$8,000 grant to assist at-risk families in learning peaceful conflict resolution

June 02, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

Hoping to reduce violence among single-parent families and those addicted to drugs and alcohol, two Howard County organizations are using an $8,000 state grant to teach residents how to resolve disputes peaceably.

The Howard County Health Department, and the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center at Howard Community College, are drafting plans to work with parents of children in the county's Head Start program and members of its addiction services support group.

Officials at the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center said the programs could begin as early as this fall, although officials in the health department say that paperwork could delay the start until next year.

"We felt we could provide special training for an at-risk population," said Dr. Richard Bachrach, director of the county Health Department's Bureau of Mental Health and Addictions.

Awarded in January by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the grant targets women and children who have been victims of violence or are considered at risk of committing violence because of teen pregnancy, poverty, substance abuse or a history of violence.

Organizers of the prevention program hope to teach participants how to listen, cope with their anger and find alternatives to violence.

The grant finances conflict resolution training, transportation costs for participants, program evaluation and other expenses.

This past spring, the county Health Department and the community college used the grant to train 15 teen-age mothers at the Howard County School of Technology and 13 staff members from the Health Department's Mental Health Center and addictions program.

Staff at the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center teach participants how to manage their anger, assert themselves, focus on things they have in common and listen to others.

"Conflict in and of itself is not bad," said Jean Toomer, co-chair of the center's steering committee. "It can be used constructively. There are ways to deal with conflict that can be creative."

Although conflict resolution discourages violence as a means of resolving a disagreement, that does not mean allowing someone to take advantage of another person, said Mitch Rosenwald, assistant administrator of the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center.

"It's making sure all issues are on the table and that each person understands the other person's perspective," he said.

Conflict resolution skills are important because disagreements are a part of life, Mr. Rosenwald said.

"Our daily lives are filled with conflicts. People are different, they're coming from different views."

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