Where do we draw the line?
Aug 31, 2010
Sometimes interesting things happen when I’m pre-conferencing juvenile offenders with their parents. Often, it’s the juvenile and his/her mother there for the meeting. Generally, we start with the parent being defensive, protective of his/her child. Yet, as we discuss the incident that brought their family to restorative justice, other things tend to come up such as conflict between the parent and juvenile. Sometimes these are related directly to the offense sometimes they are not. I always feel that I’m walking a fine line as facilitator when this happens.
Of course, I try to keep the conversation on track in relation to the offense. We talk about what happened, who was affected, how they were affected, etc. Yet, these other issues find their way into the conversation. Usually, child and parent start talking to each other. It’s like a space has opened for each to express something and they take it. Generally, I just sit and watch unless one or the other starts talking over the other.
It happened recently as I met with a young offender and parent. The pre-conference lasted a little over an hour. At least half of that time was spent with the parent and teenager talking to each other. Some of their conversation consisted of issues specifically related to the offense; some of it was other things going on in their family. Yet, it was also a part of the offense or at least the impact of the offense and its underlying causes on the family.
As I sat and watch, I wondered what I should do. The pre-conference was definitely over, but it was like the mother and daughter needed to talk. I had no other appointments. The space wasn’t needed, but it was getting outside the realm of why we were there. Plus, restorative justice isn’t about counselling. Still, it is about communication, about people sharing among themselves and finding their own solutions. So, I’m never quite sure what to do. I tend to let them talk as long as it seems productive and they feel comfortable. But, I always remain in my role as facilitator not offering advice or anything else.
I’m wondering if other facilitators face the same issue and how they respond. Should I stick to the case specific issues or let the conversation continue if the parties seem to benefitting from it?
Where do you draw the line?