Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation

by Center for Conflict Resolution

Joyce and her one year old daughter Anna were living with her father Keith, great aunt Claudia, and other family when things started to unravel.  Joyce was having a rough time keeping up with her responsibilities and would run away from home, sometimes for days at a time just to get away. She would run to her friends and boyfriend, leaving Anna with family in the meantime. The final straw occurred when Joyce ran to Milwaukee without telling her family where she was going. She left Anna with her boyfriend’s family and upon her return she was upset to find that the baby was not there.  When she arrived back at her familial home, she was reunited with Anna, but got into an altercation with Keith and Claudia about her recent disappearance.  Joyce was forced to move out and live with another family member some miles away.

On the day of the mediation, the mediator checked in with the family and it initially seemed that things were getting better. Joyce had recently moved back into the home with her family. However, after further reality testing, it became apparent that Keith and Claudia were still upset about the incident and Joyce’s whereabouts overall. They believed that Joyce wasn’t concerned about Anna’s safety or her care. They felt taken advantage of.  In caucus, Joyce was able to explain to the mediator that she felt like she was in the way because she moved around so much and that she had not felt wanted since her mother died tragically when Joyce was five years old.

The mediator was able to bring them back together to discuss possible solutions and Joyce made her case to the family about how she was feeling. They exchanged possible solutions. Keith and Claudia were able to explain how much they cared about both Joyce and Anna. They explained that they wanted Joyce to limit her travels in order to make sure Anna was taken care of. Joyce agreed and they worked out an agreement around daily child care and overall family schedule. The family also agreed to look into counseling for Joyce in the future.

In the past three months, CCR has served 10 additional families through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program. These 10 families have had a chance to engage in an impactful conversation about the choices made by juvenile clients and the impact these choices have on individuals and neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. These conversations strengthen community, build communication skills, restore relationships and increase understanding. The story below illustrates CCR's services through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Program:

Justin, age 14, was scared to meet with the woman whose phone he had stolen a few months earlier. Along with a friend from school, he had grabbed Cheryl’s phone while on the ‘L’ and run out of the train car just before the doors closed. Later, Justin had seen his face on the local news and been taken to the police station by his mother, Ava, who had left work in disbelief upon hearing about the situation. Ava was angry that her son’s actions had harmed someone, but thankful that he was being given the opportunity to take responsibility for his actions by meeting with Cheryl face-to-face at the mediation session. Cheryl was a stranger to Ava and Justin and had not seen them since the incident months ago but thanks to CCR, all three were able to come together for a conversation on respecting others, safety, trust, responsibility and the dreams of mothers for their children.

Through the process of mediation, the mediator was able to facilitate a discussion which brought to light the fact that Justin had never been involved in anything illegal before and had had the respect and confidence of his mother up until the incident. After Justin delivered a tearful and heartfelt apology to Cheryl, his mother nodded saying: “he knows he wasn’t raised that way.” When asked by the mediator what had happened since Cheryl filed the police report, Ava laid out the thoughtful and loving parenting actions that had been taken at home to ensure Justin “never did something like this” again, which involved being grounded from regular activities and being assigned books to read and activities to complete on educational websites. Due to the new information the mediation revealed, Cheryl shifted from her original request that Justin do community service, to sharing that she was glad to hear that his mother really cared about what he had done and that he never did it again. Cheryl, a mother herself, felt comfortable with the consequences Justin’s mother had implemented and said that she accepted his apology as “real.”

Thanks to the mediation, Justin was able to hear both his mother and Cheryl talk about how this experience had affected them and their hope that he never did this again because the incident could have ended very differently. Cheryl went on to share with Justin and Ava that when the incident had occurred, she had actually stopped a man, who she said was “shaking in anger,” from running Justin and his friend down by saying; “They’re just kids. Phones are replaceable.” The mediator gave Cheryl and Ava an opportunity to talk about what would have happened if the man had gone after the boys or if the police had shown up.  Both women explained to Justin that he could have been seriously hurt or worse. Ava explained that the anger and fear expressed at the beginning of the mediation stemmed from her hope that her son would “go to college” and how she wanted him “to be somebody.”

Through the mediation services CCR provides, Justin not only got a chance to see Cheryl accept his apology, but also to show Cheryl and his mother that he did not want this incident to define him as he “could do better.” An agreement was reached by all the parties that creatively addressed the need for Justin to take responsibility for the loss of Cheryl’s phone and provided a way for Justin to rebuild trust with his family and community.

Juvenile Program Continues to Help Strengthen Relationships
By Rae Kyritsi - Programs Director

In the past three months, CCR has served 28 additional families through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program. These 28 families have had a chance to engage in an impactful conversation about the choices made by juvenile clients and the impact these choices have on indivdiuals and neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. These conversations strengthen community, build communication skills, restore relationships and increase understanding. The story below illustrates CCR's services through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Program:

Tina and her teenage-daughter Keira had a strong relationship. They talked all the time and both felt confident that they were good communicators who knew each other well. Then, in the Winter of 2015, Keira was arrested at school for stealing from another student’s locker and the case ended up being referred for mediation at the Center for Conflict Resolution.

The other student declined to participate in mediation, so CCR staff offered Tina and Keira the opportunity for a Family Mediation.

