Originally housed in the Salem District Court, North Shore Community Mediation Center (NSCMC) has its roots in the Salem Mediation Program, which began in 1979. Initially, mediators who had been trained in basic mediation skills helped resolve either minor criminal cases or small claims cases referred by the judges at the Salem District Court. In 1983, the program expanded to help resolve disputes in families, usually involving adolescents and other family members. This Salem Mediation Program model has remained the standard today.
When state support ended, several dedicated mediators established a self-governing organization that worked to expand mediation services into the community. In 1994, North Shore Community Mediation, Inc. was incorporated as a non-profit organization.
For its first five years (1994 to 1999), the organization was totally volunteer run. These dedicated volunteers not only mediated small claims disputes referred by the Salem District Court, but staffed the office, case-coordinated referrals, trained new mediators, raised funds and recruited new members. In 1999 the Board of Directors hired the first staff member to work a few hours a week with member mediators and student interns assisting with office operations. Since 2002, the organization has had a professional Executive Director.
Also in 1999, the NSCMC Board of Directors expanded to include its own Parent/Child Mediation Service. To launch this initiative, the program received a $10,000 matching grant from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation. With the support of grants and community contributions and fees from basic mediation training courses, NSCMC found solid footing. When community cases, such as neighbors who wanted to solve disputes out of court found mediation worked, NSCMC was on its way.
In 2000, the Essex County Juvenile Courts in Salem and Lynn began to make referrals to NSCMC. Mediators who conducted these parent/child mediations receive specialized training to handle the often-emotional cases. In recent years the Program has also expanded in other areas and currently receives referrals for small claims, minor criminal and summary process cases from Peabody, Gloucester, and Salem District Courts.
In 2002, the Center received the first legislative funding for the work done in the local courts. Later in 2006, the Massachusetts Bar Foundation awarded NSCMC a grant to support mediation for civil and Parent/Child case referrals. This new source of income allowed the Center to hire a Court Coordinator to oversee the volunteer mediators, scheduling and court relations.
The Peer Mediation Program:
In 1996, with funding from school systems and community resources, NSCMC began to train students in local middle and high schools to become peer mediators. Besides providing training to students and staff in over 20 different school districts*, NSCMC also provides mediation support and consultation when requested. Beginning in 2003, grants from various sources provided the means to create a Peer Mediators Collaborative which in turn sponsors an Annual Peer Mediators’ Forum on the North Shore. The one-day Forum brings peer mediators from Essex County schools together to celebrate the important work they are doing in their school community. Organized by NSCMC, forums have highlighted such themes as leadership, violence prevention, forgiveness and reconciliation, and how the power of storytelling can transform conflict… challenging the student mediators to understand the use of mediation in a much larger context. Learning about Global conflicts, students hear about how mediation and reconciliation can be used around the world. The Forum is reported to be a highlight of the year for many students, encouraging NSCMC to support this work through a staff position. As a result of Anti-Bullying Legislation in Massachusetts, the NSCMC Director of the Youth Initiative has been actively working to provide communication and conflict resolution skills to partnering schools and other youth serving organizations.
Serving the Community:
In 2005, the Center sought and received approval to mediate case referrals from the Probate and Family Court in Essex County. With a team of experienced mediators prepared by taking an additional Divorce Mediation Training, NSCMC began offering divorce mediation to the public and upon referral from the Salem Probate and Family Court. The NSCMC Family Mediation Program has grown and serves a variety of families from the community each year as well as court referred clients. Grants from the Mass Bar Foundation from 2007-2009 helped to support this new initiative . In addition, NSCMC participates in a collaborative grant program, Parent Mediation Program, between the Mass Office of Public Collaboration, the Department of Revenue and several community mediation programs. Eligible couples can qualify for up to 6 hours of free mediation to work out issues of parenting and visitation schedules.
In 2009, NSCMC was awarded a Face to Face Consumer Mediation grant from the Office of the Attorney General. As a Face to Face Consumer Mediation Program, NSCMC is available to mediate issues that local consumers bring to the attention of the Attorney General’s Office at no cost to either the consumer or business.
As NSCMC celebrates its 25th anniversary of providing programs and services to the people of Essex County, it can look back proudly on what it has accomplished. There are currently 50 active mediators providing mediation services to the public, some of whom have been involved since incorporation and the Salem Mediation Program, as well as an active group of ‘Friends’ who support the organization in a variety of ways. Looking to the future, NSCMC hopes to expand its programs to the community, offering basic training and Peer Mediation training as well as mediation services in the courts and where it is needed.
NSCMC is honored to serve the community and recognizes all of the many volunteers, friends, and donors who have helped it grow, and looks forward to continue support and loyalty.
*The list of school districts includes: Amesbury, Andover, Beverly, Bishop Fenwick, Dracut, Gloucester, Hamilton-Wenham, Ipswich, Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Newburyport, North Shore Vocational, Peabody, Pentucket, Swampscott, and Triton-Regional school systems.