Join Tabitha Moore as she chats with local experts Kate Brayton & Marc Wennberg about Restorative Practices in Vermont.
Cassie Gillespie: (00:02)
Welcome to the field. A podcast of targeted trainings for child welfare professionals. I’m Cassie Gillespie. Join us as we chat with local experts about topics that are pertinent to child welfare in Vermont.
Tabitha Moore: (00:15)
Good morning, or good afternoon, depending on when you chose to press play today. I’m Tabitha Moore. I am a training specialist here at the child welfare training partnership. And I’ll be your host for today’s episode on restorative practices. Today. I am joined by Kate Brayton, the victim service director for the major crime unit of the Vermont state police and Marc Wennberg restorative practices, trainer and consultant here in Vermont. Kate and Marc. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Marc Wennberg: (00:39)
Tabitha Moore: (00:40)
I’m so excited. I love working with both of you. Tell me and tell our listeners a little bit about how you got into restorative practices or restorative approaches, restorative justice as a whole. How did you get into it?
Marc Wennberg: (00:55)
Thank you, Tabitha. This is Marc and I got into it quite honestly, because it was a job when I first arrived back in Vermont in 2004, and I took a job at the Barre community justice center, the greater Barre justice center in establishing, designing, establishing, and then implementing a circle of support and accountability program. And it was one of the first programs in the state to adopt that model. Then subsequently became a director of a community justice center and then turned to independent consulting about five years ago. I took pretty immediately to the approach of restorative justice and it really resonated with me as a person and the previous work I had done.
Tabitha Moore: (01:46)
And I’ve had the privilege of getting to see you in action and work with you with our partners in youth justice, those folks that are doing the restorative justice work for barge. So, you are phenomenal and I’m so glad that you’ve joined us today. So thank you, Marc. And Kate, tell us a little bit about how you got into it.
Kate Brayton: (02:04)
So I think I’ll dive deeply back for a second and just say that I was raised in a family in a small town in Vermont, where there was a very, intense crime that happened when I was a child where two young girls were attacked and one was killed and one survived. And when that happened, my father was in law enforcement and was involved in the case. And I often thought as a child about how we help and serve victims of crime and how families are supported through trauma. And that led into working in social work. And during my social work education, I started to learn and think about restorative justice and about how we serve victims at that intersection of criminal justice and harm. And so I did my final project for my MSW on restorative justice and an internship through one of the first restorative justice programs in Vermont, before the community justice centers were set up and through that just fell in love with the principles and the values of restorative justice and how they apply. apply in so much that of what we do. I later started working with victims in different capacities and then became a director of a community justice center for a period of several years before leaving there.
Tabitha Moore: (03:24)
Wow. That’s incredible. Such a long history. And so personal too. I really appreciate that. I hear you saying the term restorative justice and folks listening have heard us say restorative justice or restorative practices, restorative approach. Can you tell us a little bit about the difference between them and, you know, what draws you to the term restorative justice in particular?
Marc Wennberg: (03:47)
Yeah, so I think one of the places to start is that instead of looking at a crime as a violation of law against the state crime is a violation of relationships. And it’s interesting that Kate mentioned that horrific crime, because I was growing up at that period too. And I remember it vividly. And so, and I was not in Essex. I was growing up in Waterbury center and so crime as a way of rippling out and impacting people in all sorts of different kinds of ways. So restorative justice is an approach that first of all, recognizes that relationships are affected by harm and wrongdoing and that that harm creates obligations and needs. And that the stakeholders, the people who are impacted by those, by those events get to define what those obligations and needs are. So it’s not about a state mitigating punishment.
Marc Wennberg: (04:41)
It’s about the people who are most impacted by events, having the opportunity to, to share those impacts and their stories with the people who committed the harm. And then out of that process of dialogue there is an there’s a set of, of responses that allow people who’ve committed harm to take responsibility and make amends to the people who they most directly affected. And so restorative justice is really about engaging the stakeholders connected to specific incidents to enter into a facilitated dialogue, to look for a way through and then beyond what took place.