At the beginning of the mediation both Keira and her mother found the process laughable. “We talk every day,” they said, indicating that their regular communication meant that they had nothing to discuss with the mediator. The mediator, very experienced in family cases, persuaded the women to give it a try and began a conversation with them about their relationship, their home life, and the theft incident at school. During the mediation Tina revealed that she had traveled a hard road to come to her successes. She had been born into poverty and had suffered the physical, emotional, and psychological consequences of being poor in Chicago. By the time she was in her mid-twenties, Tina had three young children and was on her own. She vowed that her children would not struggle the way that she had and Tina persevered, creating a life for her children that was secure and safer than hers had been. Tina stated that her insistence on being involved in Keira’s life is why they spoke daily and was keeping Keira safe.

After a lot of candid discussion with Tina and Keira, the mediator decided to take a break and meet with each party separately. This part of a mediation, referred to as caucus, provides both the mediator and the parties with an opportunity to discuss topics that they might not be comfortable talking about in front of the other party. And that’s exactly what happened when the mediator met with Keira.

In caucus, Keira confessed to the mediator that she was bisexual and that she had not told her mother. The private conversation gave the mediator a chance to process with Keira what that meant and why she had wanted to keep it a secret. They talked about the possible outcomes of disclosing her sexuality to Tina and what impact it might have on their mother-daughter relationship. At the end of the caucus, Keira decided that she wanted Tina to know the truth and that she would tell her at the mediation.

When the mediator brought Tina and Keira together Keira told her mother that she was bisexual. Both the mediator and Keira waited for Tina’s response. Tina merely shrugged her shoulders and said, “You can love anybody you want, I just want you to be safe.”

At the end of the mediation, as the mediator was wrapping up the discussion, both Tina and Keira told the mediator that despite their belief that they already knew everything about each other, the mediation had been a powerful experience. Keira, unburdened from her secret, was able to have a truly open conversation with her mother for the first time in months.

In the past three months, CCR has served 18 additional families through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation program. These 18 families have had a chance to engage in an impactful conversation about the choices made by juvenile clients and the impact these choices have on indivdiuals and neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area. These conversations strengthen community, build communication skills, restore relationships and increase understanding. The story below illustrates CCR's services through its Juvenile Victim-Offender Mediation Program:

Melissa’s parents were concerned that she had been “running with the wrong crowd.” For the last six months, she was missing her curfew and skipping classes. Her parents were worried her behavior would escalate. Then she stole a car and ran into a stop sign.

Denise was very surprised when the police called to let her know that her vehicle, left parked in front of her home, had collided with a stop sign three miles away. A teen neighbor, near in age to her own children, had stolen the car.

When the Assistant State’s Attorney told Denise that mediation was an option, she agreed to participate. Denise wanted to know why her car had been stolen and she knew that Melissa was the only one who could tell her. The judge referred the case to mediation and it was agreed that Denise, Melissa, and Melissa’s parents would attend. This case was unusual, because Melissa was still in custody and it was not clear when she would be released. A case manager for the Center for Conflict Resolution was contacted and mediation services were provided two days later at the courthouse.

In the mediation Melissa was given an opportunity to explain why she had stolen the car - she was trying to go to a friend’s funeral. Melissa had never had a chance to tell her parents where she was going. She had been grounded when she asked her parents if she might borrow their car and it had been forbidden. Desperate, Melissa took the car with plans to return it before anyone noticed.

The parties agreed that every Saturday morning Melissa will call Denise to find a time to come over later that day. Melissa agreed to go to Denise’s house for two hours every weekend to help out with chores and yard work. Denise expressed her hope that it would give Melissa a sense of responsibility as well as another place to talk about what was happening in her life.

Melissa was surprised that Denise and the mediator had asked her so many questions. She had expected the mediation to be a time where Denise might yell at her or lecture her or try to make her feel worse. Melissa told the mediator that she did not know there were adults like Denise - people who cared about children who were not their own and who were willing to help them.

Near the end of the mediation, the mediator asked Melissa what she would do the next time she had a conflict with her parents and felt lost. Melissa smiled, “I’ll call her,” she said, pointing to Denise.  

A year after partnering with GlobalGiving to raise funds for our juvenile victim-offender work, we have raised nearly $20,000!  These funds give CCR the ability to assist hundreds of young people, their families and their communities find ways to repair harm and build strong relationships.

Since our last report in August, we have assisted 78 additional people through this program. Since the initiation of this project on December 1, 2013, we have helped 294 individuals in Chicago. We are really proud of the impact this program has on our communities, and are working every day to serve more young people involved in the juvenile justice system.

The conversations that take place in mediation are often a turning point for young people and their families. After committing an offense, young people are generally face exclusion from school, church and neighborhood communities and sometimes a criminal record. All of these things disconnect young people  from healthy communities and sources of support. When opportunities for community connection are limited, offenders often return to problematic behavior or gang activity.

The Juvenile Victim-Offender Medaition Program gives an opportunity for young people to share their story and be heard by their families and community members. People impacted by the offense have a chance to talk about how the events impacted them, which can be healing and restorative for them. Everyone involved talks about how to repair the harm created by the offense. Sometimes that comes in the form of an apology; other times, the offender agrees to do something to help the person affected, or do something to help the community where s/he lives. We see first-hand the impact this work has on young people and their families. 

We are really proud of the work we’ve done, and couldn’t have done it without your support.

Thank you!


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Organization Information

Center for Conflict Resolution

Location: Chicago, IL - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.ccrchicago.org
Project Leader:
Cassandra Lively
Chicago, IL United States
$22,521 raised of $40,000 goal
134 donations
$17,479 to go
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