Welcome to our new Supervised Visitation Program Manager, Janne Sleeper!

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Janne has had the privilege to sample a number of career options over the years. She has been a newspaper reporter/editor, a horse trainer/riding instructor, retail manager, Red Cross volunteer and most recently a provider of services to people with Developmental Disabilities.

It’s a wonderful blending of experiences that has given her the chance to see how people manage the world from many different vantage points.

Janne has lived in Washington state nearly all of her life. She moved to Bellingham 10 years ago and considers it the jewel of the Northwest. She and her husband bike, hike and take their three dogs to Hovander Park and on the occasional brewery tour. They have two adult daughters – one residing in Encinitas, CA and the other in Bellingham.


Check Out What We are Reading!

Every book you purchase from Village Books through our website, helps the WDRC earn a portion of online sales. Get started today by tuning in to what we are reading. Click each link to be directed to more information and how to order each book through Village Books.

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Resolving Conflicts at Work is a guide for preventing and resolving conflicts, miscommunications, and misunderstandings at work, including dozens of techniques for revealing how the inevitable disputes and divisions in the workplace are actually opportunities for greater creativity, productivity, enhanced morale, and personal growth.


Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. Thoroughly updated and revised, it offers readers a straight- forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry-or getting taken.

Farewell and thank you to board member, Morgan Sicilia!

With gratitude, we say farewell to board member Morgan Sicilia. Morgan served on the WDRC Board of Directors for over 2 years, bringing her background in social work and supporting healthy families to advance the mission, values and vision of the WDRC. Her wisdom and experience were essential in helping the organization navigate its first capital campaign, A Permanent Place for Peace. We appreciate your service Morgan!

Reflections on a Year of Service

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, rEBECCA!   YOU WILL BE MISSED!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE, rEBECCA!
YOU WILL BE MISSED!

By Rebecca Hargraves, AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist

I have been serving as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center since September 2018. Before taking on this position, I had volunteered for a year with the Youth Program while I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree at Western Washington University. When I heard about the Youth Program at the WDRC, I was eager to be a part of it!

I was excited about being in the AmeriCorps position here, because it would give me the opportunity to learn more about conflict resolution, and to work with youth of all different ages, backgrounds, and from many different areas in Whatcom County.  While in college, I loved working with youth in schools in Bellingham, and being in the role as a mentor for youth. In this position, I have been able to continue that work as well as develop skills as a facilitator in both classroom and small group settings. Also, I love that the position is focused on helping others shift the ways they see conflict - from something negative and overwhelming, to something normal and natural that can lead to positive change.

One of my favorite parts about serving in the Youth Program, has been connecting with youth, and especially helping youth realize that they are not alone in dealing with difficult conflicts and there are ways we can learn to handle conflict so it can help us rather than hinder us. Youth often come to our classes feeling that some conflicts cannot be solved. Through asking the right questions, and guiding youth to begin opening up and talking about these issues with each other, they usually can come up with amazing reflections and solutions to problems all on their own! I love the moments where youth feel heard in our classes, when they open up, when they have their profound realizations, when they realize they are not alone in their suffering, when they learn to connect with each other in deeper and more authentic ways, and when they realize there are ways they can figure out conflicts that felt once hopeless. I love when I see youth leave our classes with what looks like a weight lifted from their shoulders.

What has been difficult, is that by asking youth hard and vulnerable questions about conflict, we often hear about some really big conflicts youth may have going on in their lives, whether that’s conflict at home, with teachers, or with peers. It always breaks my heart to hear from some of them that they might not have the support they need at home or school to have figured this out, and they feel there’s no way to solve it. As a teacher only working with these youths for three to eight hours total, I can’t always be there for them. I see this as a sign that we not only need to talk to youth about how to deal with conflict, but teachers, counselors, school staff, and parents need to continue listening to youth and role modeling healthy approaches to conflict for youth every day.

