The tragedy in Newtown, Conn., left us heartbroken and looking for answers. No doubt the shooting was a result of many underlying issues, but as a mediation and family services center, we are asking ourselves: Might the lack of opportunity to resolve conflicts be one contributing factor?
Anger, hostility, neighborhood disputes and family conflict are everyday occurrences in every community. In your daily interactions, you are aware how situations can escalate as frustration intensifies. As we ask ourselves how we can prevent the escalation of such horrifying events in the future, we want you to know that Community Mediation Services provides free resources.
We provide a forum for individuals and families alike to come together and express concerns, issues and problems in a safe, judgment free zone. Trained mediators facilitate communication, acknowledge emotions and identify personal goals. They then model thoughtful problem solving as an alternative to demands and confrontation. In addition, we work in schools to provide skills training and develop peer mediation programs.
At CMS, we serve more than 2,000 cases annually, including hundreds of families each year in which parents and children fail to see eye to eye on any of a myriad of issues. Many other cases are couples seeking to resolve parenting issues or structure a divorce. We mediate between victims and their young offenders who take personal responsibility and achieve the kind of justice the victim helps create.
Sometimes people need more help than our mediators are able to provide. In those cases, appropriate referrals are made to local mental health or related service system providers, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, family members take advantage of the opportunity to transform conflict into a reality of greater clarity, shared well-being and increased trust. This helps to heal wounds before the hurt grows to intolerable levels. If we do not succeed, we all lose.
Now is a critical time to support our work. The state Unified Court System issued its next budget, which cuts $200,000 from the state community mediation system. Rather than expand our services more broadly into the community, we may lose staff. As we move forward, trying to make sense of the senseless, we encourage you to keep CMS and the work we do in mind.
Violence is a public health issue. It is a disease that knows no economic or geographic boundary. While mediation is not the panacea to all world’s ills, it is surely a strong enough vaccine to help many of our community brethren, be they disturbed neighbors, school bullies or intransigent teenagers. It is the only alternative for such conflicts other than court.
So it is with a heavy heart that I write this letter, but I continue to have hope for a world able to find greater peace, recognizing the heavy load of work that remains to be done. Please call on us as the need arises.
What if all conflicts could be resolved this way?
Community Mediation Services