Author Archive

How Your Donation Helps

How Your Donation Helps

Making a Difference in the Lives of Children, Families and Communities

How Your Donation Helps

A child can sleep more peacefully, no longer anxious about where he’ll lay his head to rest on which nights…
The child’s parents mediated a Parenting Plan at Concord Mediation Center. This plan will provide specifics for parenting their children from two homes now, instead of one.

An elderly couple can go about their daily routine, no longer feeling like they were targets of vandals who spray painted angry words on their garage…
The retired couple met with one of the vandals during a Victim Youth Conference at Concord Mediation Center, learning that the act of vandalism was random. The teenager involved learned about the impact his behavior had on others and agreed to reimburse the couple for their clean-up efforts.

Members of a corporate board of directors finish their annual planning retreat facilitated by Concord Mediation Center, confident in the knowledge that each viewpoint was heard and validated, and that the company’s future is secure for another year…
The company’s leaders were pleased to work with a professional facilitator for their meeting, arranged through Concord Mediation Center. The business’s accounting department was happy that this process was both time- and cost-effective.

Adult siblings can work together via a facilitated meeting regarding their mother’s skilled nursing needs, having cleared the air over old arguments and perceived slights…
The brother and sister sat down with trained facilitators at Concord Mediation Center and created a plan for their aging parent’s care, putting their mother’s needs above their own.

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Last year, Concord Mediation Center worked with people just like those noted above – people in Sarpy and Douglas Counties – people who are experiencing conflict.

The non-profit agency works with people involved in:

  • parenting plan mediations,
  • victim youth conferences,
  • workplace conflicts,
  • elder care mediation,
  • small claims court disputes,
  • consumer-merchant issues,
  • special education concerns,
  • child abuse/child welfare cases, and
  • landlord-tenant disagreements.

This equates to hundreds of individuals who will sleep more peacefully tonight.

When you donate to Concord Mediation Center, we can continue to help children, families and communities. Many of our clients report low- to no-incomes. But we provide services, regardless of a client’s ability to pay. Your generous donations help subsidize the cost of services.

Since 1999, Concord Mediation Center has provided alternative dispute resolution services. These services can be less adversarial, more time- and cost-effective than those involving the legal system and can help ease the caseloads of our over-burdened courts.

We invite you to donate now, at https://concordmediationcenter.com/about/donate/

Thank you in advance for your support of this important cause!

Best wishes to you and yours during the holiday season!

Retribution vs. Restoration

Retribution vs. Restoration

Restorative Justice is an option for juvenile offenders

Retribution vs. Restoration

Did you know the cost of one teen spending one year in a detention center is the equivalent of two to three years’ tuition at an Ivy League school?

Did you realize that you and other taxpayers are footing the bill for juvenile offenders’ incarceration?

Aside from the direct costs of incarcerating juveniles – such as the funds required for operating detention facilities – taxpayers pay in the long term as well in the form of lost future earnings, lost tax revenue and other ripple effects that the Justice Policy Institute estimates costs state and local governments nationwide somewhere between $8 billion and $21 billion annually. Per U.S. News & World Report

When a juvenile is sentenced to jail or a detention center, this is an example of “retributive or punitive” justice. Punitive justice is the traditional system of dealing with those who are charged with a crime, based on the punishment of offenders, rather than on rehabilitation.

There is an alternative when a youth commits a crime: Restorative Justice

Because relationships are at the heart of Restorative Justice, the process enables everyone affected by the crime to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.

Studies show that Restorative Justice reduces crime victims’ post- traumatic stress symptoms and the victims’ desire for revenge against the offender.

Victims report satisfaction that justice has been done when they have a voice in the process.

Offenders have insights as to how their actions affected others; not just the direct victims, but victims’ spouses, children, parents and the community.

When members of the community participate in the Restorative Justice
process, they play a part in helping to restore trust, demonstrating empathy for others and assist in rebuilding public safety.

Restorative Justice has also shown to reduce repeat offending for some offenders and helps reduce the costs of criminal justice.

