UW Extension and Restorative Justice have SO much in common!

I recently attended a summit on the social-emotional well-being of children and families in Pierce & St. Croix Counties.  These are the same counties that SCVRJP has been serving since 2001.

I certainly appreciated hearing the term, the focus and intention of the summit.  I updated my Facebook that day:

Spent the day “social-emotional  well-being” of children.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times:  restorative justice addresses the social & emotional aspects of crime & conflict.  We use values!

The summit shared the definition of Social-Emotional Well-Being (from Zero to Three, National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families) refers to the developing capacity of a child to:

  • form close and secure adult and peer relationships
  • experience, regulate, and express emotions in social and culturally appropriate ways
  • explore their environment and learn

From the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families:

“To focus on social and emotional well-being is to attend th children’s behavioral, emotional and social functioning – those skills, capacities, and characteristics that enable young people to understand and navigate their world in healthy, positive ways.”

In Restorative Justice Circles, the process beings with gentle, intention explanation and invitation to the Circle.  The physical ways the Circle will work are explained.  This provided the structure and safety within the process.  It makes is so important for keepers to model Circle elements.  The values of relationship are used to set up the social and emotional safety and structure of the Circle.  Some students ‘test’ and I see that as their exploration of the environment (3rd bullet above), and you can offer a teaching them the power of how it works when we listen and take turns speaking.

Circles obviously provide for the first bullet, close and secure.  I believe a Restorative Justice Talking Circle (facilitated will all elements) is the safest group process available to mankind.  Safety and listening allow deep connection.  I’ve seen teens shed the boundaries from social groups and connect in Circle.

For bullet 2 above, Circle allows a free flow of expression when you have the talking piece.  The non-judgemental environment allows students to speak through the experience.  This helps them navigate, regulate and express themselves appropriately.  I am reminded of a student expressing her fears for her Father, he was to go to jail, and she was worried about his health and medication needs.  How more appropriate to express it to the Circle, by talking about it, than by stuffing it and acting out.

I remember another student explaining that when he shared in Circle he learned things about himself he didn’t even know.  Uncovering the layers of who we are finding connection to others is where we experience our humanity.

We owe it to our youth to give them modeling and group process of being socially and emotionally supported.  I agree with supporting the well-being of our children on these aspects.  I hope we do this by increasing the use of Restorative Justice Circles.