Jul 16, 2019

Mother and Daughter Connect Through Mediation

Dalia, age 16, and her mother, Celeste, were referred to mediation after Dalia was arrested while attending a protest of a City Council meeting with her mother’s permission. They arrived at the mediation ready to share, but were disappointed that the officer involved in Dalia’s arrest had declined to participate. “Communication is good between us,” Dalia’s mother Celeste began, “so I’m not sure how much help we need with conflict resolution. The person I really hoped to have across this table was the officer.” Nonetheless the mediation began.

Without the officer present, Dalia and Celeste got to take a deep dive into the aspects of their relationship that were affected by the arrest. Dalia volunteers for a non-profit that advocates for equity in education and, as she put it, an end to Chicago’s “rapid gentrification that harms those in our black and brown neighborhoods.”

Celeste and the mediator listened while Dalia described her fear at being separated from her group, shouted at, surrounded, slammed against a glass door, handcuffed, not read her rights, questioned without a parent or attorney present and referred to as an animal. Celeste had heard this story before, and was incredibly supportive, but hearing it made her visibly anxious. The mediator helped explore Celeste’s fears as a mother of a 16 year old girl of color. “She’s going to continue her activism. I won’t stop her because it’s who she is. All I can do is pray, but I’m worried constantly about her safety.”

Celeste’s most pressing need was for her daughter’s safety. She also needed to have her motherly concern taken seriously. Dalia’s most pressing needs were for her mother’s trust and to continue her activism. She needed Celeste to know that she was raised right and knew how to avoid and react to dangerous situations. Since both were committed to Dalia’s continued activism, the mediator helped the parties explore ways Celeste’s concern could be managed through both self-care and better communication from Dalia.

Celeste and Dalia also talked about strategies Dalia could use if she found herself surrounded by police and separated from her group in the future. Dalia described how she shut down her emotions in police custody because she “knew they didn’t see me as a juvenile; they saw me as a threat, and being in my emotions could have put me in danger.” This led to discussion about Dalia’s struggles with schoolwork and places Dalia felt most at ease to express her true herself and let those powerful emotions flow. It all came back to family and education--the loudest common values in the room.

It was clear that both mother and daughter felt their needs were heard by the other in a new way in the mediation. Dalia worked to reassure her mother and show gratitude. Celeste worked to demonstrate both pride and trust. The two women were both clearly committed, each in her own way, to strengthening their relationship and their city.

Jun 19, 2019

Co-Workers Working It Out

Aricela and Marisol have worked at the same company for several years. They are in the same department, see each other every day, and get along well. Several months ago, Aricela needed to go to California to be with her mother, who was ill. She was looking for someone to watch over her home while she was gone. As it happened, Marisol’s lease was up, and she was looking for somewhere to stay. They agreed that Marisol would move into Aricela’s home and pay $500 per month. Since Aricela’s mother’s health was unstable, the two did not discuss timing or make a specific agreement about how long the arrangement would last. When Aricela filed an eviction action against Marisol after claiming unpaid rent, the two ended up in court and were referred to mediation.

The arrangement had worked out well for the first several months. When Marisol sent Aricela the rent money, Aricela would send back a written receipt. Aricela kept a record of the money that came in, which was usually in the form of a cashier’s check, although occasionally Marisol paid in cash. Aricela brought an eviction action claiming she had not been paid for April rent; Marisol said she gave Aricela the payment in cash, but had forgotten to get a receipt.

There was an additional issue; after several months, Aricela’s mother seemed to be doing a lot better. She did not need Aricela’s assistance anymore, so Aricela decided to move back to Chicago. Both parties agreed that since there were multiple bedrooms, Marisol would continue to stay in the home. However, once Aricela moved back in, Aricela discovered that Marisol was hosting more people in the home than she had expected. Marisol’s new boyfriend had moved in, and some of Marisol’s nieces and nephews sometimes stayed over.

