Oct 30, 2017

Family Solves Their Problem

Lara, 17, and Jaclyn, 20, are sisters. They were arrested together four months ago. Lara was accused of illegally giving her older sister a 20% discount at a department store where Lara was employed. Store security saw them on camera and called the police. The sisters were arrested and escorted from the store in handcuffs.

When the sisters came to mediation, Jaclyn’s case was in criminal court and the family was worried that the outcome would affect her ability to go to medical school. Lara’s case was being heard in juvenile court and her record was eligible for expungement in six months if she did not get into trouble again and successfully completed a program designed by the court. One of the requirements for Lara was that she participate in mediation through CCR. The department store did not send a representative to the mediation at the courthouse, so CCR held a family mediation with Lara and her father, Luis.

Luis began the mediation by expressing his concern that he and his family are part of a small community and he didn’t want word of his daughters’ arrests to get out. He built a successful business since moving to the United States and said that he works hard to give his children everything they might need or want. All he wanted was that his daughters work hard in school and bring pride to the family.

Lara explained that she felt her parents didn’t give her the same level of trust that they did Jaclyn. She wanted to prove that she could hold down a job and still get good grades in school. She also wanted to impress Jaclyn with her new position, and so she arranged for a discount on merchandise her sister purchased.

Over the course of the mediation, Lara acknowledged that she did something wrong and hadn’t thought through the consequences. She never considered how this might affect her family, especially her older sister. Luis acknowledged that he needs to improve communication with his daughters. He had been too busy working in his store and he felt badly about not paying more attention to what was going on in the family.

At the end of the mediation, Luis agreed to spend some time each evening connecting with his daughters. Lara agreed that something like this will not happen again, and that she will be more careful to consider the impact of her actions on the family in the future.

Oct 4, 2017

A Plan To Grow Up

Sharon felt like she had nowhere left to turn. Her 19-year-old stepson, Cody, had been living with her for years and she had recently become very concerned about his behavior. After multiple fruitless conversations, Sharon filed a case in eviction court to try to have Cody move out of the house.

When Sharon and Cody appeared in court the judge sent the parties to mediation with the Center for Conflict Resolution. The mediator asked each of them to tell their stories and learned that Sharon had been married to Cody’s dad, but that there had been a divorce 3 years ago. At the time, Cody’s father was not able to find a new apartment in Cody’s school district and so the three of them had agreed that Cody would continue to live with Sharon.  When Cody graduated high school Sharon told him he could stay in his room in the basement if he paid some rent and continued to do chores around the house. The two of them had never agreed on an amount of rent, though, and Cody had never paid Sharon any money.

The mediator asked more questions and learned that in the 6 months leading up to the mediation, Sharon and Cody had fallen into a pattern where they would have a large fight, then not speak for a few weeks, and then return to living together peacefully. Sharon did not know what Cody was doing for work and she disclosed during the mediation that she was afraid her house had become a hangout spot for teenagers to drink and play video games. She did not want this behavior in the house because she felt it created liability and was unproductive for Cody. She wanted him to work or go to school.

Cody was nervous about having a law suit filed against him. He told Sharon that he had been looking for full-time work, but that he wasn’t qualified to do anything that paid enough. Cody said that he knew it was time for him to move out on his own, but that he simply did not know how to get started.

The mediator continued to facilitate the conversation and helped the parties realize that they both wanted the same things – for Cody to be gainfully employed and for him to move out on his own. They created a plan for Cody to get a job and move out in 6 months. During the next 6 months, Sharon agreed that Cody did not have to pay rent, but that he did have to give her money every month which she would save for him and return to him when he moved out. They both thought this would be good practice for Cody. Additionally, Cody agreed not to have guests over without Sharon’s permission and to search more aggressively for work.

During the mediation Sharon had a chance to express her frustration and hopelessness. Cody, on the other hand, had the opportunity to discuss his independence and to be treated as an adult. Once they were able to express themselves, they were able to build a plan that would allow them to maintain their relationship and to come to resolution. 

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.

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