5 options to make Teen Court more restorative.

Typically when I blog about teen court (links to past posts), I am providing examples about how it is not really Restorative Justice.  I have learned and recognize there are many different models and versions of Teen Court.  I do appreciate the youth development and alternative approach that teen courts can provide.  I am going to use today’s blog post to offer 5 specific ideas on how Teen Court programs might become more restorative.

  1. Decisions about you, should be made with you.  This includes offenders/offending behavior.  Restorative Justice belief: exclusion is a form of violence and violence begets violence.  I am assuming the point of teen court is to “right the wrong” in a way that prevents future harm.  Mixing it up and involving youth offenders in decisions that impact them can be a step towards being more restorative.  This would mean teen juries don’t leave the room.  This would mean the “judge” doesn’t make the final decision without input from all parties.
  2. Move the focus from the procedure of others representing the offender and the victim.  Restorative Justice belief: Justice involves belonging and community.  When another person is involved in presenting/representing/speaking for someone there can be negative consequences.  The speaker might not have the “voice” of the person they are representing.  The silent party might feel on the outside, versus being included.  Restructuring the representation to include direct contribution would make the court more restorative.
  3. Train the youth in Restorative Justice Circles or at very least alternative sanctions.  See what the youth find for comparing and contrasting the two (court or RJ process).  Explore the ideas generated by the youth.  If it really is the “teen’s court” or “youth court” give the students more knowledge, information and skills to work from.  Restorative Justice belief: Restorative Justice is organic and grows in ways and areas reflective of the community.  In my experience courts develop routine and procedures, and those procedures become the focus instead of finding individual case by case accountability.
  4. Use the Restorative Justice questions to learn about the “harm”.  Restorative Justice Belief:  Crime/conflict is harm to relationships, those most impacted, are most relevant to making things right.  Ask what happened, who was impacted, what is needed to make things right.  Focus the discussion and exploration of the incident on ways that frame up the context of the incident.  Rather than proving right/wrong, guilty/not guilty look to identify systemic challenges that contributed and seek solutions rather than punishments.
  5. Dismantle the physical hierarachy.  At very least, shape into a Circle.  Restorative Justice Belief:  Peacemaking Circles are a process with a specific philosophy and key elements. I remember being horrified at a professional conference and seeing a Circle demonstration where the talking piece was used by those in Circle to take turns asking shaming questions of the offender.  At the same moment I was proud of my coworker, when her head spun toward me in disbelief!  We don’t know what we don’t know.  If you are going to do Peacemaking Circles, I suggest getting training, practice and more training and practice.  I do recommend trying to be a bit more restorative and instead of tables across from each other, or people sitting in structures of role, you simply move to a more democratic seating arrangement.

If you test any of these, please let me know how it turns out.  Years of experience in many, many kinds of Circles, I do depend and promote the use of Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles, it is my bias.  However, I have come to learn that small changes can have big impact.  I also heard myself tell a training audience . . . “you have to crawl before you can walk and walk before you can run”.  Maybe one of these 5 will move a Teen Court towards running full speed with Circle process!

How to use Peacemaking Circle assumptions for Restorative Justice facilitation.

The Peacemaking Circle assumptions, published in Circle Forward and Heart of Hope:

  1. The True Self in Everyone Is Good, Wise, and Powerful
  2. The World is profoundly Interconnected
  3. All Human Beings have a Deep Desire to be in a Good Relationship
  4. All Humans Have Gifts & Everyone Is Needed for What They Bring
  5. Everything We Need to Make Positive Change Is Already Here
  6. Human Beings are Holistic
  7. We Need Practices to Build Habits of Living from the Core Self

Podcast on school-based Restorative Justice, authors of Circle Forward, from Restorative Justice on the Rise: CLICK HERE.

These assumptions are “ideas” and we can connect to these by how we feel about them.  Once these concepts are learned, we can move them into concrete practice.  One of the concrete practices I’ve developed is to validate the experience of those that have been harmed and those that have caused harm.  A concrete practice is how you talk with others the language you use.

Restorative Justice practitioners are called to advocate for repairing the harm.  Around that harm is the victim, offender and community.  Engaging those 3 parties fully, means honoring their wisdom about the harm.

The relationship between the restorative justice coordinator and these beliefs is important.  I talk about “wisdom of the lived experience” when I first meet people.  I validate the growth mindset, and work from a framework of post-traumatic growth instead of PTSD.

