Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution
Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

Nick came to mediation at CCR with his mother and father, after an incident at school. As his father described it, “Nick had been in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

One day after middle school, Nick’s sister, Janie, and her boyfriend picked Nick up to go visit family. After a few minutes of driving, the police pulled over the car and arrested Nick and Janie’s boyfriend. Janie quickly called their mom to let her know that Nick had been arrested.

 As the parties told their story in mediation, it became clear that Nick and his family went through a lot that day. Despite being middle-school aged, the police officers had mistaken Nick for an adult and treated him like one. Both his mom and dad had no idea why he had been arrested or where he had been taken. Everyone found out much later that the vehicle Janie’s boyfriend was driving had been stolen.

During the mediation it became apparent that Nick and each of his parents had been impacted differently by the incident. Nick had since developed a fear of going out in public, his dad had become more protective, and his mom had become concerned because she was no longer seeing Nick as much as had in the past. Nick’s parents were separated and before he was arrested he would usually travel with ease between his parents’ homes. Both parents had created a strict new rule: Nick was not allowed to ride in anyone’s car except for their own.

During the mediation Nick began to open up as the mediator asked questions about his interests and passions and asked how his parents’ responses were impacting him. Nick revealed that he was eager to try out for the high school football team and that he loved to play Fortnite. He said that he felt safer following the new rules his parents had put in place. Nick also told the mediator about his plans for a summer job. The mediator asked Nick about what he needed from his parents to pursue these plans, and he said that he just wanted them to show up to football practices and games.

With the support of the mediator, Nick, his mom, and his dad were all able to talk about the new rules in place and how to support Nick’s interests. When asked about Fortnite, his mom and dad agreed that this hobby was expensive, which was part of the reason why Nick was getting a summer job. The whole family and the mediator laughed as Nick’s parents complained about the cost of Fortnite while Nick continued to explain the game to a curious mediator, and suggested that she check out the game. It was a special moment where everyone realized that supporting Nick was what brought everyone to the table.

When asked about the football team, Nick’s dad revealed that he had been a football player and was excited about supporting his son. When asked about balancing school and sports, Nick’s mom and dad said that they had a plan for taking turns supporting Nick with football. Nick’s parents reassured him that they would be there for practices and games.

The mediator helped the family think about their plans were in light of the new rules. Nick’s dad shared that he had secured his son a job with him during the summer and that his work was flexible enough to support Nick during football season. Nick’s dad said that Nick’s summer paycheck could all go to Fortnite – which made everyone laugh. Nick’s parents agreed that he is their number one priority and they would continue to support his passions, but keep the new agreed-upon rules in place for now. Nick agreed that the new rules were okay as long as he got to play Fortnite and his parents would let him play football.

Through mediation the family was able to express themselves and share with one another how much they had been impacted by incident with police. The mediator helped them move past that incident and find a collaborative plan for moving forward. 

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Stephen was walking home one afternoon when a car full of teenagers pulled up next to him and offered him a ride. Never one to miss the opportunity for a good time, Stephen hopped in the car and found himself crammed in the back seat next to strangers. Stephen realized that while he knew the driver of the vehicle and one of the guys in the car, he didn’t know anyone else, and he deduced that the car was stolen. After a few blocks, Stephen noticed a car was following them. The driver saw the car as well and decided to try to race the car to get away. The vehicle was an unmarked police car and things escalated quickly. The car full of teenagers was in a chase with police vehicles and a helicopter got involved. Stephen realized things were serious when the vehicle was cornered, so he jumped out of the car and ran the first chance he got. Police officers chased him and, while attempting to jump a fence, Stephen cut his leg open badly. He was arrested and eventually his case was referred for family mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution.

The day of the mediation, Stephen’s mom, Cheryl, was in no mood to talk to anybody. She had forgotten about the scheduled appointment and when CCR staff called to remind her she reluctantly appeared on the Zoom call. Stephen had not forgotten, though, and was ready to participate in the conversation. The mediator started the conversation by asking both Cheryl and Stephen about what occurred and gave them a chance to tell their stories to the mediator and to one another.