                Though this magical and dynamic service is often difficult, I think I have made a big difference in my community. In these ten and a half months, I have reached about 750 youth in Whatcom County. With our workshops, it is not only the number of students we reach, it’s about how we are making the tools we have to share important, applicable, and fun to learn about! In our workshops, we play games and try to have students up, moving, and having discussions with each other throughout the class. Conflict is hard to talk about, and moving our bodies and connecting with others in both fun and serious ways helps us feel more comfortable sharing. We also focus on helping students start a dialogue with each other about how to solve some difficult and tricky issues. We get them talking so that when we leave from our short time with them, they can continue these conversations amongst each other now that they’ve broken the ice. This year, I also focused on developing some materials in Spanish for youth who speak Spanish as their first language and are still learning English. I have created many new worksheets, and dozens of conflict scenarios to add to the program. Most importantly, I helped keep this important program alive the entire year to reach the hundreds of youth in Whatcom County who need it!

                As they say, you need to practice what you preach. Teaching about conflict resolution skills every day, and encouraging youth to try new and different techniques to solve their problems, it is only natural that I would be trying to use these skills every day, too. Through learning about conflict resolution all year, I feel much more equipped to deal with any conflicts at work or in my personal life. It has helped me keep relationships healthy and happy. I am also much better at advocating for myself than I used to. Many people think that being direct is always being mean and pushy, but it is actually really important to feel comfortable being direct – and you can do it in a kind way!

                The most valuable skill I learned this year, was how to listen to people and hold space for them. The youth we serve often have many great ideas and struggles all at once. By asking the right questions, and then listening attentively, youth have been able to find the answers to some of their most difficult conflicts on their own. At the end of the day, youth just want to feel heard and seen. With the skills I have been learning and developing here at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center, I think I have been and will continue to be the extra support youth sometimes need to feel confident facing some of the scarier conflicts in their lives.

It is with so much gratitude that we say goodbye to Rebecca as she embarks on her next journey. Thank you for all that you have given in your year of service at the WDRC. We will miss you and wish you well!

Check Out What We are Reading!

Every book you purchase from Village Books through our website, helps the WDRC earn a portion of online sales. Get started today by tuning in to what we are reading. Click each link to be directed to more information and how to order each book through Village Books.

Conflict Across Cultures
Cultural differences among members of any group-be it a multinational business team or an international family-are frequently the source of misunderstanding and can lead to conflict. With powerful techniques for resolving or at least reducing conflicts, scholars and teachers from around the globe demystify the intricate and important relationship between conflict and culture.


The Joy of Conflict Resolution
The rapid rate of change in the workplace and among families often leads to conflict and confrontation which can undermine productivity and poison relationships. The Joy of Conflict Resolution helps readers understand conflict and why it arises through the lens of the "drama triangle" of victims, villains and heroes. In an accessible, engaging and light-hearted style that uses stories and humor to explore potentially emotionally charged situations, it provides proven and practical skills to move beyond confrontation to resolve conflicts collaboratively.

Sharing Our Stories - Restorative Conference Model

By Emily Machin-Mayes

Here at the WDRC, we talk a lot about restorative practices, but we rarely stop to explain what that means. If you've ever wondered what we're talking about, read on!
Restorative practices are an approach that the WDRC provides as part of our comprehensive youth program. There are many processes which can be used to resolve conflicts and address harm. This story illustrates how one situation at a local middle school was resolved using a restorative conference model.

Manny and Lukas are in many classes together. What started as minor annoyances between the two had begun to escalate over time. Following another argument, Manny shoved and held Lukas against the wall in the school hallway. Staff intervened and after each student had some days apart, the boys and their families were given the option to talk about what happened and how they were going to set things right.

Manny and his mom were the first to arrive and were immediately greeted with a warm smile from the math teacher, “Manny, nice job on that test today, I can tell how hard you’ve been working, does your mom know how well you’ve been doing?” Manny gave a small smile and shrugged. When Lukas and his mom arrived, he is similarly greeted, “I saw part of your game yesterday, you made some great shots, how did the rest of the game go?” That initial positive connection with each family seemed to help ease the nervous uncertainty for both families.