The Restorative Justice process, offered by Concord Mediation Center:

  • provides victims with an opportunity to tell their story, address the harm caused and find answers to questions that are important to them;
  • provides offenders with an opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to be held accountable by those they harmed; and,
  • empowers communities to gain a better understanding of the root causes of crime and allow the community to express and reduce its fears.

Healing begins with Restorative Justice.

The balance of trust, rebuilding relationships and community safety begins with restoration. When the victim, the offender and members of the community come together in the Restorative Justice process, the healing process begins, as each party sees the other as a human being.

For more information, contact Concord Mediation Center at 402-345-1131 or email us at contact@concord-center.com.

Parents, School Come Together in Spec Ed Mediation

Parents, School Come Together in Spec Ed Mediation

Parents, School Come Together in Special Education Mediation

Special education mediation is a process in which a mediator helps families with a special needs child and school district personnel work together to create and implement a free, appropriate education.

The mediator is a third-party, neutral person who will help the participants come to a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediators are trained not to offer opinions or solutions to the issues in dispute but rather to focus on assisting parties to hear one another’s concerns, identify common interests and seek out creative, mutually agreeable resolutions.

A mediated dialogue can take place at any point in the student’s education. This includes issues during the identification of a child in need of special education, to conflicts between parents and teachers or school principals, to questions regarding the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), which is geared to a child’s learning needs and abilities. If the parents and educators are unable to work out the dispute themselves and a formal complaint is made, mediation is also a part of due process.

Why Should You Consider Special Education Mediation?

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) created a law that promises every child with a disability a “free appropriate public education,” which means individualized special education and related services designed to meet a child’s unique needs.

However, each school district may have its own plans, tools and curriculum to meet those needs. And parents may disagree with the school’s plan.

Parents may have concerns they feel are not being addressed, and mediation is one option available to them and the school district. Parties may request mediation because they are committed to mending damaged relationships, but feel the need for a third party, such as a mediator, to help.

“Special education mediation has been promoted as a valuable process, in part, because of its promise for resolving such conflicts in a way that prevents the escalation of adversarial relationships and fosters norms of collaboration among parents and schools,” note Branda L. Nowell and Deborah A. Salem, in the professional publication “Remedial and Special Education.”

Jane R. Wettach, Clinical Professor of Law, Duke Law School and Director of Duke Children’s Law Clinic, wrote in “Preparing for Special Education Mediation and Resolution Sessions,” that successful mediation participants are:

  • Mentally ready, open to fresh thinking, willing to entertain new ideas and prepared to see others’ points of view;
  • Open to seeing people in a new light;
  • Optimistic about resolving the situation;
  • Willing to accept some level of compromise;
  • Willing to accept someone else’s proposal;
  • Respectful of the school district personnel’s time/money/need to take other children into account;
  • Able to assume that all parties are operating in good faith, want to see the child make progress and will carry out agreements.

Tips for success in mediation

“Everyone should be encouraged to go beyond conventional thinking, offer ideas to the other participants in the negotiations and be open to suggestions from them,” noted Wettach. “Everyone should work hard to avoid criticizing new ideas prematurely. The goal is to broaden rather than eliminate options. Everyone should strive for mutual gain. Certainly, everyone in the special education process benefits when the students and teachers are successful and behavior problems are reduced.”

Special Education Mediation service at no cost

Concord Mediation Center has a contract with Nebraska’s Department of Education to provide special education mediation at NO COST to the parties involved.

If you have questions regarding special education mediation, please call us at 402-345-1131 .

Restorative Justice Recognized

Restorative Justice Recognized

Concord Mediation Center’s Restorative Justice practices were recognized statewide recently.

Nebraska Supreme Court Chief Justice Michael Heavican, in his State of the Judiciary Speech on Thursday, January 17, noted the restorative justice efforts for juvenile offenders. Heavican noted, “This model is called Victim Youth Conferencing. Victim Youth Conferencing involves the convening of a meeting, conducted by a trained professional, between low-risk delinquents and the victim(s) of their wrong-doing. During this process, emphasis is placed on reparations for the victim(s), and appropriate rehabilitation for juvenile offenders. Use of the Victim Youth Conferencing program considerably reduces the odds of recidivism of juveniles and the odds of future involvement in the adult criminal system.”