Chery talked about how frustrating it had been to get a call from the police that Stephen had been arrested. When she arrived to pick him up from the precinct, she was told that Stephen had been taken to the hospital. No one was able to give her any information about how seriously he was injured (or even how he had been injured) and her frustration turned to terror as she rushed to the nearby hospital to check on her son. Once she arrived at the hospital, she was told he had been discharged and sent to a different police facility for older teen offenders. It took hours for Cheryl to find Stephen and it had been a stressful and frightening experience for her. The mediator helped Cheryl talk about her experience, employing a trauma-informed approach and worked with Cheryl to express how serious the consequences for his behavior had been.

Stephen did not seem very moved by his mother’s story, but when she started to talk about the impact his behavior would have on his younger siblings, Stephen had more to say. Stephen recognized that getting arrested and being in danger was going to have serious consequences for his younger siblings. Stephen was proud of his role as big brother and the mediator spent time with Stephen talking about the influence he has on his siblings.

During the conversation, Cheryl became more and more engaged in the process. The mediator’s techniques of asking questions and facilitating the dialogue had created an environment where mother and son were able to communicate in a focused manner. Cheryl told the mediator it had been helpful and productive to talk about what was happening. By the end of the conversation, Stephen had agreed that he would not get into stolen cars and the two were working out ways to rebuild trust.

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Dion came to mediation at CCR with his father, Michael, after he was arrested for aggravated assault. He threatened a classmate with violence after being called names on social media. The mother of his classmate called the police and made a complaint about the threats. Dion was arrested and taken to the police station. The case was referred for mediation with CCR. The classmate declined to participate in the mediation and so a family mediation was held for Dion and his father. Dion wanted to put the whole incident behind him and Michael wanted to open up lines of communication with his son. 

Through a guided conversation, the mediator was able to find common ground between Dion and Michael, as well as help them recognize ways to improve their relationship. 

Dion shared that he spends most of his free time rapping. He discussed the fact that his Dad worked long hours and, as a result, he spent more time with his aunt who cared for him. The mediator asked Dion’s second favorite thing to do and he said he was really good at basketball. When asked how he got so good he replied that his Dad taught him. 

After explaining that Dion’s Mom died during COVID, Michael said he felt basketball was the most important thing for Dion to concentrate on. Michael felt Dion’s trouble at school was caused by the loss of his mom. The mediator asked Dion if he agreed but he did not. The conversation gave Michael an opportunity to hear new information about his son’s experience losing his mother and its impact on his life. 

With the mediator’s support Michael and Dion were able to come up with a plan for moving forward from the incident in a safe, neutral space, and to develop solutions that worked for them. Michael agreed to contact the local church to inquire into a grievance support group and family counseling. Dion agreed to participate. This discussion allowed Dion to express how his father taught him how to play basketball but that now he works very long hours. The mediator inquired into the work schedule and discovered that Sundays and Saturday afternoons are free, if needed. Father and son agreed to every other Sunday which included either lunch and chat or basketball andlunch. They both agreed to use the time together on Sundays to communicate better and prevent incidents from happening again in the future. Michael expressed his appreciation and both seemed happy to have a plan to move forward together.

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Sarah is 16 and the last year has been hard on her and her friends – they are bored all the time and the limitations of Covid-19 have started to feel really exhausting. One night in late winter, Sarah was hanging out with her friends when some acquaintances arrived at her house and invited her and her friend to get into a car. Sarah didn’t recognize the car, but she still got in. While they were driving, her acquaintances confessed that they had stolen the car and were out for a joy ride. The police pulled them over and Sarah was arrested along with the others for stealing the car. A few months later, Sarah and the owner of the car were referred for mediation. Due to Covid-19 precautions, the mediation was held remotely over Zoom.

Adam owned the car that had been stolen. He arrived to the mediation tired and upset, but wanting to share his experience of that evening with Sarah and understand Sarah’s experience.

Adam had been taking his mother-in- law out for dinner in the city. He parked the car on the street outside her home and went inside to help her to the car. When they came back the car was gone. Adam was furious. He depended on the car to get to work. Not to mention, his evening was completely ruined. The event was terribly stressful and he ended up having to contact the police and friends for help. When the car was ultimately returned to Adam, it was in disarray.

When the mediator brought Adam and Sarah together to start the session, she asked them both to tell brief stories about the night when Adam’s car was stolen. Although she was participating, Sarah was hiding her face and speaking almost inaudibly. She was visibly shy and extremely quiet. Sarah’s dad was with her at the start of the mediation, but also had other responsibilities and did not participate in the conversation. The mediator encouraged Sarah to continue to share her experience. Adam set the tone by expressing a desire to talk and understand the impact this event had on both of them. In response, Sarah spoke more clearly and expressed a desire to make amends. The mediator opened up a conversation so they could share with one another how the event had impacted their lives.

