ELKTON – Disputes between people arise in a number of ways. But those conflicts can be peacefully resolved before they wind up in civil and even criminal court.
Educating the public about those alternatives was the goal of the 8th Annual Conflict Resolution Day Celebration, which was held Oct. 30 in the courtyard in front of the Cecil County Circuit Courthouse on Main Street in Elkton.
The four-hour-long event was sponsored by Family Support Services, Community Mediation Upper Shore (CMUS) and Cecil County Circuit Court. Manning information tables were representatives of groups that provide free help to residents who want to avoid a conflict altogether, knowing a situation is heading in that direction, and to citizens who want to peacefully resolve an existing dispute.
Some of those groups function with trained volunteers, while others are comprised of trained professionals or a combination of the two. Information also was available for people interested in volunteering.
One of the groups present was the Eastern Shore Mobile Crisis Team, which is dispatched to homes and even public places whenever a person experiences a mental health episode that causes a disturbance. Members of that team have the education and training to diffuse such situations.
Yolana Kirby, who is the Family Support Services coordinator, reported that there are disputes between landlords and tenants over rent payments, security deposits, maintenance and such; between estranged or divorced parents over child custody and/or visitation; between neighbors over incessantly barking dogs, property lines and such; and between family members and even friends over an array of issues.
There are groups in Cecil County, including Neighborhood Youth Panel, the Cecil County Community Mediation Center and Project Chesapeake Anger Management, that are available to help directly through mediation and, or, to provide guidance and training to help.
There is an elder program, one of the newer ones, that helps adult children settle disputes over the care of their aging parent or parents.
Kirby reported that because people are living longer, in general, more adult children are finding themselves dealing with the best way to care for their advanced-age parents. Tensions can rise as the adult children decide if they should place the parent in a nursing home, have that parent live with one of the adult children, have the adult children take turns staying with that parent or some other option, she explained.
“It’s called the Silver Tsumani,” Kirby said, referring to the name of the syndrome relating to an ever-increasing number of adult children who are dealing with the care of their aging parents or parent.
The event was held on Wednesday (Oct. 30) because Wednesday was National Conflict Resolution Day, which, part of an international celebration to promote awareness of peaceful conflict resolutions, started in the United States in 2005.
The non-profit CMUS, for example, has more than a dozen mediators who have successfully completed at least 50 hours of training through the Community Mediation Maryland. The mediators help people harmoniously resolve a spectrum of conflicts.
Such disputes often wind up in family court and small claims court if lawsuits are filed and even in criminal court if civilian complaints are filed. In such scenarios, those disputes are resolved by way of judge or jury.
In some cases, going through the court system is the best way to settle a dispute, mediators have told the Cecil Whig during past interviews. Moreover, there are times when disputing parties are told mediation wouldn’t be appropriate.
But there are many suitable times when mediation gives the disputing parties mutual control over the outcomes. Some disputing parties seek mediation first. Others turn to mediation after going through the court system.
The biggest difference between arbitration and mediation hinges on the level of satisfaction – or the lack thereof — that the two disputing parties feel after their conflict has been resolved, according those mediators.
In the case of arbitration, the two quarreling parties tell their sides of the story to a third party – be it an actual arbitrator, a judge or a jury – and then that third party makes the decision. Such arbitration rulings determine, for example, when and where divorced or estranged parents will have their shared custody of their child or their children.
It’s rare that both sides are happy at the end, because there seems to be a winner and a loser when the decision — or ruling — is derived through arbitration.
With mediation, however, the two disputing parties discuss their problem or problems under the supervision of two trained mediators, who ask questions, clarify issues and interject in other ways to move the talks forward in a positive manner.
At the end of the mediation session or sessions, though, it is the two disputing parties that determine what is the best way to peacefully resolve their differences, not the third party.