“The Office of Dispute Resolution received a grant of over $1 million for a 3-year period to expand juvenile restorative justice services to interested counties statewide. Some of the early participating counties include Buffalo, Dodge, Douglas, Lancaster, Pawnee, Red Willow, Sarpy, and Scotts Bluff,” said Heavican. Concord Mediation Center serves Douglas and Sarpy Counties.

Heavican said the Victim Youth Conferencing program “has been evaluated by outside academics. These academics noted the successful rate of reparations to victims and the positive responses of both victims and juvenile participants.”

Concord Mediation Center provides Victim Youth Conferencing services. Contact the center for more information.

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The Neuroscience of Conflict

The Neuroscience of Conflict

What happens in our brains when we fight, argue and quarrel?

The Neuroscience of Conflict

Conflict exists when one person has a need of another person and that need is not
being met. Conflict between people is a normal, natural and inevitable part of life. If we
feel anxious, angry or threatened, our brains default to a “fight or flight” physiological
reaction.

The study of the relationship between our nervous system and our brain is called
neuroscience. What happens in our brain when we sense conflict? When faced with
conflict, it’s good to know how the brain works so we can work to override negative
patterns based upon our experiences. (This is called “neuroplasticity,” and it’s the ability
to make new neural connections.)

When we become angry, the amyglada, part of the limbic system in our brain, is
Inundated with hormones such as cortisol, adrenaline and testosterone. In effect, we
become “high” on conflict.

If we’re shown acknowledgment and feel that we’re heard, the front or neocortex part of
the brain, which is responsible for higher thinking and reasoning, is flooded with
serotonin, oxytocin and dopamine. These are hormones that are released when we
experience trust and respect.

When you recognize the initial stages of fight or flight. Dr. Kenneth Miller, Ph.D.,
suggests a pause. “Before you respond in a conversation, take a breath. Just a normal
simple breath.” Why does this work? First, Miller notes, it stops you from accidentally
interrupting whoever’s speaking. Second, the pause gives you a chance to reconsider
your own response. You might even decide to say nothing at all.

Once you have paused and taken a breath, use active listening techniques to help the
other person connect with his or her neocortex. Pay attention. Restate or paraphrase
what the other person has said. Summarize. Don’t interrupt. Empathize. Validate the
other person, indicating “I appreciate your willingness to talk about this difficult issue” or
“You seem angry about this situation.” Always respond respectfully.

Avoid fight or flight responses — genuine, active listening skills can be used the next
time you feel angry, to help diffuse conflict.

Focus on Children

Focus on Children

Divorcing Parents: Put Your Child’s Needs Ahead of Your Own

“It’s like when something you really love breaks and you can’t put it back together.”

“When my parents are fighting, I feel like I have to be the peacemaker.”

“Sometimes, I feel that it’s my fault my mom moved out.”

These are actual statements made by children talking about their parents’ divorce, in the documentary film “Divorce Through Kids’ Eyes.”

This video is featured in Concord Mediation Center’s “What About the Child” class. The Parenting class is designed to explore the life-changing and at times,frightening, separation of children’s parents.

January is Child-Centered Divorce Month, and we encourage all parents to act and behave in their child’s best interests.

When you focus on what is best for your kids and not what is self-serving nor turns out to be retribution toward your former partner, you will have a child-centered divorce.

The most powerful action divorcing parents can take to protect their children is to pledge not to expose them to adult conversations, adult situations or adult arguments.

Simple Exercise for ALL parents, married or divorced

The next time you are about
to get into an argument with the other parent,
do this:

Take out a photo of your children
or create a mental picture of your kids.
Look at those sweet, innocent faces
and repeat the following:

“I know that what I am about to do
is damaging to you and
may affect you forever.

