Jul 31, 2017

The Streets

Juan and his parents, Patricia and Alfredo, were sent to CCR for a mediation after Juan was arrested. Since Patricia did not speak English, the mediator conducted the mediation in Spanish.

Patricia and Alfredo are both undocumented and work hard to provide for their family of five. They really want a stable home, but since Juan joined a gang a year ago, the house had become unstable. Juan had stolen things from the house, came home past curfew, and had run away on two occasions. Patricia and Alfredo frequently call the police when Juan doesn’t come home.

It was obvious to the mediator that Juan and his parents had not had a productive conversation in a while. They seemed to get a lot of new information from each other when the mediator began to ask questions. The mediator asked about what was happening and what had led to Juan’s arrest. He was in a car with other gang members and was arrested when the vehicle was pulled over. The family discussed the incident and Juan shared his experience of spending the night in jail. His parents talked about how worried they were when he did not come home.

After some time in the mediation the parties began to speak more freely. Alfredo shared that Juan is smart, a hard worker and respectful but that he has not been acting that way. The mediator asked Juan about being in the gang, his old friends, and why he is so angry. Juan responded at length while continuing to say that he did not care about anything. For the first time, he told his parents why he joined the gang – the guys in the neighborhood would chase him and Juan hated them so much. He didn’t know how else to manage the situation, so he joined the opposing gang. Juan didn’t want to bother his parents with his problems, but Patricia and Alfredo said that if they had known, they would have moved or helped him. Juan reiterated that they were his problems, to which Patricia responded, “your problems are my problems, son.”  

As the mediation continued, Alfredo suggested his son get a job. Juan agreed that he really wanted a job, but the last time he had a job his parents made him stop working because they thought he was spending his money on drugs and alcohol. That issue seemed to dissolve when they talked about the pros and cons of Juan having a job. Surprisingly, they all wanted the same thing and started working together to brainstorm how to help Juan get a job. Alfredo offered to take Juan to the bank to open a savings account and explained how Juan would need money for his future. They discussed how that would work, and Juan agreed that he would be willing to save some money based on how much he made. From there, Patricia and Alfredo told Juan what they expected of him at home—to follow five basic rules. Juan then told his parents what he needed from them—space when he was angry, for them to not repeat the same thing over and over again, and to be able to spend the night with friends occasionally with permission.

In the end, the mediation gave Juan and his parents a space to communicate with each other about what was really important and time to discuss how they wanted to resolve the problems they had been experiencing as a family. Because the parties participated in the mediation at CCR, they were able to discuss how to improve their relationship and communication and avoid having another encounter with the police.

Jul 6, 2017

Mother and Daughter Making it Work

Maria and Eva went to mediation with the Center for Conflict Resolution when Maria filed an eviction case against Eva.

Maria was fed up. She had allowed her daughter, Eva, and Eva’s infant daughter, to stay with her as Eva tried to find a new place to live. Eva had just left her husband and was desperate for a place to stay until she got on her feet. While she didn’t relish moving back in with her mother, she didn’t have any other options and here they were. 

It was supposed to be a very short-term solution, but now, seven months later, Maria had tried numerous times to get Eva to go, only to be told by Eva that Maria would have to go to court to evict her in order to get her out. 

The relationship between the parties had been strained and tense for quite some time. Now it had reached the point that if one said the sky was blue, the other said it was red. If one complained that the other filled the fridge too full, the other was irked because of empty soda cans left lying around the house.

Both women used significant time to unpack the misery and “violations” the other had visited upon them and they did so in a cascading, tit-for-tat manner. Primary among these was an overall sense from each of them that "this isn't how you treat family!" But after a while, they were both exhausted. 

At this point, the mediator gently began asking some questions to help them explore what was really important to them and prioritize those needs. 

Maria needed a return to peace, normalcy, and to be able to enjoy living in her own home again. Eva had very little income and had a month to go before starting a new job, so she was still in need of a place to sleep and inexpensive child care for her daughter while she saved up enough to get a place of her own. 

