- Neighborhood Disputes - parking, noise, pets, property lines, common driveways, trash, overhanging trees
- Petty Crimes - vandalism (graffiti, destruction of property, keying cars, puncturing tires), minor assault, harassment, missing items
- Small Claims - debt repayment, consumer-repairperson, consumer-merchant, consumer-serviceperson, consumer-travel agency
- Housing - landlord-tenant, real estate, condominium boards and owners, roommates
- Employment - workplace disputes between co-workers, supervisor-employee, board member-staff involving issues such as discrimination, discipline, salary, policy, personality conflicts
Family Mediation - Family Passages Initiative
The Good Shepherd Mediation Program offers a range of mediation services to families in transition.
Parent-youth mediation is designed for parents and care-takers that are experiencing conflict with their children. The Good Shepherd Mediation Program uses a co-mediator model for parent-youth mediations. Co-mediators who mirror the parties are assigned to mediate parent-youth disputes. For example, if a mother and her teenage daughter request mediation, the Good Shepherd Mediation Program assigns an adult female mediator and a teenage female mediator. This method provides a level of comfortability for the parties as well as providing a role model for the youth. Often the youth mediator is able to relate to a young person in a way that an adult mediator may not be able to accomplish. Disputes that come to parent-youth mediation include issues such as
- School attendance (for more information see Truancy Mediation)
- Peer associations
- Sibling relationships
Divorce, Custody and Partnership Dissolutions
The Family Passages Initiative (FPI) offers a comprehensive package of sliding-scale and no-cost mediation services to families in transition, including screening and orientation, mediation of divorce and child custody matters, preparation of the parties' memoranda of understanding, and, where appropriate, access to external legal review of the mediated settlements by cooperating attorneys who have agreed to provide pro bono representation to families who meet the federal financial guidelines for free legal services. When needed, families may also receive referrals for additional services and community-based supports for adults and children.
For most families in transition, mediation is a faster, less expensive, more effective method than litigation for resolving financial and child-care issues. In mediation, parties talk through their conflict with the assistance of an impartial third party who helps them to reach agreement on some or all of the issues they confront. The parties themselves craft outcomes that fit their own needs and lifestyles. By coming together to work productively toward resolving divorce, partnership dissolution and parenting arrangements, couples often get a head start on the collaborative parenting skills they will need as they move forward. The memorandum of understanding generated by the parties in mediation is reviewed by the parties' attorneys, who then file the mediated settlement with the Court, if appropriate. The number of sessions required will depend on the number and complexity of the issues involved.
- Division of property/equitable distribution
- Related financial issues (e.g., taxes, annuities, pensions, investments)
- Parenting arrangements/child custody
- Child support
- Spousal support/alimony
Isolation and conflict can have a deleterious effect on care givers, care recipients and the quality of care. Even when conflict does not exist, many care givers have difficulty accessing information and resources, and communicating with family members and service providers. The stress of care giving can leave individuals feeling vulnerable, overwhelmed and without the energy to organize help from family, friends, and the community. Low and moderate income families cannot afford to pay for many needed services and are left to navigate the public system or fend for themselves. Left unaddressed, isolation, stress and conflict may create a context for elder abuse and neglect.
What kinds of elder issues can be mediated?
A growing number of people have been using mediation to address conflicts involving older adults, their families, and care providers. Typical issues addressed in mediation involve:
- Living arrangements
- Property maintenance
- Level of care
- Quality of care
- Health care matters
- Legal issues (e.g., trusts and estates, adult guardianship)
- End-of-life decisions (e.g., living wills)
Who should attend a mediation about elder issues?
Anyone involved may participate. Mediation provides older adults with an opportunity to actively participate in the decisions that affect their lives. Mediation can be used to resolve issues among parents, grandparents and grandchildren and other extended family members as well as conflicts that may arise between the older adult and the care-taker or between the care-taker and the family. Faith leaders, support persons, friends, significant others, neighbors, care-takers or other service providers, financial advisors and community resource people may also be invited to the mediation session, when appropriate.
Peer Mediation for Students
What is peer mediation?
Peer mediation is a process for resolving conflicts that happen in school in a way that addresses the real interests of the students involved.
Who are the mediators?
The mediators are specially trained students who help other students find solutions to their problems using the peer mediation process.
What do the mediators do?
When students are involved in a dispute, they are asked if they would like a mediator to help them resolve their issues. If the students agree to mediate, the peer mediators help them by using a mediation process. The peer mediators listen to each student's perspective of the situation, help them clarify the issues, brainstorm ideas to resolve the issues, and reach an agreement that all the students agree on.
Who can participate in peer mediation?