Aricela explained that having new people in her home, who she didn’t know, made her uncomfortable. Marisol said that while she was paying rent, she felt she should have the freedom of allowing her boyfriend and family members to stay with her. She said that the nieces and nephews only stayed every once in a while, and that they were not disruptive. In fact, they helped her with the dishes, daily household chores, and were very respectful.

After talking the issue through, Aricela identified that her primary interest was feeling comfortable in her own home. She also wanted to make sure that she was not being taken advantage of by Marisol. Marisol needed a stable living situation until she found a new place to live. Both parties valued their ongoing relationship, since they still work together. To preserve their relationship, the parties agreed that Marisol would move out, but would have two months to find housing. Aricela agreed to forgive April’s rent as long as Marisol paid for the current month of May in full during the mediation, and also agreed to pay for June and July on specified dates. Aricela agreed to give Marisol written receipts for payment.

With the help of the mediator, the parties crafted an agreement that allowed them to avoid court and preserve their relationship.

Apr 17, 2019

Family Gets on the Same Page

Leo and his parents, Leo Sr. and Bridget, were referred to family mediation at CCR after Leo was suspended for an incident across the street from his school. When the family met with the mediator, Leo began by explaining some things to the mediator and his family. Before the incident, his ex-girlfriend Sandra had moved away to a different school. Sandra loaned some shoes (sandals that held personal significance as they'd been given to her by her grandmother) to a friend of hers, Laura, and was having trouble getting them back. She had been texting Leo asking him to help her. Leo said he'd mentioned it a few times to Laura, but had no luck; Laura always claimed she couldn't find them or had left them at home. Leo grew tired of hearing about the shoes from Sandra, and he wanted to be done with it. One day when he saw Laura with the shoes on, he approached her in the cafeteria to ask for them. She said no and walked away. After that, Leo left school and spotted Laura across the street standing with her boyfriend, Robert. He went over to her and tried talking to her, but Robert would not let them talk. Leo didn’t know what else to do and he knelt down and pulled the sandals off of Laura's feet, causing her to lose her balance and fall backward. Leo took the shoes and ran home. Robert and a group of Robert’s friends followed Leo.

Leo Sr. saw the teenagers approaching the house and went outside to find out what was going on. He brought Robert inside and Robert said that Leo had stolen his girlfriend's shoes. Leo then rushed to explain that the shoes were actually Sandra’s. Eventually, Leo Sr. told Robert to leave. Bridget, Leo's mom, came in to say she just got a call that Leo needed to go to the police department to give a statement about what happened. Bridget took her son to the station and when they got there, Leo was taken to a different room and the police officer from the school instructed Bridget to go home. While she was gone, the police called her and asked if they could read Leo's rights over the phone. Not fully understanding the implications, Bridget agreed. Later, she spoke with a lawyer and began to feel like she and her son had been taken advantage of. Six hours after entering the police department, Leo was allowed to leave.

During the family mediation all the members of Leo’s family expressed regret about what happened, and also felt that Leo been treated unfairly by the police. Leo felt his reputation and relationships with classmates had been damaged. Leo’s father encouraged him to focus on his own goals, and not to get involved in friends’ conflicts. Bridget became teary-eyed while talking about how she felt she let Leo down by not staying with him at the police station. She felt afraid for her son. Leo was apologetic about what he had put his parents through and emphasized he didn’t want to get into more trouble. He told the mediator and his parents that he has a dream of owning his own business someday, hopefully a car dealership, and that he understood that this kind of run in with police would hinder him in achieving his goals.

Leo was disappointed in how things had impacted his parents and the family spent time in the mediation planning for how to handle similar situations in the future. Leo expressed that he realized that fighting someone else’s battle was not worth the trouble. Leo Sr. and Bridget shared that they wished they had better understood what was happening for their son. Leo seemed especially remorseful for causing his mother anxiety at the police station. After discussing the incident and its aftermath with the mediator and thinking about how to work together moving forward, the energy in the room was lighter; the family understood each other, and had a common goal in helping Leo manage his responsibilities to his friends and meet his future goals.

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