Tabitha Moore: (05:22)
That makes a lot of sense. Thanks, Marc. I heard you say that restorative justice is about violation of relationships, not about violation of law. Kate, could you talk a little bit more about that and what are some of the things that distinguish restorative justice from punitive justice?
Kate Brayton: (05:39)
Yeah. I think kind of looking at the word justice and the word justice itself, I think has been I don’t think hijacked is the right word, but it’s been taken by the criminal justice system. And that’s what we use kind of as a definition of the criminal system where justice is very attached to criminal process. But when I think about justice in terms of restorative justice, I think about just relationships and how we are in relationship to others and how we are in relationship to our community and where those relationships intersect, We’re looking at those and restoring them so that they are just in that way. So when you’re thinking about it that way, it really encompasses harm and crime is a type of harm that’s formalized into a system. And so we can use restorative justice in a criminal justice system as an augmentation or an alternative to that system. But when we’re talking about restorative justice in a larger sense, we’re talking about how we in our human relationships harm each other and how that harm has manifested through those relationships and how we can get back to a just platform in those relationships.
Tabitha Moore: (06:50)
I really appreciate that perspective because what it does is it brings it back to more people. It makes it about, like you said, the harm in the community, that it’s not just about a system which doesn’t necessarily feel anything but about the people and what happens to them.
Kate Brayton: (07:06)
So just to add to that a little bit, I’ve run across this in my work because I have a really supportive command staff who allows me to define the work that I do in a way that some people can’t. And one of the things we run into often is who is considered a victim in a crime. And especially when I work mainly homicides the victim has died and their family and friends and loved ones become those who have been harmed and they’re classified as legal victims for programming. But what you often find is those most impacted by that homicide aren’t necessarily the next of kin, depending on the relationships that existed before. So it takes, you know, to be able to take in all of the systems. And I think this is very true for DCF that often we find relationships for children aren’t necessarily defined by legal relationships, but defined by those who are putting the care and attention in that and creating safety for children.
Tabitha Moore: (08:10)
And that’s what goes back to that concept of just relationships that you were talking about?
Kate Brayton: (08:14)
Yeah. And, and who, you know, who is harmed? And I think that definition of who is harmed is much broader than we think of it in legal terms. In legal terms there’s a identified victim who might receive you know, some kind of reparation. But when we think about restorative justice in terms of relationships, and we think about those who are harmed, that that ripple gets much, much bigger, and we actually get to see those ripples in a different way.
Tabitha Moore: (08:39)
Right. And then those people get attention where they may not have before.
Marc Wennberg: (08:43)
And it’s not the state that, again, as Kate is saying, it’s not the state who determines who’s harmed it’s people themselves who have the opportunity to bring their experiences and their needs forward. So it broadens the understanding of how harm and wrongdoing impacts whole communities.
Tabitha Moore: (09:03)
It sounds like it’s about valuing people over systems. And that sounds like it’s probably a pretty important value of restorative justice. Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the other values that support or emerge from restorative justice principles?
Marc Wennberg: (09:21)
Sure. one of the things I really appreciate about restorative justice is it’s very human approach and it’s something that it’s not a language that you necessarily have to learn. It’s something that actually emerges out of us as people in part, because we are sensitive to the fact that we’ve, we, we have all suffered harm at one point or another in our lives. And in all likelihood, we have all harmed other people at one point in our lives. And so the, the values that underpin restorative justice are values that such as healing that restorative justice can create an environment in which people can heal from events. Reconciliation where there’s a rupture, there’s an opportunity for reconciliation. Respect. Respect can be a little bit tricky, but dialogues are grounded so that everyone who is coming together for a dialogue has the right to be respected regardless of what their role is in that particular event. Safety, that people in order to have these, these type of intimate conversations that are often intimate because, as we often know, crime isn’t necessarily committed between two people who don’t know each other often it’s committed by people who do know each other.
Marc Wennberg: (10:42)
So people need to be able to feel safe, to be able to share their experiences in a way that that is most true of themselves. It’s about responsibility, it’s about support. And it’s also about listening, which I think is one of those key aspects of our restorative process is that it’s an opportunity to speak, but it’s also really an opportunity to listen and hear from if it’s done well, from a heart centered place about how you’ve impacted other people.
