Access Youth: Mediation Stories
Several kids were throwing rocks at a car. Inside was a man, a single father who worked two jobs, and his 6-year-old daughter. The police came, and all but one kid ran away.
ACCESS Youth contacted the man, and asked him to come in for a mediation, explaining that it can be effective for the offender to meet with the victim. The boy was there with his mother, also a single parent. The father of the little girl was understandably angry.
“Why were you throwing rocks?” he asked the boy. “Why at my car?”
“The other kids were doing it,” the boy replied.
“Do you know where I live?” the man asked. They were neighbors, living just around the corner. Now, said the man, his daughter had something else, someone else, to be afraid of.
“I would never hurt her,” the boy said.
And the man asked the boy two unexpected questions: Have you seen “Antwone Fisher”? Do you like popcorn? A complete shift happened. The father came in angry, and he ended up talking to the kid, and offering to let him help out with chores around the house, and to watch a movie about a troubled young man. He could tell the boy didn’t have a strong male presence in his life.
“I didn’t want to come,” the man said. “I thought it was a waste of time, but now instead of me avoiding that block, now we’re neighbors.” ACCESS Youth gave them that chance.
- this story is based on an interview with Jodi Ovca, founder and executive director of ACCESS Youth.
At one point, we were receiving a number of mediations involving young women getting into fights at a particular high school. On one such occasion, three young ladies and their respective parents met at the police station to discuss what had happened.
They had all been arrested for their involvement in a large school fight. There probably were a dozen teens involved in the main fight, but these girls were the ones arrested. They were not particularly interested in mediation and their parents were pretty frustrated at having to attend. It came to light that the school had already done a cursory mediation, which had frustrated the girls further, because none of them understood exactly why they specifically had gotten in so much trouble.
The message I got from them was essentially "Everyone is angry with us, but we weren't the only ones...and no one is listening to us."
None of them felt that they were really responsible for the fight, but they all got into trouble. Therefore part of the mediation centered on them beginning to understand that even if they did not start the fight, they probably played a role.
Inevitably most kids come to this sense of responsibility slowly on their own, as long as they have had a chance to really tell their side AND really hear the other side (as well as how their involvement in fights impacts their parents, the police and the school).
At one point during this mediation, I asked the parents to tell what was going well with the girls despite their involvement in the fight. This helped them to hear their strengths and know that their parents noticed these strengths even when they were getting into trouble. It also helped me to better facilitate an agreement that was realistic and supported them in cultivating these strengths.
ltimately, with all mediations, we want to know how the participants are going to move forward and avoid or diffuse this kind of problem in the future. The girls came up with lots of creative solutions to this effect, mostly involving getting away when they begin to recognize the signs of a fight, and not further instigating it.
- this story was sent via email to The Daily Do Good by ACCESS Youth board member Jessica Quaranto. It has been edited for length