SIDNEY – The USA network’s “Fairly Legal” television series and its protagonist Kate Reed put a glamorous spin on the art of mediation every Thursday evening. According to NYS certified mediation trainer Donna Kankiewicz, the work of a good mediator is quite the opposite yet just as rewarding – utilizing his or her professional expertise and experience to help people listen to one another and better understand each other’s point of view.
Dispute Resolution Services of Chenango, Delaware and Otsego Counties offers specialized volunteer mediation services for a wide variety of disputes in a non-judicial, neutral setting. Conflicts between a customer and merchant, an agency and client, small claims actions, landlord and tenant disputes, property and employment issues, special education and child custody are just a few of the scenarios in which the organization can be of benefit, said local Dispute Resolution Services Director Jennifer Morris.
Partnered with Catholic Charities of Delaware and Otsego Counties and under contract with the NYS Unified Court System, the organization is growing much faster than anticipated, she added, and opportunities for training as a volunteer mediator are available. The group currently boasts 45 mediators, some of whom have over two decades of experience.
The training, however, is extensive.
Volunteers must complete a minimum of 30 hours in basic mediation training, 15 hours of older adult mediation training and six hours of facilitation training, stated Morris. Many of the specialized branches of the program – such as divorce, child custody and special education – demand an additional 40 to 60 hours of instruction.
“The advantage of mediation is that people in conflict find an opportunity to have their needs met through a facilitated problem solving process,” said Kankiewicz. “Basically, we produce an environment where people can safely be heard.”..