Tabitha Moore: (11:10)
Thank you. You said something that, that stood out to me when you said people who harm have also been harmed could you talk a little bit more about that related to restorative justice and what does that look like if you were the person who’s done the harm what is the attention there?
Marc Wennberg: (11:31)
I think the intention and actually it’s, it’s actually something that often comes out in restorative. Dialogues is often people who’ve been harmed and with a specific event, want to know why, you know, why did this, why did you do this? Why did this happen? And, and that actually invites an opportunity for the people who committed the harm to share a little bit more about their context and their lives, so that it actually gives valuable information to the people who may have suffered harm by this person. It doesn’t excuse what took place, but it does provide context. I think one of the most interesting areas of restorative justice that is sometimes pursued and sometimes not pursued is questions of social justice and what are those elements of, in context within communities that lead to harm and wrongdoing. And it’s, it’s a very important part of conversation that isn’t always brought into some of the specific restorative dialogues, but I think it’s, it’s something where it’s a direction that we need to head as a movement.
Kate Brayton: (12:36)
I would add to that. One of the, one of the really interesting things that’s tied to what Marc is saying is also the role of forgiveness and restorative justice, and often the examples of restorative justice that we see in media, whether it’s in a YouTube video or a training, are those restorative justice situations where there’s a moment of forgiveness from victim to offender or Harmer, and that is not necessary in the restorative process for it to be successful. And I’ve seen more often than not restorative processes that are transformative, but don’t include forgiveness. And it’s not an expectation that we should have on people who have been harmed to reach that. And I think some people do that. They, you know, they want to reach that forgiveness because it feels transformative for everybody in the room. But that’s not the intent of restorative justice. The intent is to have a really authentic dialogue that really honors where people are at and what, what they need, regardless of whether the outcome is something the facilitators want, if that makes sense. And I often think about that before I go into a restorative process that what are my hopes for this, but really those are secondary to what the hopes of the participants are.
Tabitha Moore: (13:58)
And that sounds like that’s the social justice piece is allowing the needs of the people in the room in particular, those who’ve been harmed to guide the process a bit. Is that an accurate way to say that?
Kate Brayton: (14:12)
Yeah. And to let them set the, set, the expectations and benchMarcs for themselves, rather than having us kind of transfer onto them.
Marc Wennberg: (14:21)
I think that’s a really important point, Kate. And I think that’s one of the, one of the important, that’s one of the reasons why grounding ourselves, and maybe we’re jumping ahead here, but grounding ourselves in the principles and values are so important as facilitators of restorative process, because we can bring our own agendas if we don’t return to what is the purpose and the values and the principles of these processes, we can inject ourselves. And you know I, myself am often guilty of wanting to fix things as a facilitator of restorative process. It’s not my job to fix things. It’s my job to create a space where the people who hold, who have the greatest stake in what took place, have the opportunity to quote unquote fix things as they see as they define what it means to fix.
Kate Brayton: (15:13)
Right. And that gets complicated. You know, if we’re looking at the context of DCF and child safety, there are some expectations around child safety that need to be met. And so holding those two things of creating a process that is defined by and held by the people most impacted at the same time, having a system that has to ensure child safety, it can get tricky. And I think one of the things for DCF that’s really important is that the use of teaming within DCF allows for those conversations to happen so that you have, similar to your safety meetings, you have bottom lines, like there are bottom lines and in restorative family group conferencing, you can have those bottom lines, but then allow for more agency from the family or stakeholders.
Tabitha Moore: (16:07)
Kate, you mentioned restorative family group conferencing. Could you talk a little bit about just for a second? What is that?
Kate Brayton: (16:12)
So it’s, you know, a process that’s based in restorative principles where it’s a family safety meeting that includes stakeholders and includes some bottom lines that an agency might need to have met in order for child safety to be achieved and gives the folks in the room tools to be able to spend time alone, to create a plan that meets the needs of the child and family and the needs of the agency for safety on their own before intervention and structured programming is put in place. It gives families the opportunity to create their own solution before we go and fix it for them, or try to fix it for them. And the way that we do with structured plans and it’s extremely heavily used in other countries.