We sit on an assortment of couches and chairs forming a circle. Each person gets a chance to speak about what they hope for, what the incident was like for them, and finally what needs to happen to re-establish safety. Lukas’ mom, with tears in her eyes shared how scary it was to get the call that something had happened at school, and that her son was hurt, having only recently switched from homeschool. Manny’s mom spoke next and immediately apologized; she said she knew what that feeling was like. During elementary school, Manny had come home bleeding after getting beat up by older students, the experience had terrified her and hearing that her son was involved now in hurting someone else was particularly difficult. Manny offered his own apology and that he’d felt awful since it happened.  

With apologies offered and accepted, the group discussed how to keep something similar from happening again. The math teacher chimed in, “I hope you both know you can check in with me if you are feeling upset or stressed, you know that right? You can ask to talk with me after class or write it down.” Both boys agreed they could talk to him or another person at the school. Both families had come with their own histories and fears, but hearing and having the time to share their own experience had helped. Towards the end of the time, I checked in about how people were feeling, and the shared answer was relief and reassurance. By highlighting the needs and experience of those involved and using a process to help people connect, these conversations carry the potential for understanding, empathy, and with that, finding safety again.

Restorative practices are an effective way to ensure accountability and resolve conflict among youth.  At the WDRC we offer many approaches, including facilitating community building circles, impact competency education and victim offender meetings.

Conversations with the YMCA Youth Institute program

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My name is Rebecca and I have been serving as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Specialist at the Whatcom Dispute Resolution Center.  This spring, Emily, the Youth Program Coordinator, and I had the honor of working with the YMCA Youth Institute. The Youth Institute is a program for teens in Whatcom County to gain skills in college and career readiness through a comprehensive summer program. The group of youth we met with had participated in the Youth Institute last summer and were a part of the Youth Institute’s after-school leadership program. They met every two weeks during the school year to prepare themselves to be leaders and mentors to new Youth Institute participants this summer.

The youth in the after-school program were fun, thoughtful, and authentic. On our first day with them, we introduced them to conflict styles, as well as triggers. The group knew each other so well, they were able to be honest with each other and truly reflect on who they are and what challenges they have.

On our second day with the Youth Institute, we focused on communication, conflict resolution, and traits of a great leader. We discussed some of the most difficult conflicts they had last summer, including making new friends and working on projects together. To get to the root of their issues working on projects, we talked about different assumptions people might make of others’ leadership styles while working together. A solution they arrived at was that understanding of differences is important, even if they don’t know why someone is doing something a certain way. Also, asking more questions and taking a more collaborative approach to projects could make them more cohesive and potentially have less unspoken conflict.

Resolution Washington Receives 2019 Access to Justice Community Leadership Award

The Access to Justice Board selected Resolution Washington to receive the 2019 Access to Justice Community Leadership Award for “playing a strategic, significant and courageous leadership role in improving access to the justice system.” Resolution Washington’s member Dispute Resolution Centers across the state provide conflict resolution services and expertise accessible to all Washington residents.

For over 30 years Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs) have focused on delivering effective and free or low-cost conflict resolution services in collaboration with the courts and for the public. DRCs empower individuals and communities to solve disputes and gain skills through voluntary approaches while supporting self-determination, informed decision-making, and collaboration. 

Every DRC offers mediation, facilitation, training and mediator certification, public education, and programs tailored to meet their community’s needs. Programs include parent-teen and civil court mediation, restorative practices in schools, and facilitation of community dialogues around urban development. Several centers address the housing crisis by providing training for housing counselors and negotiating among landlords and tenants to prevent homelessness.

DRCs serve all Washington residents, including low income clients. They adapt their approaches according to local needs, such as Spanish language services for Latinx communities and unique collaborations with Tribes. DRCs are nonprofit organizations authorized under the Revised Code of Washington 7.75, which governs their structure and activities. Since 1984, 21 DRCs have been established to provide dispute resolution, mediation and training services to communities. In 2018 DRCs served 80,398 Washington residents and engaged 40,976 hours of volunteer service statewide.

The Access to Justice Board is charged by the Washington Supreme Court to establish, coordinate and oversee a statewide, integrated, non-duplicative, civil legal delivery system that is responsive to the needs of poor, vulnerable and moderate means individuals. Resolution Washington appreciates this recognition for their long-time work and ongoing commitment to support effective conflict resolution and provide access to justice statewide. The award will be conveyed formally at the Access to Justice Conference in Spokane on June 16, 2019.