Some schools have their own peer mediation programs. Other schools contact Good Shepherd Mediation Program when students are involved in conflicts that interrupt with school activities. For example, when students are suspended for fighting, the school may require the students to come to Good Shepherd Mediation Program and participate in mediation prior to being able to return to school. Typically, the students involved in the conflict are the only participants. Sometimes teachers or parents participate if they are involved in the issues (e.g., school attendance, homework, behavior).
School Attendance Mediation
What is School Attendance Mediation?
School Attendance Mediation is a process that helps parents, caregivers, and schools find workable solutions to resolve children's truancy and lateness problems. Often when families and or school personnel get together to discuss the barriers to school attendance, other concerns surface such as peer relationships; homework; transportation issues (e.g., can't afford enough school tokens for all siblings); fears (e.g., school phobia, worries about bullying, crime or street violence); housework/chores; curfews; communication; relationships with siblings; and money.
How are youth referred to School Attendance Mediation?
Students who miss several days each month may be developing a pattern of truancy. It is important to identify them early because chronically truant children often drop out of school and become delinquent. Mediation can be an effective means of improving school attendance, reducing the dropout rate, and reducing juvenile delinquency. Students with poor school attendance and tardiness are referred by teachers, schools, the Department of Human Services, Family Court, the police, faith-based institutions, and community-based institutions.
Who serves as the mediator and what is the mediator's role?
The mediator is a trained volunteer who does not take sides or give legal advice. The role of the mediator is to make sure that everyone has an opportunity to speak, that all sides understand each other, and that the participants work together to resolve issues.
How Does Mediation Work?
Mediation is a conversation facilitated by a mediator. The participants typically include the student, the student's parents or caregivers, and often a representative from the school.
Parents or caregivers, the student and teachers meet privately with the mediator. The mediator sets some basic rules and then each side has an opportunity to speak without being interrupted. The mediator helps the participants understand each other's points of view, clarify the issues, and brainstorm possible solutions. The decisions reached by the group will be put in writing. Everyone signs the document to confirm their commitment to being responsible for fulfilling the terms of the agreement.
Mediation is also used for large-scale situations that involve groups. Multi-party mediation is used to address intra and inter-group issues. As a community mediation center, the Good Shepherd Mediation Program is often called upon to mediate issues involving neighborhoods, community-based organizations, and public-private issues where diverse interests have caused divisiveness in the group. Recent disputes have involved:
- Street vendors
- Church noise
- Street closings
- Location of new businesses
- Community-based "quality of life" issues
The dictionary definition of "facilitate" is "to make easier." Meeting facilitators are trained third-party neutrals who provide process leadership and process expertise to help groups accomplish their meeting goals harmoniously through dialogue rather than debate. The Good Shepherd Mediation Program provides facilitators for organizational, informational, decision-making, problem-solving, planning and dispute resolution meetings, including:
- Problem-solving (facilitation as a conflict prevention measure)
- Board retreats
- Workplace retreats
- Team-building retreats
- Planning meetings
- Public policy meetings
- Town Meetings
What is the role of the facilitator?
Prior to the meeting, the facilitator works with you to:
- Assess needs (e.g., sometimes surveys, personal or telephone interviews wit group members are necessary)
- Establish meeting goals (i.e., desired outcomes)
- Select a meeting process to best achieve those goals
- Determine who should be present at the meeting and how they will be invited
- Determine whether the meeting will be closed or open to the public or the media
- Coordinate pre ant post meeting logistics
- Create the meeting agenda
- Discuss the decision-making process to be used (e.g., majority vote, consensus)
- Determine how to evaluate the success of the meeting
During the meeting, the facilitator:
- Guides the process
- Serves as the "gatekeeper," inviting people to speak, keeping others from dominating the discussion, etc.
- Encourages participation
- Keeps the discussion focused on the topic
- Protects ideas and individuals from attack
- Fosters creativity and good will
- Does not take sides, evaluate or contribute ideas
- Harmonizes (i.e., calms, reduces tension and emotions, identifies feelings)
- Works with a "recorder" who keeps a "group memory" on newsprint that is visible to all participants
- Debriefs with the group prior to adjourning the meeting
After the meeting, the facilitator and the recorder:
- Prepare a report and follow-up roles and responsibilities
- Debriefs with the meeting organizers
- Participates in the meeting evaluation process, where appropriate
"Conflict resolution coaching" is a conflict assessment and planning process involving a neutral "coach" and a person experiencing conflict. The goals are to: (1) examine the person's views about conflict and how he or she deals with it; (2) prepare the person mentally and emotionally to approach the other person involved in the conflict; and (3) develop a plan for how to address the conflict situation and achieve the optimal outcome. Conflict coaching is an option for people who request mediation and the responding party declines the invitation to mediate.