Kate Brayton: (17:03)
And we’ve been trying to, to use it more in Vermont, we’ve done a few trainings and we’ve kind of had some starts and stops along the way. But it’s really a way to give more power to the stakeholders and to those most impacted by the child safety intervention, by the state, in order for them to use their own tools and understand their own strengths to, to solve their own safety issues. And so there’s a structure to it. It’s a longer, you know, a longer conversation, but there’s a structure to it. And there are there’s all, you know, the thing about restorative family group conferencing is that there is a lot of pre-work and in any restorative process there is, there is a amount of pre-work that allows for relationship building and allows for you to leverage the relationships in the room for positive outcomes. And because this is a relational set of values and principles and a relational practice that time is really necessary and important.
Marc Wennberg: (18:10)
I just want to build very quickly on that is one of the practices that I feel most drawn to is circle practice. There is a classic what they from the in circle practice language of a medicine wheel the medicine wheel being an essentially an entire circle process, but one of the core values is you spend as much time building relationship and connection between the people, the participants, and in that circle, as you do, addressing the core issues at hand and seeking resolution to those core issues at hand, because as Kate is referencing, those relationships allow people to work through the difficult stuff. It’s what makes lasting solutions, resolutions possible because, because it’s built on connection as opposed to imposed or some type of imposed solution.
Tabitha Moore: (19:03)
So meeting them where they are meeting the people where they are. And I think as Kate said earlier, kind of honoring that where they are with the harm. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the practices that put restorative justice values and principles into action.
Marc Wennberg: (19:21)
We’ve already talked about a couple, restorative family group conferencing circle practices, there’s panel meetings, there’s victim offender dialogue. There are any number of different practices that bring forward the values and principles of restorative justice. And so a lot of it is based upon who’s involved, how many people are involved what are the issues at hand? And so you can choose practices, sort of like a tool and you can choose the tool which best meets the particular situation. And as I was mentioning, one of my favorites is, is circle processes, but circle processes frankly are serious time investments. And you may not always have that amount of time, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t bring restorative values and principles into even just a conversation or a dialogue with a young person or with a family or or with a victim as well.
Tabitha Moore: (20:25)
Okay. That makes sense. Kate, did you have anything that you wanted to add there?
Kate Brayton: (20:29)
I would just reiterate what Marc said, you know, anywhere that there is harm within relationships, there can be restorative work and it might not look like a program or a practice that we’ve set up as a scaffolding to have restorative work happen. It could be within a conversation within a day within the client work that somebody is already doing. And when I think about DCF or family services in particular, it is a system of child safety. That’s based on relationships, you know, as a former social worker who worked for DCF and family services, the best cases I worked were the ones where I was able to create connection and relationship with the families that I worked with and that foundation and using restorative practices or values within that relationship is is how you get through the tough stuff.
Kate Brayton: (21:32)
Because I know that for a child safety social worker, much of their job is having very difficult conversations with family and telling them really hard things to hear. And if you can take some of the restorative values and recognize the harm that that caused, even if you’re not accountable for that harm or responsible, you can still use restorative values to help acknowledge and validate the harm. And so I think there’s so many opportunities within the system to do that that we’re missing and that we could be doing more of. And so I just think about that a lot in terms of how, you know, how we think about it as practice. Like, can we insert a specific practice into our work, but for me more importantly, how do we think about harm within the families we work with and how can we start talking about that in a way that doesn’t feel so bad?
Tabitha Moore: (22:26)
That sounds like it’s a restorative approach. Yes?.
Marc Wennberg: (22:30)
Yeah. And I just want to add something and, I’m looking at it right now, this docent called seven core assumptions, and it goes with the circle practice and these are value statements such as the true self and everyone is good wise and powerful, or all human beings have a deep desire to be in good relationship. And what I appreciate about these, these value statements is they challenge our assumptions. So I think what can happen sometimes when we work within systems, or when we, even, when we don’t work within systems, we can start to develop some assumptions about the people who we work with. And those assumptions lead us to approach them in a certain, certain type of way. And I think if, if we, at least at the very least, if we check our assumptions, before we walk through a door, we might view the people who we work with within a different light. And I think that’s a really important part of, of this work.
