Helping America's Most Vulnerable

Transforming Conflict, Preserving Relationships

Community Mediation Services Program is "Life Changing"

Over the past year, a Maine farm family had trouble communicating as they worked to bring the next generation into the business side of the farm. Tensions developed in their relationships and they were at a loss as to the next steps.

Long hours and new ideas threatened longstanding farm traditions, complicated by an unclear structure for roles and responsibilities. Trying to find a balance between business and family relationships created a great deal of strife amongst family members.

Through it all, family love and respect remained. They all wanted the farm to be a viable operation for future generations. Following a recommendation, they came to Volunteers of America Northern New England's Community Mediation Services (CMS) for help.

CMS assisted the family with a series of facilitated management team meetings and mediation sessions. Together, CMS and the family worked through tough challenges: how to maintain harmonious family relationships regardless of business needs, establishing a clear succession plan, cultivating a team atmosphere, and developing well-structured business meetings that will leave family relationships undisturbed.

With the help of Volunteers of America, the power and strength of the family, and of the farm business, has been preserved.

Along with our efforts in the agricultural community, CMS has been focusing on work with seniors and their families, building programs that empower families to address challenges before they reach a crisis point. We help adult children talk with their parents about the care parents will receive as they age, and we work with siblings about estate management after a loved one passes.

Community Mediation Services' goal is to empower family members to find constructive ways to handle conflict and make plans for their future.

CMS has also been in the workplace, facilitating group sessions on building and maintaining high-functioning teams and working with individuals to resolve issues with co-workers and managers.

“Life Changing” was how one of the new mediators described her 40 hour Basic Mediation training. Two to three times each year, CMS offers mediation trainings to groups of 16 – 20 individuals. Classes meet over five days and study topics including the brain on conflict, mediation models, working with challenging behaviors, understanding bias, and ethics (including confidentiality and neutrality). Students also learn skills like active listening and effective questioning.

From the second day of training, students are “in the mediator seat” through intensive role-play scenarios applying what they’ve learned in the classroom. "It is amazing how real the scenarios are," one student said, "Even though we are playing fictional characters, I feel like I learned real life lessons in the process."

Click here for information about trainings and other mediation services