One of the first things you ever told me back in 2012 was that I survived much, and survival created wisdom. Thanks so much for lifting me up in that way, It meant the world and still does.  It took courage beyond imagination to contact you, no regrets. Never in a million years could I have ever imagined we’d be going on prison visits over the years to come.

Restorative Justice professionals are no different than any other, we get caught up in our knowledge and expertise.  It takes skill and practice to have the humility to honor others wisdom.  The quote above is from an email I recently received, it is a reminder that when starting a relationship (especially one that is for severe crime), what you say has lasting impact.

 

Restorative Justice when offenders don’t want community involved.

How a restorative justice practitioner handles challenges in the preparation stage is very important.  One common challenge is those that caused harm, or their parents, push back against community involvement.  Thanks to the Ministry of Justice, Jamaica for this image:restorative-justice-three-parties

My recommendation so to find out where this resistance is from, try to understand the concern and then offer an appropriate response to move forward.  It is very important is to work through these concerns so those participating fully understand what the Restorative Justice goals are.  There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice Tweet: There are no shortcuts to doing effective restorative justice. @krisminer http://ctt.ec/bdjfd+  These tips are designed to give you tools in your preparation for a successful Restorative Justice dialogue, in a conference or circle setting.

Top 3 reasons those that caused harm are resisting community involvement.

1) They think the process is punitive.  The person resisting the community has shame, and doesn’t want to have others judge them.

2)They might be worried about confidentiality.

3)They might not feel in control, or understand the process is voluntary.

Helpful, restorative responses:

  • Make an apology for your failure to explain things correctly.  Be so assured of the health of having community.
  • Re-explain the philosophy and approach.  Assure community is present to hold positive outcomes.  Some anxiety before is a meeting is normal, it’s because it is so important.
  • Be confident in the role of community, it is not an option for them not to be present.  Do this conversationally, not like you are dictating things.
  • If the person is worried that they know your community mentors, assure them that is a good thing!  That is how community works.
  • Validate the choices made to participate.  When a young woman scoffed at me “I’m only doing this do get out of being suspended”, I calmly responded “oh, Ok, you made the right choice.  Why don’t you want to be suspended?”
  • Assure the concerns by explaining how much volunteers are trained in the process, volunteers have signed confidentiality agreements.  Let them know that they are understanding, and are parents themselves, and every single person has made a mistake.  Reiterate the foundation and roots of restorative justice.
  • Tell a story about a time other people had similar concerns and how the session went very well.
  • Be sure to ask them about their resistance, don’t make assumptions.  If they ask you a question about the volunteers, you don’t need to answer, you can ask another question about why they are needing that information.
  • Maintain a respectful discussion and explore their needs, I’ve found the open honest discussion leads to a willingness to participate.

Other important factors are for you to take care of your volunteers . . . respect them as community holding valuable information and need for involvement.  They have been trained and take the time to participate, don’t exclude them because you put the person who caused harm in charge.  You are the facilitator . . . your job is to prepare people, not to have them prepare conditions.  The facilitator is the one with the most information about the way the process works.  Prepare, prepare, prepare.  If you can’t get consent for community, let the participant know you have to think about how to move ahead.  Ask them to also think about it.

Just as you prepare victims to know their needs, you prepare those harmed to know their fears.  Once they are out on the table they can be addressed.  To move forward and try restorative justice without the community is excluding a KEY and CORE practice.

 

5 tips for the journey, community to school-based Restorative Justice.

I was very fortunate that in 1999 and 2000 the founders of St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program, had intentions on focusing the program on juveniles.  They also engaged a founding board member, who at the time was on the local school board.  Her take on expulsions in schools, was youth were being pushed away at a time they should be brought closer.   With her leadership SCVRJP focused on “embedding the philosophy” of Restorative Justice in the St. Croix Valley.  As board chair she guided us towards the areas of juvenile justice and schools, and the core programs of Victim Impact Panels and victim-offender mediation (as we called it then).

As luck would have it, we added a high school assistant principal to the board of directors.  His house was egged, he accepted Restorative Justice.  His story of the healing it brought his spouse, and the positive relationship with the students, promoted his support and use of SCVRJP.

The first Circle I kept for SCVRJP was in 2005, for a school-based incident.  I still keep a copy of the young man’s apology letter in my book of Circle readings.  He still keeps the Circle of individual ribbons tied together, in his top drawer of special things.