Tabitha Moore: (23:26)
And that goes back to what you were saying earlier about making sure that it’s not our needs or our agenda, that’s driving the process. It’s gotta be coming from the people. And that ties back into the concepts that you were both talking about related to social justice and the need to understand yourself before you even try a restorative approach. So you understand where those potential pitfalls can be. Alright, I get it. And you just touched on this briefly, the difference between restorative approach and restorative justice. Do you mind just looping back on that real quick?
Kate Brayton: (23:58)
Yeah, I think I’ll talk about a little bit about my work now, so, okay. It’s surprising to hear that now that I work almost exclusively in homicide cases, my work feels more restorative than when I was the director of a community justice center. And it’s surprising because a community justice center had a whole bunch of restorative programming and practices that we implemented on a daily basis to tackle harms within the community. And that work was amazing, and I enjoyed it a lot. In homicide. I come into the case after the harm has happened. And in that way, it’s similar to child protection work, where we come into the life of a family after the abuse or neglect has happened, it’s been reported and substantiated through our process. And so in that I know that I can go in and I can anticipate all of this harm that’s happened.
Kate Brayton: (24:59)
And I can anticipate what law enforcement are going to do in the, in their investigation. And I can anticipate that it’s going to feel violating. It’s going to feel hard, and it’s going to create more harm in the process of investigating a homicide. We create more harm. We are intrusive. We have a crime scene that somebody can’t go to so they lose their housing for days on end. We’re taking their phones and their computers for our investigation. So we do a lot of intrusive work around the investigation that causes more harm to the family system. And I can anticipate that and name it and validate it and try to find really creative ways to work around as a community member, as a support person, I can witness that harm and as a supportive person, figure out how to make it less impactful. So I feel like that part is, is taking those restorative values of recognizing the harm, understanding it, validating, and asking what they need and what they want and giving as much choice and power as possible.
Kate Brayton: (26:00)
And I think that is a fairly parallel position that social workers are in when they come upon a family where a child has been removed and that harm has happened. And then you have an entity in that family’s life with a case plan and court hearings and other things. And we can anticipate some of the harm that happens from the system and that harm is happening in service to very good things. In my case, hopefully arresting somebody who’s, who’s causing serious harm in the community and in their case holding accountable people who are causing harm to children. So within that context, I think there are a lot of ways that we could recognize the harm that the system creates, whether it’s a child removal, a transition between homes, a transition from one foster family, to another, from a residential to a new foster family, to kinship, transition of schools that happens a lot loss of family, loss of friends. If you do have to change school systems, like there’s a lot of areas specific to child placement, where I think we can anticipate the harm and start to validate and name it and work restoratively within it. And to me that is more of, you know, restorative practice or restorative approach than it is restorative programming. Does that make sense?
Tabitha Moore: (27:17)
It makes a lot of sense. And it sounds like there’s a lot of benefits to naming the harm that we do as practitioners, even though, you know, we’re in there for the purpose of safety, which is a great goal. It sounds like when we dig deeper and, and consider all these other pieces of harm, it might allow us to approach the work differently. Maybe be more empathetic where there’s some, I saw you Marc, where are you going to say something too?
Marc Wennberg: (27:42)
I want to, first of all, appreciate what Kate was saying about the work that she’s doing now. Timing is so important and when people are engaged in a restorative way and for a lot of the cases that come through restorative justice in Vermont, the timing is actually, there’s quite a lag, frankly, between when an incident takes place and when there’s a restorative approach that comes in or restorative program or a restorative process. So the fact that Kate is able to employ these values and principles when a crime takes place in a very serious crime. I think that’s, that’s a remarkable commitment on the state of the Vermont to do that. The thing I want to add is that a different, another way of considering also the restorative approach is that it’s not only responding when there’s harm. It’s a tool, it’s a process. It’s an approach that can be used to prevent harm, to build mutual held expectations that are not imposed upon people, but actually come from, from groups of people within themselves. So schools are using restorative approaches now, not just to respond to when there’s wrong harm in the classroom, but to build a a healthy classroom community. And so they often talk about the tiered approach. And that first basic foundation is that tier where you still use restorative practices, but you’re using restorative practices to build relationships between people so that when, if and when harm occurs, they’re ready to use those practices to address the harm. And then when there’s the most serious harm that takes place, there are also practices by which someone can, if they’re removed from the community, they can come back into that community through a restorative approach.