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Resolution Washington is Washington’s association of independent, nonprofit Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs) across the state that provide affordable conflict resolution services and expertise.  More information can be found at www.resolutionwa.org.

Mediator Spotlight: Kaitlin Davis

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We asked long time mediator, Kaitlin Davis, to share a little bit about her work here at the WDRC and this is what she had to say:

What inspired you to become a mediator?

As a Human Services major at Western, I took courses in Domestic Violence, Conflict Resolution, and Law in Human Services during the same quarter. My brother was also deployed to Iraq at the time. I was really confronted with the reality of how destructive we could be in relationships with one another, and how we needed better options than what the legal system could offer. I did not set out to be a mediator immediately, but after that quarter, I knew that I wanted to support individuals and families to resolve conflicts in non-violent ways. I knew that we needed systems that supported a more healthy balance of power. And, I knew that I had a unique skill set in terms of communication, understanding systems, and understanding multiple perspectives. When I was hired as the AmeriCorps Youth Program Coordinator at the WDRC in 2007, I felt like I finally had a real opportunity to transform how we experience conflict in our community. I was trained as a community mediator first, then family mediator, parent-teen mediator, and victim-offender meeting facilitator. I also got to facilitate a lot of skills training at the WDRC, and I’d say that I’m equally passionate about skills training and mediation. 

What energizes you about the work of mediation and your service at the WDRC?

I love how broadly applicable mediation skills are! Creating ground rules, structuring conversations, setting agendas, taking turns speaking and listening, brainstorming multiple solutions to problems – these are core life skills, and I apply them every single day. I love mediating at the WDRC because each case presents something new and interesting. I’m so inspired by clients who have chosen to try to work out their disagreements rather than avoiding or just trying to win at the expense of others. I’m proud of my service to the WDRC, and I feel really fortunate to have been a part of blazing a trail for creative conflict resolution in Whatcom County.

If you could share any conflict resolution or communication advice, what would it be?

First, learn to say what you truly think and feel, rather than trying to read what the other person might want to hear. I think we can really get in trouble if we are trying to be too agreeable and not allowing our authentic selves to be seen and heard. Second, be flexible. Many times, the best solution is very different from your initial idea; try not to get so hung up on being right that you aren’t able to generate or listen to new ideas.

Thanks for sharing Kaitlin and thank you for all the work you do toward advancing the mission at the WDRC!

Appreciating Our Supporters

Our work here at the WDRC would not be the same without the steady and dedicated support of our donors and volunteers. Every year we recognize and appreciate the many ways our supporters help to advance the WDRC mission to provide and promote constructive and collaborative approaches to conflict.  It is with deep gratitude that we thank all of you for supporting the WDRC in whatever way you do, we appreciate you.

At this year’s Annual Appreciation Event, we recognized and honored the following people:

Mary Dumas - Outstanding Achievement, in appreciation of significant and lasting contributions to the field of conflict resolution

Mary Dumas - Outstanding Achievement, in appreciation of significant and lasting contributions to the field of conflict resolution

Chris Powell - Volunteer of the Year, in appreciation of outstanding efforts and dedication to advancing our mission

Chris Powell - Volunteer of the Year, in appreciation of outstanding efforts and dedication to advancing our mission

Phil Montgomery, - In Appreciation of over a decade of sustained giving to promote creative conflict resolution in Whatcom County

Phil Montgomery, - In Appreciation of over a decade of sustained giving to promote creative conflict resolution in Whatcom County

Ann McCartney and Norm Lindquist - In Appreciation of over a decade of sustained giving to promote creative conflict resolution in Whatcom County

Ann McCartney and Norm Lindquist - In Appreciation of over a decade of sustained giving to promote creative conflict resolution in Whatcom County

Additional Awards Given:

In Honor of Martha & Jack Day for helping to build and sustain A Permanent Place for Peace in Whatcom County

John Blume and David Imburgia - Volunteer of the Year, in appreciation of outstanding efforts and dedication to advancing our mission