Editor's Note: April 10-16 is Crime Victims Rights Week. Throughout the week, The Daily Press will be publishing opinion columns on the subject authored by local officials and agencies who aid and support the victims of crime.
- - -
By Cheryl A. Goc
Resolution Services Program
ESCANABA - The Resolution Services Program began in 1994 under the umbrella agency called the Upper Peninsula Service Continuum, Inc. In 1998, when the Continuum disbanded, the program moved under the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress Services, Inc. (UPCAP Services, Inc.).
Since the Resolution Services Program began, the main source of funding is from the Supreme Court of Michigan, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Fund as established by legislation in 1988. As the problems of adults and communities began coming to mediation, the advisory committee recognized the need for educating and training youth. Since the year 2000 the program has been seeking funds and volunteers to teach peace making and peer mediation in area schools. At the end of the grant period the schools will have all the basic materials to continue on with the project with only having to supply the necessary workbooks at a minimal cost to the schools.
The mission of the program is to provide low cost, confidential mediation services to the residents of Delta, Menominee and Schoolcraft counties using a pool of trained mediators. The Resolution Services Program also seeks to foster understanding of restorative justice principals and values. The program collaborates with communities, organizations, schools and criminal justice system to work for safe and healthy communities.
Current programs, activities and accomplishments include:
- Free community mediation in three counties using volunteers.
- Victim/offender mediation for juveniles and adults. In an effort to hold the offenders accountable for their actions, they meet face to face with their victim, facilitated by a trained mediator.
- Divorce mediation offers assistance in division of assets and liabilities, parenting time and custody decisions.
- Special Education mediation assists parents and school districts in coming to an agreement on what is best for the special education student.
- Facilitate-Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel. Victims tell their stories of how their lives have been affected by crashes caused by alcohol related crashes. Alcohol offenders are ordered to attend these presentations as a crash course in social responsibility.
- Public policy mediation is an intervention strategy where mediators assist disputing parties in a negotiation process typically involving issues that concern the public.
- Independent facilitators are trained volunteers to provide services with Northcare Network for mental health agencies and clients.
- Various agencies and programs have included UPCAP Resolution Services Program as a part of their grievance procedure.
- Michigan Department of Civil Rights utilizes our center to assist with civil rights complaints that originate within the three counties we service.
- Federal Forest Service uses our services to handle employment complaints with the three counties we provide service.
- Access and visitation provides parenting time mediation as well as custody issues.
The services we offer are an entirely voluntary process where parties in conflict meet with a well-trained community volunteer in order to work toward a solution agreeable to everyone involved. The mediator does not represent either party or impose a settlement. The parties themselves determine the outcome in a face-to-face meeting.
Some of the benefits of using "community mediation" include a fast and effective resolution, and strict confidentiality. There is little to lose because the parties are free to seek a solution through other means if no agreement is reached in mediation.
We do not represent or advocate for either side. We are simply committed to making peace in the community.
- - -
Cheryl A. Goc is a program coordinator/intake specialist with the Resolution Services Program.