But at this moment,

Is it more important to
indulge my anger
than focus on
your well-being?”

Contact us at 402-345-1131 in Douglas County, 402-345-2252 in Sarpy County, or email us at: contact@concord-center.com for more information.

We invite you to visit our Facebook page for ongoing news.

Encourage Civility

Encourage Civility

National Win With Civility Month

Encourage Civility at Work and in Your Community

“Civility” is more than just being polite to others. Civility is the way you conduct yourself when faced with rude, thoughtless or combatant people – especially when others have differing views or opinions than yours.

Civility has eroded in the last few years, reported 70 percent of respondents of a 2015 Customer Service Group study. It seems too many of us display a lack of cooperation or even simple common courtesy.

August is “National Win With Civility Month,” and this observance reminds us to treat customers, coworkers, family, neighbors and others with courtesy and respect.

The old phrase, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” may sound outdated, but the underlying notion still holds true. (Though, who wants to catch flies?) The idea is that you are more likely to get what you want with a genuinely pleasant, collaborative demeanor rather than with a harsh attitude.

Positive Mediation Outcomes

When you have a disagreement with another party that you are unable to resolve on your own, mediation is an option.

If you and/or the other party are utilizing ineffective communication tools when discussing possible resolutions, such as raised voices, inappropriate language, pointing fingers, interrupting, making faces, being sarcastic or shutting down completely, the opportunity to work with a professional mediator is a great avenue to consider.

When you enter into the mediation process, civility is an approach that can enhance your chances for a win-win outcome. This means coming to the table with the other party in a positive frame of mind. Acting in a civil manner means you will listen respectfully to the other party, you’ll state your relevant issues clearly and you’ll be open to negotiation.

Maintain Professionalism at Work with Civility

Civility can be just as important – and effective – at the workplace. “Healthy work relationships cannot live with distrust, nor without civility,” notes Ty Howard, former professional football player and motivational speaker.

Most people are more productive in a healthy work environment. This doesn’t mean there won’t be disagreements. In fact, disagreements can open the door to constructive discussions on ways to improve upon work processes. As Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said, “It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable.”

How can you help create a more respectful, civil and productive workplace?

  • Start small. Change your tone of voice or physical stance. You may not realize how you are coming across to others. Simple changes could make you seem more approachable, flexible and a good team player.
  • Listen. Focus on being a good listener and acknowledging what the other person is saying. (Instead of listening intently, most people spend time thinking about what they are going to say instead of actually hearing the other speaker.)
  • Be polite. Use kind words and behave by using your best manners.
  • Maintain calm. You may be tempted to get defensive when an associate is critical or rude. Remaining patient and staying calm will help you stay above the fray.
  • Find the “good” in others. It is unlikely you will get along with everyone at the office. But if you keep this positive trait in mind when interacting with a difficult person, you may be able expand your perspective of this person or at least maintain civility.
  • Serve as an example. When you don’t see eye-to-eye with an associate, remember to maintain civility. Don’t seek battles with co-workers just so you can be “right” about a topic. If others feel confident in voicing their opinions, everyone is more likely to work toward “the greater good,” knowing that the group effort will benefit everyone.

Contact Concord Mediation Center at 402-345-1131 when you need assistance in resolving issues with others, while maintaining civility.

Do You Know the Cost of Workplace Conflict?

Stay tuned for information about our upcoming “Lunch And Learns,” designed to help managers, supervisors and employees understand conflict and learn new skills to maintain office morale and productivity!

Be a Good Neighbor

Be a Good Neighbor

Tips to Resolve Conflict

Be a Good Neighbor, Maintain Peace in Your Neighborhood

You come home after a long day at work, looking forward to a relaxing evening. You change clothes, grab the mail and a cold drink, then sit down outside at your patio table. Ahhhh…peace and quiet.

Instead, you hear the neighbor’s radio playing way too loud. You go back inside and you can still hear the pounding musical beats. It seems even your windows are rattling.

Before you stomp over to the neighbor’s house and demand that they turn it down, we offer a few tips to keep the peace in your neighborhood.

