Don’t confuse these terms. Often we think youth mistrust everyone and systems. While they might, often it is distrust they experience.
Remember that when we create systems or programs we need to think about the lived experience of youth. It doesn’t matter what I think or my intention, it matters the lived experience of the youth. So, when it comes to mistrust or distrust the difference is, distrust is grounded in experience. While mistrust is general or a feeling. Sometimes mistrust is used to describe mistaken trust. Trust that is give when it should have been.
When we think about youth’s responses to our attempts at building relationships, whether around conflict or in another setting it is important to note that they may have real reasons to distrust us or our “new systems.” If when we build our systems and convince a young person to trust this system, allow them to take account of their actions, and make a commitment to make right the harm we need to be diligent in our follow up and follow through. They may have misplaced their trust in us and our systems, this will create distrust.
What about that makes sense? How would you build trust? How do you prevent creating misplaced trust?
It is fitting to highlight the work of Kitsap Co. in light of the recent NPR articles about Grays Harbor Co’s focus on juvenile detention. The juxtaposition of these two pretty rural counties is striking. I will focus on what Kitsap Co is doing differently.
Through a partnership with the Juvenile courts the DRC has created an “anti-theft circle.” They typically meet monthly (sometimes twice a month), during this meeting they may serve between 2 and 8 youth and their families. The DRC has other more intensive Restorative Conferences, but these circles are unique in their ability to address multiple authors and their families.
The circles are run by two staff members, there are often 4-8 volunteer community members, at least one city or county police officer, and at least one parent/guardian of the youth on diversion. The staff expertly welcomes all members and explains the ground rules and expectations. They share the role of facilitator but only do a small portion of the speaking. There are questions directed at the youth, the parents/guardians, and the community members. These questions while simple and straight forward often elicits an emotional response from youth or parents, sometimes both. Youth from all walks of life are represented. For youth to share their experiences with each other and learn from their emotional experience is impactful. I am impressed with the vulnerability of parents/guardians, I am often more impressed with the young people. Their understanding of the situation, the capacity to reflect authentically, and demonstrate compassion toward all who where impacted.
The down side of this model is it is just a conversation, while an incredibly good one, it doesn’t have the act of apology associated with the system. That doesn’t mean it isn’t restorative, it just means it is a different model, used in different circumstances. This is one of the first high capacity restorative models I have seen. We at the center are developing similar systems and tools for schools.