Adam was able to tell Sarah about his job, how he needed his car to get to work, and how sad he was to see it returned in bad shape. He was also able to tell Sarah about his family: how he had to frantically try to get into his house with no keys because his infant daughter needed a medication stored in the bathroom there. As Adam was talking, the mediator noted Sarah’s engagement in what Adam was saying. Sarah was nodding, and interjecting with apologies and remorse.

Sarah was able to then share her experience. Sarah felt pressure that night to join in what her friends were doing and not to be the one stopping the fun. She shared her surprise at learning the car had been stolen, the trapped feeling she felt in the backseat after learning this information, and the fear she felt when arrested by the police.

Sarah expressed that she did not have a strong parental presence in her life. Adam was sympathetic to Sarah’s story and gave her some sincere and thoughtful sharing of advice about how to deal with difficult situations like the one she was in. Adam expressed that he did not want this one mistake to affect Sarah’s dreams and goals. Sarah was able to hear what he was saying and she went on to ask Adam’s advice on school and friends.

At the end of the mediation, both Adam and Sarah were given the opportunity to share some last thoughts and words for the other person. Sarah, now fully on camera and speaking more confidently, apologized again. She acknowledged the specific ways in which her actions had harmed Adam and his family. Adam responded to her and clearly said, “I accept your apology. It takes bravery to apologize. Please, don’t let this stop you from your studies and pursuing your dreams. I wish for the best for you.”

The mediation gave them both an opportunity to share their stories and, most importantly, to show up and listen to the other person.

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Denise had been having a lot of conflict with her mom. Her mother, Sharon, had been hoping the two of them would be able to work things out on their own, but things had continued to get worse between them and eventually Denise went to live with her aunt. After staying with her aunt for a few months, Denise got in some trouble. She ended up getting arrested and her aunt told her she could no longer stay with her. After that, Denise went to live with her Dad, but he didn’t have the space for Denise to stay comfortably full-time. Denise was working with a social worker who decided to refer Denise and her mother to mediation with CCR.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Denise and Sharon participated in mediation via Zoom. The mediator began the mediation by checking in with each of them privately to discuss the mediation and see if they had any concerns. Sharon told the mediator she was really angry about Denise’s behavior and was not happy to be at the mediation. She said she felt like she didn’t know what else to do and that if Denise continued to misbehave she would have to ask her to move out permanently. Denise told the mediator she was optimistic about having a conversation with her mother, that the two of them had not really had a conversation in months that didn’t result in yelling, and that she was nervous she might need a break when her mom got angry. The mediator and Denise made a plan that if Sharon was yelling and Denise felt overwhelmed, she could ask for a time out and the mediator would stop the mediation.

Denise was right to be concerned about Sharon’s anger. Early in the mediation the mediator found it very difficult to help the two women speak with one another. Sharon was so upset that she could not contain herself and often spoke over Denise, raising her voice. This would cause Denise to raise her voice and repeatedly the mediator found them in a screaming match. The mediator realized the parties would need to make a better plan for how to communicate in order to have a positive experience in mediation.

The mediator brought each party into another private meeting and talked to them about how they were engaging one another. In the meeting with Sharon, the mediator gave Sharon the opportunity to express the anger she was feeling. The mediator listened while Sharon got louder and angrier, her voice trembling as she recounted all her efforts to support Denise. Once she finished, the mediator summarized everything back and checked in with her to see how she felt about moving forward. Sharon said she felt much calmer after her outburst and wanted to continue the conversation. When the mediator met privately with Denise she learned that Denise was really apologetic about her previous behavior and that she wanted to come home and live with her mother. The mediator was surprised to hear this, as it had not been said when the parties were together. The mediator spent time with Denise making a plan for how she would ask her mother if she could come home. Then the mediator brought the two of them back together.

It wasn’t an easy conversation, but both parties were calmer and more focused and, with the mediator’s help, they were able to keep talking. Denise asked to come live with her mom again and the two of them agreed on a set of expectations for living together. The agreement included obligations for both Sharon and Denise and the two left the mediation in good spirits, ready to share a home again. 

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Center for Conflict Resolution

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
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Project Leader:
Cassandra Lively
Chicago, IL United States
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