Oct 11, 2019

Mother and Son Move Forward Together

Sergio and his mother Carla came to mediation at Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) after Sergio was arrested for battery. Sergio had been dating his friend Sam’s old girlfriend, and was upset when he learned that Sam and other friends were talking badly about him. Sergio felt that because Sam had a new girlfriend, he had no reason to be upset with Sergio.

Sergio confronted Sam on a Friday afternoon after school, and their interaction ended with Sergio shoving Sam. Sam’s parents reported the incident to the police, and when school resumed the following Monday, Sergio was called into the principal’s ofce, handcuffed, arrested, and taken to the police station. He was also suspended from school for one week. Sergio’s case was eventually referred for mediation with CCR. Sam declined to participate in the mediation and so a family mediation was held for Sergio and his mother, Carla.

Through a guided conversation, the mediator was able to find common ground between Sergio and Carla, as well as help them recognize ways to improve their relationship. Both Sergio and Carla agreed that work and school were the most important things for Sergio to concentrate on, and that fighting with classmates would only distract Sergio from his goals. It was important to Sergio to finish school, and to continue working at his part-time job that allowed him to buy clothes and save up to visit family in Mexico.

During the mediation, the mediator took a break from having Sergio and Carla together in the same room and met separately with each party. Carla teared up when she explained that she had left Sergio with his grandparents in Mexico for the first 10 years of his life - while she worked to establish herself in the United States. They did not see each once during those 10 years. Carla explained that she was concerned Sergio didn’t understand how she saw their time apart as an important sacrifice she needed to make to ensure a better opportunity for him. She was worried because Sergio has started to lie to her occasionally about his whereabouts.

When the mediator met with Sergio, they discussed the fact that Carla has many rules she expects Sergio to follow regarding work and school. The day before the mediation Carla found out that Sergio took a trip to a water park in Wisconsin and told her that he was working. She had been furious. Sergio explained that he wants to follow his mother’s rules, but he would also like to have some more independence to spend time with his friends. Sergio said he was proud to be an important role model for his younger brothers and that he plans to have a conversation with them about what they can learn from his experience of being arrested. He felt he had learned from his mistake, and that he wanted to have a conversation with his mom about what he could do to earn more independence.

Through mediation, Sergio and Carla were able to have a conversation about tough topics in a safe, neutral space, and develop solutions that worked for them. When the mediator brought Sergio and Carla back together, they talked about setting up regular time on Saturdays for just the two of them to spend time with each other. Carla expressed that building a close relationship with Sergio was important to her, and she was able to tell him that she understood that their time apart was very hard for him, and that she felt it was necessary to give him richer opportunities. Having this conversation allowed Sergio to express that he appreciated the sacrifice that Carla made, and that it was also important to him to continue his close ties with his grandparents in Mexico. Sergio asked for Carla’s support in making regular visits, and she agreed. There was conversation about Sergio taking pictures of his grandmother’s Mexican cooking and returning with some of her recipes. They also discussed Sergio’s desire to have more independence to spend time with his friends. Carla agreed to give permission for Sergio to spend time with his friends, as long as he updates her with his whereabouts via text so she will not worry. They both agreed that they would continue to work to improve their communication and trust, and were happy to have a plan to move them forward.

Sep 18, 2019

We Can Work It Out

Tina had only lived in the apartment since spring, but by July she had stopped paying rent. Her landlord, Terry, had been a landlord for over 30 years and when Tina stopped paying rent, he filed for an eviction.

On the first court date the judge sent the parties to mediation. In mediation, Terry explained that he considered himself to be a very fair person and expected his tenants to be the same. He said that he told his tenants that they could break the lease at any time if they weren’t happy. For Terry, however, it was important that he be paid the rent that was owed to him under the lease while the tenant was still there. The mediator noted that it seemed like being paid rent was a matter of respect for him.

Tina had never been to eviction court before. She was angry that Terry had filed the case and unfamiliar with an eviction proceeding. She was resistant to engage in the mediation process. With arms folded she said that she would take her chances with the judge. Tina said the apartment was not adequate and she didn’t want to stay there and that because of the condition of the apartment she should not be obligated to pay the rent. The mediator gave Tina a chance to express her frustrations with Terry and with going to court. The mediator explained that Tina would not be obligated to come to any agreement in mediation and would be free to see the judge if the case did not settle.

Tina agreed to participate in the mediation and in telling her story the mediator learned that Tina had three children and would need time to find a place for them all to move. She also said that she needed what money she had to find a new place and would not be able to pay any money to Terry while trying to secure new housing.

The mediator facilitated a conversation between both parties and in the end Tina agreed that she would pay Terry some of what he was asking for in exchange for the ability to determine the date upon which she would leave the apartment. She was willing to pay Terry an amount on her next pay date and agreed that he would keep her deposit. For his part, Terry realized that although he was not going to get all of the rent that he sought, settling for some of the money and knowing the date the apartment would again be available to rent allowed him more certainty.

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.

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