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VOA Turns to Virtual Mediation to Solve Conflict

VOA Turns to Virtual Mediation to Solve Conflict

Local Dispute Resolution Centers are first in state to adopt on-line strategy.


Everett, WA—May 26th, 2020. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, Volunteers of America Western

Washington (VOA) has accelerated its innovative strategy to offer mediation on-line through its

Dispute Resolution Centers (DRCs) in Snohomish, Island and Skagit Counties. “We led the charge

in Washington State,” says Senior Director of DRCs LaDessa Croucher. “We’re moving on-line.

We have to.”

Mental health experts predict growing rates of domestic violence, family conflict, and other

issues as victims cannot employ regular coping strategies, such as escaping to work, school, or

social activities. And, because many children are not regularly being observed outside their homes,

due to the closure of schools, it’s highly likely that instances of child abuse or neglect are going

unreported. Mediation is an evidence-based, effective strategy to resolve many types of family,

community, and workplace conflict, and is now available to anyone with access to the internet.

Resolution Washington, which coordinates all DRCs in the state, reports that mediation is faster,

cheaper and often more effective than litigation, generating solutions crafted by the participants in

an atmosphere of safety, respect, and listening. In 2019, over 5,000 cases were mediated in

Washington State, often by volunteer mediators, a value of over $2 million. 90% of clients reported

that mediation improved their situation, and 77% of family mediations settled during the process.

In Snohomish, Island and Skagit Counties, 825 cases were mediated by the VOA’s Dispute

Resolution Centers in 2019, resulting in 67% of family mediation cases settled.


Given today’s social isolation, virtual mediation is becoming a valuable option for many

looking to resolve conflict now. VOA sees virtual mediation as an important option for those in

rural communities, homebound seniors, military families and anyone with transportation

challenges.


Croucher reports that 28 volunteers and staff have already been trained in using on-line

platforms, and virtual mediation is now a viable option for anyone experiencing conflict. She

believes civil court will eventually recognize virtual mediation as a valuable option for resolving

disputes, possibly after the pandemic. “If you show the court the same efficiencies online as in-person, keep resolving up to 65% of civil cases before trial, these services could create greater

efficiencies. I see virtual mediation becoming a regular part of how we operate.”