Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution
Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

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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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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Darryl was riding bikes with his friends in a new neighborhood when they discovered an entrance to a junk yard. They were curious about what was inside and tried to sneak through the gate, but once they made it to the other side a large pile of scrap made it impossible to access the yard. The boys rode off to the skate park and were surprised 30 minutes later when police officers arrested them. Darryl was charged with criminal trespass and was referred to mediation by his probation officer.

The junk yard owner was not able to participate in mediation, so CCR mediated a case between Darryl and his parents, Ken and Sharon. Family mediations are an opportunity for youth and their families to discuss an incident that has led to an arrest to determine if there are underlying conflicts and to talk about possible resolutions.

Ken and Sharon both agreed that Darryl was a good kid. His older brother, Mike, had been a lot of trouble and as a result they had been pretty strict with Darryl. He wasn’t allowed to hang out on the street and he spent most of his free time at home, babysitting his younger brother.

Early in the mediation the family disclosed that they did not all live in the same home and while Darryl had been speaking with each of his parents independently, and they had been speaking to one-another, it had been quite some time since all three of them had spoken in the same room. Both parents were relieved that Darryl had not been in more serious trouble and the family discussed potential consequences for being arrested.

The mediator opened up the conversation, asking if anyone had any other topics they wanted to discuss, and the parties went on to talk about other rules and expectations that they had not all discussed in some time. The mediation gave them a chance to talk about Darryl’s school work, inviting friends over to the house, and whether or not Darryl could get a part-time job. While the family did not resolve every issue discussed in the mediation, they did have a chance to communicate openly together and create a plan for moving forward.

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Anthony became a father during high school – a situation that put him under intense pressure. He was arrested after an altercation with Brianna, his child’s mother, and his arrest left him unable to participate on the wrestling team. Without wrestling, Anthony felt high school was of little use to him. After his arrest, he was referred to mediation with his mother, Yvonne.

Yvonne and Anthony had a loving relationship. During the mediation, Yvonne expressed understanding and support of her son and understood that the decisions he had made had created challenges he was not well-prepared to cope with at his age. Anthony, a young man of few words, mostly agreed with his mother and her summary of the challenges facing him. It became clear that Anthony’s primary challenge was communicating effectively with Brianna, and satisfying Yvonne’s desire to be a part of her new grandchild’s life. Yvonne expressed that her primary need was to support Anthony in developing a clear plan for his future. For Anthony, that plan did not include graduating from high school, and would mean that he would move in with his father.

During their conversation, both Anthony and Yvonne began to share things that they had done that had impacted the other favorably. It was clear that with each of these “reveals” the other party became more aware that each had the other’s best interests and concerns at heart, but that they had not found a way to communicate with each other. Mother and son both seemed concerned that the other might react unfavorably to their actions and create a distance between them. Once they realized that they were genuinely interested in looking out for each other, it became obvious that what they needed was a communication plan that would keep the flow of information open. In addition, Yvonne was willing to undertake the task of being the intermediary in communicating with Brianna. Both felt that removing the stress of having Yvonne deal with Brianna would better enable Anthony to focus on what he needed to do to advance his plans for his future.

In the end, Anthony and Yvonne eagerly entered into a written agreement outlining a plan for weekly communication, including getting together at least once a week for a mother-son meal. In addition, they agreed that Yvonne would assume responsibility, at least in the short-term, for communicating with Brianna.

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Nariah came to CCR for a family mediation session with her grandfather, Orien.

She had been referred to CCR after she was arrested for battery. Nariah and another girl, Jada, had argued over Facebook and Nariah told Jada that when she saw her, she was going to slap her. At school the following day, Jada challenged Nariah (in front of other students) “I thought you were going to slap me…”, so Nariah slapped her.

The two girls began fighting. In the scuffle that followed, the school’s principal was knocked to the ground trying to break up the fight. As a result, the principal was badly injured and both girls were arrested.

Nariah was suspended from school and sent to mediation through a court diversion program. Although the principal did not participate, Nariah was able to have a mediation with her grandfather about the incident.

During mediation, Nariah admitted she had a problem with authority and disliked most of her teachers. Sadly, she did like the principal and felt that Dr. Connor had tried to reach out to her and help her in the past. She repeatedly said that she felt bad that as a result of her injuries, the principal had missed that year’s 8th grade graduation. Nariah said that she was generally “disrespectful” and did not like following rules. At the same time, though, she recognized that when she was disrespectful, she often missed out on doing the things she enjoyed because the teachers would punish her by making her miss participating in sports. As Nariah spoke with her grandfather and the mediator, it became clear that she craved respect from her teachers. The teachers who recognized her need for respect definitely received respect in return.

During the mediation, Nariah discussed her dreams, including being a good person, helping others, becoming a pediatrician and working with children.

Her grandfather believed that she wanted to change and at first he felt she needed more discipline. He was very concerned with the amount of time Nariah was spending on Facebook and felt that if she was challenged by other kids she would not back down. He said there was a lot of love in their home but also a lot of tension due to financial issues.

Through detailed conversation, the mediator built trust with Nariah, who shared that she felt different from everyone else because her birth father had been in jail since the day she was born and would be there for the rest of his life. Nariah had never had any contact with him. She said it made her angry all of the time. During the conversation, Nariah was able to think about about ways she might fill her time more constructively than being on Facebook, and work toward her goal of helping others. She also decided that she needed some counseling about her father. Orien said that during the mediation process, he realized that Nariah had a wall up to defend herself and that the situation with her father had “taken a big toll on her; maybe more than we realized.” He had pride in his family and felt that they could work with her to try to be more respectful and to control her temper. Orien also recognized how important it was to Nariah to be treated with respect, and why that was so important to her. He wanted her to have pride in herself and to try to stay away from Facebook. Since they both knew that it was unrealistic that a 14 year old girl would stay off Facebook, they talked a lot about strategies to deal with negativity on social media.

Orien was especially pleased with the mediation because going in, he was very anxious about what to expect. Nariah expressed that she was relieved to be able to talk bluntly about her situation without judgment. In mediation, Orien and Nariah created a plan for communication, discussed strategies for dealing with conflict online, and left with a better understanding of what was important to both of them in helping Nariah achieve a better future.

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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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