I live 12 miles from River Falls, where SCVRJP was founded and eventually opened the Restorative Justice Center in 2006.  Before the Restorative Justice Center opened, when I was “on the clock” I would stop in at the high school.  This became a pattern of getting cases.  Sometimes it was the students waiting to be disciplined. The assistant principal saw me, saw the student, and brought us in his office together.  Sometimes we just visited about how to handle concerns at the school restoratively.  SCVRJP handled cases of lunch room food fights, students assaulting each other, gym class threats, mean girls, overdose at school, truancy, drugs and drinking on a field trip.  We handled these in various degrees of diversion or formal involvement.

The use of Restorative Justice was part of the student handbook and code of conduct.  A few years later I called back for a new copy, it had already been removed.  Staff changed, SCVRJP got busier and the use of Restorative Justice reduced in individual cases, and increased in teachers and staff coming to training.  SCVRJP volunteers helped with Circles at a lock-in, one of those high school students is now in my college course!  At any rate, things change, that is the first tip for the journey!

Be wise with your time and energy, things ebb and flow, and they change.  Especially in schools.  be patient when working with school systems.  Consider the growing of a garden, sometimes to prune things back is best.  Sometimes you get good tomatoes and sometimes you feed the bugs!

The 2nd tip, is to promote community.  As community based programs, we are often “righting wrongs”.  Community programs typically take referrals after an incident has happened.  In schools it is important to reaffirm, repair and rebuild relationships (pbis posts).  I teach schools Circles, because they can be used for academic instruction, classroom behavior management, and resolving conflict.  To teach teachers how to do a victim-offender conference, is not the way to start (in my opinion).  They don’t have time, they don’t understand the overarching philosophy or goals.  The 3rd tip, is to meet schools where they are at.

Meet a school where they are at means spending time getting to know how they have come to want school-based restorative justice.  I could list 50 different schools I’ve worked with, and I can give you 50 different ways they came to want to be trained in Restorative Justice.  Help them based on where they are at and what they want.  Align with the goals of those invested.

My 4th ‘wisdom of the lived experience’, encourage them to try something.  When working with schools, have the direct application tips for teachers.  These people are already angels, and they need clear specific “how do I” answers and training materials.  Be structured in what you are asking them to do, from the 1:1 conversation with students, to how to keep the Circle.  I love good teachers, the best are no-bullshit, and for a farm girl from South Dakota, I’ve always gotten that.  They need you to be real, and to be confident and know your stuff.  If you don’t know it, you can’t fake it.  The best compliment I got was someone giving me positive feedback for doing Circle in Circle training.  He had just been at a training on student engagement, and the trainer lectured and did powerpoint the entire day.

The 5th tip . . . walk the journey, go back to the school, do coaching and follow up.  I had some exhausting days, but I learned the most when I went from class to class, circle to circle.  I was right beside the team I was helping, I was in the school community they were trying to transform.  Once I sent someone to go learn, and the school ended up on lock-down.  The teacher and I laughed afterwards, but the lessons learned from that experience won’t go unforgotten!

The journey from community to school-based tips:

  1. Things Change, honor that cycles happen.
  2. Build community in schools, don’t start at the top of the PBIS triangle, start at the bottom.
  3. Meet schools where they are.  What’s working well, what are they trying to accomplish.
  4. Get specific action items to those being trained.  Encourage people to try something new.
  5. Follow up, coach, get experience doing the work in a school setting.

SCVRJP is hosting an advanced school-based training on June 8 & 9 in River Falls, WI.  From now until July 31, I am available to do contracted trainings for SCVRJP.  On August 1st, I will be available as Circle Space Services, offering trainings for practitioners and school-based providers.

Love as a path to accountability. Care and connection as expressions of love.

I’ve been home a few days and I am still in “awe” over my experience at the Idaho Juvenile Justice Association Conference.  It really struck me how hard people are working to engage young people in meaningful, healing relationships.  The fact this is good for community, reduces harms and builds safer, healthier adults was really understood.

Taking ‘restorative’ language to court paperwork, community service and moving to engage victims demonstrated real and intentional creation of healing and accountable process.  True system change was happening and in the process of happening.

I prepared presentations trying to address my audience.  As a former juvenile justice supervisor, I know the day-to-day caseload demands often trump the development of a new program or service.  It was important for me to present the information in a way that demonstrated how SCVRJP does session AND provide workers with some tools for the ongoing models of supervision.

I know some real dynamite, dedicated and awesome juvenile justice workers.  I know they have a spark, a passion and a real LOVE for the work.  I think that is the kind of love for the work, that leads to accountability in individuals.  Restorative Justice accountability begins with acknowledging you’ve caused harm.

