Just before a staff meeting, I received a message that I had a call from a young girl. I asked my coworker to take a message. When I came out of the meeting, that girl was waiting in my office.

     After calming her down, I found out that she was originally in the area visiting a friend, but lived in Georgia. She was supposed to have been on a flight back home at noon, but since she was in my office at 11:30, that wasn’t going to happen. Her parents had threatened to have her arrested if she did not come home, and she was terrified at the thought of going to jail. After getting as much information as I could from the girl, I called her parents. They were furious upon learning that their daughter had chosen to stay in Rome, and were determined to call the police. At a break in the conversation, I asked "How does that solution benefit you, and how does it benefit your daughter?" The question stopped them cold. They finally realized that I wasn’t stepping in as an advocate for their daughter; I was offering them a chance to find solutions that worked for everyone. They agreed to give me one day to set up a mediation.

     The next day, we did a mediation with the girl, her girlfriend, her girlfriend’s parents, and her own parents (via phone). Over the course of nearly five hours, plans were made for school, jobs, clothes, travel, and more. The girl was going to stay in Rome, with the exception of family events like her sister’s birthday, for three months. Two weeks later, she reported being happier than she has been in years, and that she and her parents were actually talking. When the agreement expired, the family used the skills they had learned in mediation to work out a four-month extension, with few changes. The agreement they created is still helping to keep this family together today.