Through the mediator’s help, they both realized that neither wanted their current living situation to stay the way it was and that they were very unlikely to improve the dynamics of their increasingly antagonistic relationship in such close quarters. This allowed them to begin to focus on what plan was necessary to find a way for Eva to move out and for Maria to have some certainty as to when she could reclaim her home. 

By contrasting their potential win or lose outcomes in court to what they could control and implement themselves, the mediator was able to help them craft an agreement. Maria agreed to let Eva stay for up to two more months while Eva agreed to offer more help around the house and to talk to Maria each week about potential places she had contacted to rent. Maria also agreed to continue to provide child care for her granddaughter at very little cost, even after Eva found a new place, as long as it wasn't too far away. 

Both women expressed relief that they had been able to get some things off their chests and focus on a positive plan with which to pursue their goals. 

Furthermore, they were able to put a case to rest in which, no matter the judge's decision, both of them would have lost something significant: their relationship. Instead, they left with a starting point to repair it. 

May 2, 2017

Stolen Money

Michael and his family were sent to family mediation at Center for Conflict Resolution after Michael was arrested for stealing money from his father. Originally, Michael and his father, David, planned to attend the mediation, but in the end David was unable to participate.

Michael arrived at the mediation with Anita, who was more like a stepmother to Michael since she and his father had a child together (Michael’s half-brother). Although she was not biologically related to him, Michael had been living with her for the past two years and the two spoke easily. At first, Anita was reluctant to participate in the mediation, stating that she did not think they could make much progress without David.

Once the mediator explained the purpose of the mediation (to have a productive conversation) and that there was no pressure for them to reach any kind of agreement, Anita was quick to open up about her feelings concerning Michael. She said he had been living in a situation where he was forced to act like an adult for nearly all of his life and she was happy to take him in and provide for him in order to let him “be a kid.” Anita was not mad that he stole the money from his father. She was disappointed that he had taken the money, but she acknowledged that he had spent it responsibly, buying himself some new clothes and shoes that fit and helping pay for the family to have a Thanksgiving dinner. Michael agreed, saying that he only took the money because he felt it was rightfully owed to him, since his father’s duty was to provide for him. Anita expressed her wish that Michael would talk to her and David if he needed things like clothes and new shoes, instead of resorting to theft.

Further discussion with the mediator revealed deeper issues for the parties. It was very important to Anita that Michael learn how to be a kid and that too much was put on him too early. Before Anita had come into his life, Michael was responsible for his younger siblings, often getting them ready for school and making sure they had dinner. Anita was concerned that Michael tried to take on too much responsibility and was very concerned about the Michael’s safety, especially when he goes outside of the house. It was very important to her that he call her and let her know when he is going out so she can know whether to be worried if he is not home. In fact, on the day he was arrested he did not tell her he was leaving the house. Michael mentioned that he doesn’t tell her because she will say no and she says she says no because she is angry that he lies to her.

Anita expressed to the mediator privately that she wanted Michael to know the world is not against him and learns how to depend on others. It was also very important to her that he get re-enrolled in high school. She revealed to the mediator that she was planning to re-enroll Michael in high school the following day. She knew Michael was ready to go back because he approached her on his own about a potential school he found.

When the mediator met with Michael, he revealed the difficulty of his prior living situations and said he liked living with Anita. Michael talked to the mediator about his future and acknowledged that he was concerned for himself if he did not find a way to go back to school.

When the mediator brought the parties back together they discussed the possibility of writing down an agreement for their goals going forward. Both parties were happy about this idea and the parties were quick to agree in a plan for Michael to be re-enrolled in school. Anita agreed to help Michael with enrollment so that he could meet his goals and Michael agreed to let Anita know when he would be out of the house so that she would not worry about him.

As they were leaving Anita said she was so happy to learn that Michael was serious about getting back in school and that even though she was skeptical about the mediation at first, she was really very happy that they came.

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