Tabitha Moore: (29:29)
So looking at it from assisted, like integrating restorative approaches and values into your system, into the very fabric of what you do can make it easier so that when an incident does occur, you’re already ready. And then the question would be for districts is how do you do that? How are you incorporating restorative values into your daily fabric? Do either of you have any thoughts about how that might happen? Kate and Marc?
Kate Brayton: (29:58)
So being a social worker, especially when it comes to child abuse, neglect is probably the most under-resourced undervalued overworked group of people that I’ve ever had been a part of. And it is, you know, nobody who’s doing child protection work is in it for the money or the glory of it all, because what happens is you’re working with communities and folks that have been harmed, and haven’t worked through that or had any attention to that harm and what they do is they harm, right? And so often the social worker is in the position of being harmed in their job on a daily basis, whether it’s being screamed at on the phone, whether it’s being dismissed or just not valued. And so I think if you start within the DCF community, within the FSD family to really work restoratively with a team of social workers who even though they handle it beautifully are being harmed daily by the work that they’re doing. I think naming and acknowledging that and approaching that will in turn, allow for them to approach their work with those same values. But I think that is the, that’s the work that needs to happen first in order to take hold. That would be that would be what I would, where I would start.
Tabitha Moore: (31:16)
Hmm. It sounds like that’s really important to building a strong, secure base for workers. Thank you. And Marc,
Marc Wennberg: (31:22)
I can’t add much more than that. Other than to say that you know, I, I think as workers, if, if you can question the work you’re doing view the work you’re doing through the lens of restorative justice, that may change how you do some of it. I mean, where is the opportunity to safely allow families to make decisions for the, for the, for the people who they care for in a safe way, how can you empower people who often have not been heard by systems to be heard? How do you create environments where part of your work is just to listen? And, and I, and I, I know this all takes place, so I’m not questioning it, this takes place, but I just think that through a, a lens of restorative principles and practices, there’s probably an opportunity for, for us all to change some of the ways some of the, some of the habits may have that have been built up over time in the work that we do.
Tabitha Moore: (32:25)
And, and when you actually, I’m really glad that you said that about, you know, looking at this as a lens, through which to do the work there’s and Kate, you know, you talked about the demand on DCF workers and just the way they are harmed continually throughout the process as well. If we’re going to try to be more restorative or to implement restorative principles in the daily work there’s already so much expectation, as you said. And if our listeners have been listening to some of the other podcasts, we’re saying, you know, do all this, do all this, what are your thoughts or ideas about how staff could begin to implement restorative principles in their daily work?
Kate Brayton: (33:08)
Yeah, so I’ve always loved the concept of transition circles for kids who are transitioning from placements. And I think that’s a nice way to, to play with the values and the principles, and it’s a fairly routine thing that happens anyway. But if you had a farewell circle from the family, you were moving from, regardless of what the outcome of that, of that living situation was, whether it was a short term placement or whether a child blows out of that placement, behaviorally having a closing circle where those circle questions are about what they value in each other, what they learned from each other, how much they’re going to miss each other. If a child could leave a placement with those feelings and then go to a new placement and that circle could be, here are the norms of our home. Here are our expectations. Here’s how excited we are to have you and welcome you into our home. And here’s, we want to hear what your expectations of us are and what are the things you need to know. And if, if we could structure those dialogues to be really restorative and, you know, have a restorative lens and I would expect this is already happening some, but I don’t know how consistently it’s happening. Cause I know that when I was at DCF, we talked about this as a possibility. So something like that might be a piece where somebody could start that work and see how well it worked and start to branch out into other spaces.
