While the faltering economy means less business for a growing number of companies and retailers, it also brings increased demand for the services provided by many nonprofit organizations. Mid Shore Community Mediation Center expects the number of mediations it will have conducted over the twelve-month period ending March 31 to increase almost 60 percent from the previous period.
Executive Director Peter Taillie attributes much of the growth to the economic downturn. “People are in trouble and they have fewer resources for helping themselves,” he said. “Community mediation offers a no-cost, confidential option for speedier resolution of difficulties.”
Taillie explained that community mediation exists in the interest of peaceful communities. Difficult economic times bring stresses to the fabric of families and society that can escalate into conflicts and violence. Increasingly, individuals and the courts are recognizing community mediation as what Taillie calls “bargain basement stress relief” for those who cannot afford the time, expense or public exposure of litigation.
Mid Shore Community Mediation Center helps parties resolve just about any kind of dispute. Issues between neighbors, tenants and landlords, or employers and employees all can be resolved with the neutral participation of the Center’s volunteer mediators. Growing areas of activity are teen mediations, where the parties may involve parents, other adults or other teens, and separation mediations, including the development of parenting plans.
In any mediation, it is the parties to the dispute who work out their own mutually agreed-upon solution. The mediators are there to make sure that everyone’s voice and concerns are heard in a fair and impartial manner. All mediations remain confidential.
Teen mediators participate in all sessions where one of the parties is a teen. More teen mediators are needed for this growing specialty. The Mediation Center will conduct basic training for new teen mediators in April. Those interested may contact the Center for details.
Taillie noted that the organization is now working with the Department of Juvenile Services in Caroline County, conducting exit interviews at intakes of juvenile cases to see if mediation is appropriate. “Mediation has an important role as a diversion program for keeping kids out of the system,” he added.
In addition to mediation’s benefits in resolving conflicts before they escalate, keeping youths and disputes of all kinds out of the courts helps to relieve the strain on overworked judicial resources, even while taxing those of the Mediation Center itself.
While the nonprofit organization relies on about 50 active volunteers as mediators, staff handle all referrals, and must coordinate numerous parties’ schedules in order to arrange each mediation session. The Center depends upon grants and donations as funding for the no-cost community service it provides, competition for which grows in economic downturns.
Taillie, however, is optimistic about the future of Mid Shore Community Mediation Center and its benefits to the Dorchester, Caroline and Talbot County communities it serves. “I’m seeing a paradigm shift,” he said, “with the concept of mediation becoming accepted more and more by the people who bring changes to the public.
“During this stressful time, people are in conflict more than ever. Mediation can be an option for those who feel they have no options left.”
For more information on mediation, to make a contribution, or to volunteer as a mediator, call Mid Shore Community Mediation Center at 410-820-5553 or visit www.midshoremediation.org.