Concentric Circles

Consulting Service to Promote
and Apply Circle Practice
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I am excited to share my knowledge of, experience in and passion for the restorative process, which I first became more acutely aware of when I first learned about Restorative Justice in 1999. Listening to a community leader explaining RJ while I was involved in a group committed to supporting youth in the area, I immediately resonated to its unifying and healing qualities. Since then, I have completed four certificates in the facilitation of various restorative practices:Mediation, Circle Keeping, as well as the Facilitation of Family Group Conferences and Dialogue between Victim and Offender of Serious Offenses. I have worked for over 10 years as a group facilitator, educator, and advocate for adult inmate and ex-offenders, primarily men, dealing with domestic violence, anger management and relationship issues. After recently completing a Masters in Educating Adults degree from DePaul University, I am now focusing on writing, speaking and helping others to apply the restorative paradigm, in personal, community and business small group settings. My focus is on showing others how to use the Circles in their small groups in order to enhance self-awareness and promote productive collaboration as a team.

 

Explanation of Blog Theme

My blogs are focused on applying restorative thinking to all situations. They are derived from the restorative paradigm at the heart of Restorative Justice, which includes all parties impacted by any event in which one party has hurt/wronged another, allowing for each person to speak, honoring each person's position and voice. Unlike shorter, quicker fixes, the restorative approach inspires more satisfaction for victims and more meaningful, effective consequences for offenders, which often deter them from repeating harmful behavior.

To explain further, Restorative Responses are plans, suggestions, solutions that incorporate the opinions and needs of all those involved in any relationship, situation or event. This perspective and attempt to include and empower all the parties affected by any significant person, behavior or program, may require more time and energy in the short run, but tend to lead to more productive, lasting results for the most individuals in the long run. The restorative approach is a holistic perspective which seeks to understand and address the needs and opinions of everyone involved within any system by embracing each individual person as a physical, thinking, feeling, and spiritual being. As I continue my own personal journey of evolution and growth, I am often reminded of how this holistic perspective of us as human beings, invites a greater sense of awareness about what is required to return ourselves to wholeness as well as to a greater sense of peace, satisfaction and good health. How can we promote a greater understanding of and ability to facilitate and reinforce "restorative responses" to ourselves as well as to other systems and situations in which we may become involved?

 

Personal Experience
As I have seriously considered this quest, I have realized that this journey begins with me, my own attitudes and responses to those who do not understand, question, disagree with, and even resist me, my ideas, needs, opinions and/or do not understand the restorative paradigm. I have worked in three different county jails and at first found myself very intimidated by, then angry with corrections officers and any other professionals within the criminal justice system who seemed so defensive, judgmental, and/or negative towards the idea of restorative justice. I also bristled at these types of responses to the incarcerated and individuals, in general, who were suspected of committing a crime. I teach what I have learned for myself and as I teach, I continue to challenge myself to think and act more restoratively. I make an attempt to calm my anger; check in with my beliefs; and strive to be less judgmental and accepting of those who frustrate me with their perspectives and negative, defensive, and/or controlling behavior - those who don't share my passion for and understand the "magical" effects of restorative justice and everything it represents! 

 

I have had an opportunity to practice a more restorative position by discussing restorative justice on a personal level and as a grad student and practitioner, either in person or online. Lately, I have been dialoguing with correctional professionals on a LinkedIn group site, and have had illuminating experiences personally and professionally by discovering our shared goals and addressing our different perspectives. Whenever I support those who disagree with me at the time, I am powerfully reminded that listening to and validating others, go a long way toward creating mutual understanding and respect, while building relationships and fostering peaceful and effective conflict resolution. Minds, and sometimes hearts as well, have been opened after I suspend my own ideas and agenda to affirm something positive about someone else. This is what Restorative Justice is all about, respecting all stakeholders and inviting them to the table to hold each other accountable, engage in authentic self-expression and participation, and to find ways to offer mutual support. I believe strongly that with this strategy, we can begin to lay the foundation for greater understanding of each other despite our differences, to create more positive relationships and ultimately to find ways to work more effectively and productively together. Difficult, yes; impossible, no!!

Circle Process

I have witnessed the positive effect of the Circle Process, the foundation of restorative practices, while working with inmates and ex-offenders as a group facilitator and instructor as well as during meetings in community settings.  It fosters a sense of equality; the facilitator sits in the circle and participates in the proceedings. Each person sitting equidistant from the center and able to see everyone else in the circle clearly, has a chance to speak without being interrupted. Everyone has an opportunity to be heard while practicing listening and respecting others within the circle. If the idea of using circle process in your situation-personal, community or business-resonates with you, please get in touch with me to find out how I can help you to apply it in your setting, or reach out if you just want to talk further about the restorative paradigm!

 

Lois Foster
Group Facilitator
Restorative Educator
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Email me at: loisf21@gmail.com

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