If people deny their role in a harmful act, I believe that comes from two places.  1) the fear of punishment or 2) the loss of self-worth to be associated with such a harmful act.  To care about someone means to hold how they feel about themselves in regard.  When offenders deny, minimize or flat-out lie about involvement, some are quick to judge and label the person.  Labels take away humanity.

Working with people to take accountability can be especially hard when the person didn’t mean to cause the harm.  The intentionality for the doer, is how they judge themselves.  Consequences of choices exist, meant to or not.  It is the traffic fatality cases that have taught me so much about holding people accountable with care and connection.  It comes down to that great Gayle King quote:

Kids don’t care what you think, until they think you care.

Holding care and connecting to an individual as a human being, means looking beyond the act/incident of harm.  Restorative Justice is about HEALING and ACCOUNTABILITY.  A caring, non-judgmental adult who is truly interested in the well-being of a teen, especially teens that have broken the law, is a gem of a person if you ask me.  I was in a treasure box of gems in Idaho.

Restorative Justice Powerpoints Idaho Juvenile Justice Association Presentations.

It was a great conference in Idaho.  I really enjoyed seeing and learning how the state’s justice workers are embracing and utilizing Restorative Justice.  I hope the four sessions I offered were helpful.  I got some individual feedback, the sessions didn’t include evaluation forms for me to review.  I spoke to what I thought would be most helpful.  I tried to listen to the audience, asking participants to show me by a fist to five fingers (fist – little, 5 fingers a lot), their experience, amount of faciliating experience, and finally how dedicated they were to working on further implementation of Restorative Justice.

I am sharing the powerpoints here, for those that attended the sessions, and the blog post readers.  Please contact me if you have any questions, best of luck with your programming and I am happy to discuss coming and doing additional training for you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Restorative Justice begins with Judge None.

At St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP), we teach our volunteers, our participants, and our speakers/storytellers as much as we can about core Restorative Justice philosophy and approaches.

We use the Little Books of Restorative Justice and Circle (Zehr & Pranis) found at Goodbooks.  We have powerpoints we ask to be reviewed and a few core handouts.  If your Restorative Justice program is interested, I can share.

One briefly stated concept is Judge None.  This means withhold assumptions, judgements, decisions what you would or would not do.  Judgement leads to blame, and blame is removes you and places focus on the other.  Now what if you are the victim?  We listen deeply and intently to victims.  We honor the feelings, emotion and experiences and we still ask ‘judge none’.  We don’t know the motivation, intention of another.  We can hold our own thoughts, emotion and experience from their actions.  Judge none, really separates the doer from the deed.

It is not easy when you hear of someone’s experience.  Can you imagine dealing with the death of your child and in the name of religion, a people mail the newspaper articles, obituary and conversion material to extended family out-of-state.  Ouch.  Well intended from their point of view, painful to the family.

To blame, minimize, avoid full responsibility is almost the natural reaction to making a mistake.  If you easily go to “oh, I did it, I feel bad, I shouldn’t have” your accountability journey looks like a vacation rather than a journey to understanding, a little suffering creates some deep lessons.  Thank goodness for juvenile justice workers and social workers that walk beside youth helping them along.

Restorative Justice asks community members to step forward and have these discussions.  That can happen along a continuum of pre-diversion – to post confinement (another link).

Judge None, allows us to look at our 3 (Zehr) Relationship, responsibility and respect.  Asking people to have their relationship to the incident, and not judge the other persons relationship to the incident is a matter of judge none.

I just worked with someone who was taking full responsibility for their part.  I asked about that tag line at the end.  I got the full story of all the things someone else had done to contribute to the incident this person was charged, convicted and sentenced for.  In more words and time than permit here, we unpacked those things.  We looked at relationships to the incident.  We went to the first part of Restorative Justice ‘acknowledging you caused harm”.  Our responsibility is fully owned, when we focus on our selves.  In Circle we ask “speak to the Center”.  That models that our responsibilities are our decisions, our actions, our thoughts.

When we are busy doing our best to be our best, we haven’t got time energy or resources for more .  Judge none is a reminder to our own restorative justice living (click to tweet)

Creating learning “containers” with Restorative Justice Circles, two techniques.

I don’t teach spontaneous Circle Keeping.  I teach getting grounded, connected and comfortable with the core values and principles in Circles.  After working to have these with me, I have developed a few activities that lend to utilizing the container, the center of the Circle, to enhance the process.  These also provide participants a chance to experience what Circle is like.  Here are two techniques I might add to a Circle, an old favorite and new one.