  1. Don’t react now, when you are angry, frustrated or impatient. Few people react well to emotionally charged ultimatums. And your problem isn’t likely to be solved. Or, you have created a tension between neighbors that reduces the quality of life for you and your neighbors.
  2. The next time you see the offending neighbor, take a moment to have a friendly conversation. Ask him about his garden, his kids, his work. You’ve created a setting that welcomes open dialogue.
  3. Once you’ve exchanged neighborly pleasantries, you can tell him how the loud music affects you. Don’t be defensive; rather, be direct and polite. Instead of angrily saying, “You must turn down that loud music,” we recommend you phrase your request in a way that builds camaraderie. “How can we work this out?” is a forward-thinking question that indicates you want to work with him to find a positive conclusion.
  4. If your neighbor indicates that he isn’t open to working things out, don’t call 911. This isn’t life-or-death, nor should you escalate the situation to this level. You have other options.
    • You may wish to contact your neighborhood association for their input, including acceptable noise levels.
    • Since it is unlikely either you or your neighbor are moving any time soon and you genuinely want to work things out, another option is mediation. When your usual problem solving skills aren’t working, consider the professional assistance of a neutral, highly trained mediator.

Mediation is more likely to help mend relationships, rather than end relationships.

Check out this article – also on our website – Why Mediation Works  to learn more. And feel free to contact us at 402-345-1131 for more information about how mediation can help.

Omaha Gives! 2017

We are excited to be a part of the metro area’s charitable holiday – Omaha Gives! on May 24! Check back for more details coming soon. Learn more at OmahaGives.org and get ready to prove how generous Omaha can be!

The Power of Listening

The Power of Listening

March is International Listening Awareness Month

The Power of Listening

One of the most critical skills a mediator or facilitator can bring to the table is the ability to be an “active” listener. When working with people engaged in a dispute, our trained mediators use their active listening skills to go beyond just hearing words; they note what people say and do. They listen for facts and emotions. They acknowledge what the parties in conflict are telling them by clarifying messages, then restating those messages so everyone in attendance understands.

Mediators and facilitators build trust and credibility when they utilize active listening skills. If participants share their side of the situation and realize that they being heard by an active listener, they sense that they are being validated, not judged. Mediators recognize that disputants are more willing to open their minds to creative solutions when they feel respected and what they have to say truly matters.

“People start to heal the moment they feel heard.”
~ American author Cheryl Richardson

All of us want to be heard. Unfortunately, most of us are passive listeners. We spend our time waiting to interject our own point of view, rather than being an active listener. Can you recall a time you felt you weren’t being heard? Chances are, rather than being open to perspectives that are different from yours, you dug your heels in deeper and shut down the conversation?
Recognizing that people “shut down” and refuse to find common ground when they feel judged for their comments, our facilitators and mediators are experts at active listening. Here are a couple of examples:

  • Concord Mediation Center’s facilitators arrange a Family Group Conference (or FGC) to bring together families involved in the child welfare system, as well as child welfare agency workers, professionals and community resources. The purpose of this meeting is to create a plan that ensures the child’s safety and meets the family’s needs. (See “A Mother’s Voice Heard During Family Group Conference” on this website for a detailed story of the process.) Facilitators demonstrate their active listening skills to empower the parties to speak up, to give a voice to parents and extended family members and to concentrate on resolving the problems faced by the families that could lead to reunification or permanent placement of the child in a healthy home.
  • During a mediation, our mediators assist those in conflict work toward having a conversation that permits both parties to openly express their hopes for resolution. Communication-based resolution processes like mediation tend to improve the relationship between the parties, which can prevent or minimize future conflicts.

By learning the active listening skills our mediators and facilitators utilize, you can experience the power of listening.

