoAnn, an employee of the CTA, was present at the mediation, along with Sam and Deeana.
At the beginning of the mediation, Sam’s mother Deeana had a lot to share – she talked about what a good child Sam was, and how he’d done so well in school until last year. She addressed JoAnn repeatedly, apologizing for her son and explaining how hurt she was by the incident. She cried openly and said things like, “I didn’t raise you like this.” Sam stared at the floor for the first 30 minutes of the mediation, sharing nothing but “yeah” or a shrug when the mediator tried to engage him.
JoAnn talked about the expense incurred by the city to remove graffiti from CTA cars. She talked about how many people were arrested and charged with vandalism every year, and the legal costs incurred by the city associated with pursuing those cases. JoAnn explained that she appreciated the chance to have a mediation when a juvenile is involved in a first-time offense.
Without much interaction from Sam, the mediator chose to hold a private session with him. Sam finally opens up: he talks about his parents divorce three years ago and his father being admitted for psychiatric care at a local hospital. He hasn’t spoken to his father in over two years, and resents his mother for not being able to provide as much financially to the family as his father once did. He talks about how important his friends are to him: they are like his family.
After meeting with Deeana and JoAnn privately, the mediator brought everyone back into the same room. The case resulted in an agreement for Sam to write an essay on the topic of forgiveness and to submit it to JoAnn and Deeana. JoAnn also asks Sam to participate in a community service project facilitated by the CTA to clean graffiti from school buildings. Sam agrees to both of those things. His mother agrees to ensure he is able to attend the dates for the community service.
It's your support that gives us the opportunity to help families like this one have conversations and build enduring relationships. Thank you for what you do to help CCR and Chicago's families.
We are delighted to report that our mediators have been busy conducting sessions involving youth, their families and community members. Since our last report, CCR has served 77 clients through the juvenile victim-offender mediation program (126 have been served since the campaign’s start in December). Thank you for providing the essential support to give young people, their families and their communities a chance to talk, strengthen relationships and repair harm.
We know that the experience is powerful for people through feedback we get on the program. We have attached some statistics that indicate that 87% of juvenile participants to mediation are satisfied with the process. 94% of parent participants are satisfied with the process.
Statistics don’t tell the whole story. The following story describes a mediation held at CCR (all names have been changed to protect client confidentiality).
Kevin, 17, came from a family with limited means. He tried to make money doing odd jobs to help his family. One method he used for making extra money was to collect and sell cans to recycling centers. After a long day of collecting cans, Kevin went to his local center to see how much he could get. When the store clerk refused to buy the cans, Kevin lashed out, yelling, breaking a window and damaging a door. Kevin's outburst caused a significant amount of damage.
With the help of his screening officer, Kevin’s case was placed in the Diversion Program with the Center for Conflict Resolution, where he was offered the chance to have mediation with a store manager. While in mediation, Kevin was able to sit with his family and the Store Manager to explain why he got so upset that day. With the mediator’s help, Kevin was able to apologize to the Store Manager and explain the difficulties he was facing in his life. Kevin shared that he had been struggling to manage his recently diagnosed bipolar-disorder without much support at home. A strong feeling of isolation combined with the pressure of managing a new diagnosis made Kevin more sensitive to the rejection at the store.
At the conclusion of the mediation, Kevin and his family came to a resolution. The store manager did not ask Kevin pay for all of the damage done; he only asked Kevin to make a small payment to restore the broken window. Kevin also agreed to to perform community service for a week in the Cook County Sheriff’s program. Finally with the mediator's help, Kevin and his family were able to agree to discuss all decisions about addressing his mental health together. Everyone left the session with more clarity and hope about moving forward, especially Kevin.
Your support makes it possible for CCR to deliver critically needed services to clients. Thank you for your investment in the communities of Chicago.
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