Technique 1:  Passing the talking piece, holding it until you feel your silence is heard.  In your non-directive, supportive Keeper role, ask participants to pass the talking piece, staying silent, and only passing it when they feel their silence has been “heard”.  Sometimes I frame this as a group listening exercise, promoting “collective-ness”.  At other times, I might not offer much except the instructions, it depends on the desired outcome of the activity.  I will use it to calm or slow down the emotional climate.   It can be used to promote an awareness of silence.  It also teaches a pathway to feeling “heard”.  You can reinforce that a bit more, by asking a follow up question: how did you know you were heard, or how did you know you were ready to pass the talking piece?  This technique can be used to teach the power of listening.  The focus is on the person holding the talking piece (as when we speak) however, people are learning to focus/listen non-verbally, and we know non-verbal communication is important.  This is a good one to start, to go first and model actually holding the piece and tune in to the feeling of being heard.  This also builds trust in the group, this round gives the keeper opportunity to reinforce a key aspect of Circle, to listen.  It is a good one to do a reflection on the experience, having people share, many times they relate the uncomfortable feeling of it.  The keeper can then remind people, we don’t usually stretch or grow in our comfort zones, so feeling uncomfortable is ok.  It’s even a time for curiosity.

This has proved itself time and time again, I’d say 99% of the time it goes really well.  The 1%, I had a very challenging student group, they didn’t like it.  So I used my chimes and gave them a moment to make all the noises they wanted.  Then we tried the exercise again.  Silence wasn’t safe for this group, we made a step however.

Silence is a good tool to use when keeping Restorative Justice Circles.  Silence is a good prep tool for a keeper and if you are going to use a tool, it is good to get very comfortable with it.

Technique 2: stand up and mime your favorite outdoor activity.  This was invented with the 1% listed above.  I use 4 stages (link to 74 other posts), and when going a bit deeper (into the building relationship stage) if people disengage, I back up to safer questions.  I could see the group getting restless, someone passed.  I know if the brain and the bottom are connected, when the bottom falls asleep so does the brain.  I needed an ‘energizer’ and I needed to build connection.  A bit of “safe-vulnerability” was needed.  Safe-vulnerability in Circle, means a chance to reveal something about your self, yet it is collectively connected and connecting.  The stand up and mime question, allowed us to show we aren’t professional mimes, we got to laugh a bit at ourselves and each other.  Laughter builds connection.  Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

The technique worked with the challenging group of students.  No one passed, I felt the energy and saw the student eyes appreciate the aides and teachers doing the activity.  It was a “safe-vulnerability” because staff and students got to know each other without an overly personal disclosure by the adults.  Building connections that are safe is important to strengthen the Circle.  Vulnerability in a Circle, in an organic and natural way also builds meaningful connections.  Sometimes a deep question or storytelling round brings that out.  Sometimes being vulnerable is just a small risk, and ‘outside the box’ way of being.  Vulnerability is best told by Brene Brown, her site, and TED talk, titled the The Power of Vulnerability.

Do you have “go-to” techniques you use?  If you try one of these let me know how it goes!

Restorative Justice and the powerful web of interconnectedness.

I just opened a gift from a Restorative Justice volunteer.  SCVRJP has a new wall hanging.  peace-flag-string-mini

It was less than a week ago SCVRJP gifted (gave away) a wall hanging.

Interconnectedness of giving and receiving.

Restorative Justice includes and survives by this web of interconnectedness, where we offer and accept with grace.  The community creates spaces for SCVRJP to share, like last nights invitation to share with a large group of youth and their mentors.  SCVRJP couldn’t exist without the support of our volunteer speakers.  Sharing stories and experiences are crucial to helping others understand.  The wisdom of the lived experience is lost if it is not heard.  Speakers sharing their stories, is empowering and healing.

Seeking a new speaker supported by a seasoned speaker warmed my heart.  It reminded me of our web and interconnections.  Our new speaker was nervous, the audience was going to be larger than she expected.  I noticed our other volunteer had a slight smile.  He’s been speaking for 5 or 6 years.  I think his smile was from connecting to how she felt.  He told her not to worry, the audience didn’t know what she was supposed to say, so they wouldn’t know if she made a mistake.

It has always been there inside of me.  I just think people can get up in front of an audience and speak from the heart.  It created a problem for me in high school.  Our youth group was snowed in on a ski trip.  I took the lead on setting up some activities and assigned my best friend a speaking part.  She got really upset and yelled at me, “not everyone is like you”!  We came to laugh about that as we mended our friendship later.  Thank goodness that didn’t stop me from being convinced that people can share their stories.