Active listeners:

  • Make a conscious effort to hear not only the words the other person is saying, but also try to understand the complete message being conveyed (including body language).
  • Pay close attention and don’t get distracted.
  • Acknowledge that you hear what is being said. You can nod, smile or encourage the person to continue with verbal comments such as “yes” or “uh huh.”
  • Provide feedback by reflecting back what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is” is an example of listening with respect, without judgement and asking for clarification.
  • Allow the speaker to finish each point before asking questions and don’t interrupt with counter arguments.

Author Alice Duer Miller notes, “People love to talk but hate to listen. Listening is not merely not talking, though even that is beyond most of our powers; it means taking a vigorous, human interest in what is being told us. You can listen like a blank wall or like a splendid auditorium where every sound comes back fuller and richer.”

You can start practicing active listening techniques and use them in conversations with family members, co-workers, neighbors and others in your community. You’ll find that you become a better communicator, improve productivity at work and develop better, fuller, richer relationships.

Omaha Gives! 2017

We are excited to be a part of the metro area’s charitable holiday – Omaha Gives! on May 24! Check back for more details coming soon. Learn more at OmahaGives.org and get ready to prove how generous Omaha can be!

Victim Offender Conferencing

Victim Offender Conferencing

Healing and Hopeful

Victim Offender Conferencing is effective form of Restorative Justice

Following a crime, a victim may feel vulnerable and powerless. Concord Mediation Center’s Victim Offender Conferencing (VOC) provides victims the opportunity to meet with the individual who committed the crime. The goal is to hold the offender accountable for his or her behavior, while providing assistance and making amends to the victims.

(The following is a fictional VOC case study.) The Jones are an elderly couple who have lived in the same house since they married more than 50 years ago. One day, the couple notices graffiti on the side of their detached garage. Curse words have been spray painted in large letters on the building. The couple contacts the police, and during the interview, Mr. Jones wonders aloud if he and his wife are the targets of a local gang. What’s next? Will the perpetrators take the next step and break into the couple’s home? The Jones feel they are at risk for more property damage, if not something worse.

Another neighbor contacts the police, noting that she saw a young man in the neighborhood the day before the graffiti vandalism was discovered. The police use this tip to arrest a teenager, who later admits to the crime.

A VOC can be requested by a number of referral resources who think the offender would benefit from the process, such as a county attorney, a defense attorney, a probation officer, a diversion officer, the offender’s parents or even the offender him/herself. In this case, a juvenile court judge ordered the offender to take part in Victim Offender Conferencing.

TOGETHER, THE VICTIMS AND THE OFFENDER  FIGURE OUT HOW TO MAKE THINGS RIGHT

Concord Mediation Center’s mediators conduct preliminary individual meetings with the offender and the victim to assess the appropriateness of this case, including the willingness of the parties to participate fully and benefit from the process. For the sake of our story, the mediators were convinced of the readiness of the parties, and moved forward, arranging for the VOC.

The meeting begins with Mr. Jones describing the incident. Mrs. Jones shares how the incident impacted the couple’s lives, by living in fear, experiencing sleepless nights and wondering how, on their fixed incomes, they would be able to fix the damage to their property. They ask the young man why they were targeted for this crime and if he understood why they didn’t feel safe in their own home.

The young man is faced with the knowledge that his actions were more than a stupid prank. Together with the victims, he sees the real human costs of his actions. The victims and the offender then figure out how to make things right.

The mediators help facilitate the discussion between the Jones, the teenager and the young man’s parents to find the best way for the offender to repair the harm he caused. The young man will use the earnings from his after-school job to pay for the paint and will arrange a date with the Jones to come to their house to paint over the graffiti. The teenager agrees to participate in a community-based youth group, to identify more positive peer groups. The VOC session concludes with all participants signing an agreement that specifies their expectations and commitment.

While this story is fictional, the steps are a realistic depiction of how and why this evidence-based process is an advantageous alternative to the court system.

Many Benefits of a Victim Offender Conference

A VOC:

  • Provides the offender the opportunity to take direct, personal responsibility for the offense;
  • Gives the victim a voice in the process that can assist in closure and healing;
  • Saves the community the cost of incarcerating another offender, by providing an intervention that has a high success rate in reducing recidivism (reoffending).