Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County

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[edit] General Information

  • Official name: Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County
  • Country: USA
  • City: Olympia
  • Type of organization: non-profit agency
  • Date of creation: 1991
  • Interests: Mediation - Training
  • Fields of expertise: Business, Workplace, Community, School, Family (…) Disputes

[edit] Description

The Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County (DRC) is a community based non-profit agency, established in 1991 to serve Thurston County and surrounding area residents with their conflict resolution needs. DRC offers a variety of services including:

  • Information and problem solving over the phone
  • 2nd party calls to invite them to problem solve with you
  • Confidential mediation services with neutral facilitators for family, business/consumer, landlord/tenant, workplace, neighborhood, and any other disputes
  • Confidential multi-party mediation services for your agency, faith community, co-op, organization, housing unit, extended family, workplace, etc.
  • Large and small group facilitation
  • Extensive training services including Basic Mediation Training, Multi-party Mediation Training, Family Mediation Training, Facilitating Effective Meetings Training, as well as custom designed trainings to meet your specific needs.
  • Continuing education practicum for becoming a Certified Mediator
  • Organizational design and conflict resolution consulting services
  • Volunteer program with on the job training
  • Speakers Bureau and Community Information Booths

Mediation is a very effective way to solve conflicts. The parties in the conflict agree to sit down with trained mediators who act as neutral facilitators. The mediators ask the parties to agree to some basic ground rules of civil behavior and good faith negotiating. The parties each get an uninterrupted chance to briefly describe what their conflict is about and what they would like to see happen. They agree to a list of topics and discuss each one, coming up with possible solutions that will meet as many of their needs as possible. If the parties wish, the mediators write down any agreements that are made. When signed, these agreements are intended to be legally binding.

Mediations are private, confidential negotiation sessions. Anything said in a mediation cannot be used by the parties as testimony in any court proceeding. The mediators cannot be called to testify in court about anything said in a mediation session. When both parties are able to follow the process and make a good faith effort, 80% of mediations achieve agreements and 90% of the time these agreements are followed.

Community mediation centers are characterized by the following:

  • Trained community volunteer mediators provide services.
  • Centers are non-profit or public community-based agencies.
  • Staff, volunteer mediators, and board members represent a cross-section of the community.
  • Services are easily affordable and accessible.
  • Centers collaborate throughout the community to promote positive social change.
  • Centers educate community members about the value of mediation through marketing and training.
  • Centers promote the use of mediation at the earliest stages of conflict.
  • Centers offer mediation at any stage of conflict as an alternative to the court system.

DRC stands for Dispute Resolution Center. In Washington State, legislation was passed in 1984 (Court Reorganization Act, Revised Code of Washington 7.75) that enables county or city governments to authorize the establishment of a DRC in that jurisdiction. Since the law was passed, 20 DRC's covering more than 90% of the state's population have been established under the legislation. Most are not-for-profit agencies, and a few are departments of municipal or county government. DRC's offer mediation services to any residents who have disputes. DRC's also offer training in conflict resolution skills to community members including householders, students, and workers.

In Thurston County, residents interested in creating a DRC went about an organizing effort between 1989 and 1991. In March of 1991, the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County was authorized by the County Commissioners under RCW 7.75 and opened for business. The DRC has grown much in the intervening years, from one part-time employee to 8 part-time employees, from a small attic office to a professional office space in downtown Olympia. The annual budget of DRC has grown from $40,000 to over $200,000. Its case load of mediations has expanded from 50 mediations per year to over 300 per year.

The DRC is the largest provider of conflict resolution services and training in the South Puget Sound area. The DRC trains over 500 people per year in mediation, conflict resolution and communication skills. DRC offers a wide variety of standard courses, including our 40-Hour Professional Mediation Training, our 20-Hour Advanced Family Mediation Training, our 20-Hour Advanced Multi-Party Mediation Training, our popular Essentials of Facilitating Effective Meetings Training and our Victim Offender Mediation Training. DRC also offers custom-designed trainings for groups, faith communities, businesses and governmental agencies that range from 1 hour to several days.

A practicum leading to certification by the DRC as a Senior Mediator is available to individuals who have completed the 40-Hour Professional Mediator Training. It includes a written exam based on the 40-hour course, the observation of at least 6 mediation cases, performing a final mock mediation, and co-mediating at least 6 more mediation cases with a senior co-mediator. The DRC certifies on average 12 mediators per year.

The DRC has a wide and diverse funding base. Over 20% of our funding comes from fees from mediations and another 20% from fees for trainings. Almost 20% is from a surcharge the County Commission placed on District and Small Claims Court filings. Another 10% is from the general funds of the municipal and county jurisdictions. Around 15% comes from donations, and another 15% from grants.

The conflicts DRC mediates include family and divorce, problems such as parenting plans and visitation issues, workplace and neighborhood conflicts, disputes that are brought to Small Claims Court, struggles with planning departments and other government agencies, restitution between offenders and victims, elder care matters, and misunderstandings between friends, colleagues and associates of all kinds.

First, the DRC speaks with all parties involved over the telephone to ensure they are willing to try mediation. A session is scheduled and mediators are assigned to the case, a process which takes about three weeks. At the first mediation, the mediators introduce themselves and briefly talk about the process, their role as neutrals, the parties' roles as good faith negotiators and the need for ground rules of civility. An Agreement to Mediate document is signed. Then each party takes a turn talking about what brought them to mediation and what they hope to see happen. The mediators repeat what they have heard and help the parties make a list of topics they both agree to talk about. Then the negotiating begins. The mediators help keep the conversation on track and moving forward. The parties may choose to have the mediators record their agreements using their own words in a Settlement Agreement document. When signed, agreement documents are intended to be legally binding. Mediation sessions are about two hours in length. Many mediations are concluded in one session while more complicated ones may take two or more sessions to complete and can be scheduled at the end of any session.

Mediation is affordable. Parties are charged separately on a sliding fee based upon the household's combined annual income. For a 2-hour session, low-income households pay $35, mid-income households pay $70, and high-income households pay $140. Households outside of Thurston County pay an 8.7% surcharge on those fees. Organizations, businesses and agencies pay a sliding scale fee based on their annual income. Entities with an income under $100,000 pay $70/hr, from $100,000-$500,000 pay $115/hr, and over $500,000 pay $172.50/hr.

There is no charge for telephone services including asking questions, talking to the DRC telephone volunteers, determining if mediation is something worth trying, or scheduling mediation sessions.

[edit] Contact

312 E 4th, PO Box 6184, Olympia, WA 98507 - USA

Phone: (360) 956-1155

Fax: (360) 357-5168

Email: eferber@mediatethurston.org

Official Website

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