Our experienced speaker shared with the audience, that he doesn’t like speaking.  He feels anxious before it happens, but the feeling after is helpful.  Our new speaker was excited and was going out for a celebration pizza after the event.  It isn’t for everyone to take on public speaking and sharing.  I have yet to meet the person totally confident about doing this.

The connectedness comes that speakers take the pain of the experience and the fear of speaking and then they plow right through it.  They reach the other side, by a drive to help just one other person.  They speak of trauma after tragic loss, caused by them or caused by others.  They swallow back tears to keep sharing.  They tell their stories from a place of heart.  The courage, strength and resilience they demonstrate touches the audience.  You can feel it in the room, (even when not in Circle).  Last night a group of 100 teens in quiet listening, respectful space gave our speakers the gift of listening.  Our speakers offered their gifts of sharing.

When if feels right, we close out SCVRJP events with the offer of a handshake, high-five or hug.  The audience came up and passed down our line, offering handshakes, hugs and comments.  Many said thanks, a few offered reflections on hearing the stories.  It felt great to see our speakers supported.  I’m a little overwhelmed typing this blog post!

As we left, our new speaker said the handshakes was something she had never experienced before.  Her smile was 1,000 watts bright.  She shared it reminded her of a sporting event where teams shake hands after the game.  At first I didn’t get that, then I thought of how two sides, previously in competition take on that gesture to make peace after the game.  This morning I opened the gift, prayer flags that say PEACE.

peace-flag-string-mini

 

As a Restorative Justice nonprofit, volunteer development is key!

One of the elements St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (SCVRJP) provides is volunteer in-service opportunities.  This was designed to provide on-going training to volunteers.  Session volunteering is always focused on providing the service.  The volunteer in-service is a time and place for volunteers to build relationships with each other, with SCVRJP staff and with the concepts and philosophy of Restorative Justice.

In-service topics have included having guests from a neighboring program share their experiences.  SCVRJP held an in-service on brain-based change, showing volunteers and the public connections between evidence based practices and Restorative Justice.  Tonight we will be watching a film called Room to Breathe.  In-service sessions are worked within our busy schedule, and provide alternative times for people to be part of our program.  We usually have a dozen of our 50-70 volunteers attend these offerings.  We promote these as “open to the public” hoping to engage people by topic, that might then become volunteers.

Holding these sessions is another way for SCVRJP to deliver on the stakeholder triad of Restorative Justice (victim, offender, community).  This wonderful graphic from IIRP:

rjtypologyThe graphic shows “communities of care reconciliation”, at SCVRJP, we consider everyone within our geopgraphy part of our community.  SCVRJP reaches out to share what we do with the public by engaging social groups, faith-based organizations and offering training and in-service sessions.

Board members are volunteers, another structure of SCVRJP is to have board members attend sessions.  This provides an element of “quality control” and guarantees SCVRJP leadership is in close contact to what we do.  Historically, not that long a go, when SCVRJP was very new, board members also facilitated sessions.  Smaller or new Restorative Justice programs may still be in that same position.  As you grow, it is still helpful to have board members participate in what you do.  Asking a board member to attend one session outside of the regular board meetings is enough to keep the entire board engaged.

A SCVRJP board member, explained how helpful attending an in-service session was.  It was the expectation that board members attend sessions, that led to a board member in a volunteer in-service session.

Development is learning over time.  Volunteer development, allows your volunteers to develop as your program develops.  What we hear, can greatly be influenced by what we already know.  Sometimes what we think is a truth in the morning we can learn by sunset is no longer true.  Myths begin with slight mis-communications.  At SCVRJP we offer half a dozen different programs, and volunteers might assume what they know about one session, applies to all.  That isn’t accurate, and one victim-offender dialogue could have different nuances than another.  It is important to have a consistent message on what your program is doing, key concepts, core philosophical approaches and a pulse on your programs ambassadors to the public, your volunteers.  A volunteer in-service session gives time to clarify these questions or myths that might develop.

Managing a business or a non-profit requires juggling multiple roles and responsibilities.  I’ve used it so much I don’t know where I found it, but I have post-it notes and listed these 5 in lots of places.  Priorities for successful non-profits: 1)Service Delivery 2)Outcome Measures 3)Financial management system 4)Fundraising plan 5)Demonstrate impact, capacity and sustainability.  Taking the time to care, connect and develop volunteers helps move an agency to success or maintain the existing success.  Good luck with your program!