Marc Wennberg: (34:36)
I would just add that, internally as well. I think Kate was talking about this. I can only imagine the experiences that the social workers are carrying with them in the work that they do. And are there opportunities for circle processes within staff that allow folks to bring down some of the, let go of some of the stress and the experiences that they’re, that they’re holding and sharing it in a, in a, an environment with colleagues who are going through the same thing. So how can, how can restorative practices be implemented in your offices to support your teamwork and your own health and wellbeing? I think it’s also important.
Kate Brayton: (35:23)
So I just want to add onto that Marc, having been in some circles in DCF. Circles, one of the most important things about circles is, again, the, pre-work the of questions that allow people to go deeply into those spaces and creating the safety to do that. And I have been in circles where people weren’t trained in circles, but felt like they could do circles. And the question development was missed, or there are pieces of the circle that were missed. And so I do think that there is a need for training circles to look simple, but in fact can be really complicated to develop and to maintain and to facilitate or keep. And so I just want to acknowledge that. I think I just want to add that about circles.
Marc Wennberg: (36:19)
I appreciate you saying that Kate the, these, these values and principles spring from our natural human experience, but the actual facilitation of them is a skill and it’s a skill that comes with practice and in practice there’s learning. And so I often say if you’re just starting out, don’t dive into the deep end, take a wade in the pool and see what it’s like and learn from it, and then go a couple steps deeper. And, and I also appreciate, as Kate was saying circles can go bad if they’re done poorly and it can turn people off to them or restorative practices for that matter, but broaden it to restorative practices that aren’t done well can turn people off to what a restorative practice is, when it’s actually not an accurate reflection. And I think that would, that would be unfortunate to say the least,
Kate Brayton: (37:12)
Right. I didn’t do a circle on my own for a long time. I always had somebody more seasoned than me in the chair next to me, because I felt, you know, it gave me confidence and I felt like they could carry if I dropped something, they’d be able to pick it up.
Tabitha Moore: (37:28)
Okay. So if I’m listening to this podcast, which I am doing, and I’m totally bought in to everything you’re saying, I think, you know, restorative practices, restorative approaches are sort of values like, yes, I am sold, but I’m also hearing that maybe I probably shouldn’t just jump in and start doing them. What advice do you have for FSWs who are out there right now, listening to this who want to get in? How, how can they potentially kind of dip their toe in the water?
Kate Brayton: (38:00)
I would just say that, I think you can start thinking restoratively, even if you’re not practicing a circle process itself. So thinking about the restorative principles and it might be that you print them out and you keep them with you, or it might be that you read a good book on restorative justice or restorative values or practices and Marc, and I could certainly create a list of those types of resources. There’s some great books about circles and what’s important about them. There’s some great books about specific practices or, you know, about restorative practice in general and restorative justice.
Marc Wennberg: (38:33)
And I would add training, you know I think training is very valuable, particularly if you follow it up quickly with practice. So from training to practice, and again, even that initial practice is again, like I say, don’t dive into the deep end, start out, find someone who else, as Kate was saying, find someone who has more experience than you to work with to be mentored by. I’ve I certainly have learned how to do some circle practices by my mentors and by training. So I think both of those are helpful.
Tabitha Moore: (39:08)
So if I’m listening and I’m excited, and then I hear, I should probably slow it down. Maybe what I could do is start looking at some of the resources that you mentioned. We’ll be sure to include that in a link when we post this podcast, maybe start to look at my own values and beliefs and how those might play into you know, my thoughts about restorative justice and start doing some of that internal reflection. Those are some some really great ideas that the two of you have. And I know I really appreciate them. Go ahead, Kate.
Kate Brayton: (39:39)
I would just add one of the ways to train that muscle memory in your brain is to look at a situation you’re in anticipate the potential harm, name it, and validate it. Like that is something that I do consistently in my work. I, I see what’s coming ahead, I name it. I validate it. And we get, we go from there. So I think that’s a muscle memory that gets created and something somebody can start immediately.
Tabitha Moore: (40:08)
Okay. So something you could train yourself to start doing now, just thinking about and anticipating potential harm in a situation and how it’s gonna impact people. That’s great. Marc. Anything to add there, or for both of you and Kate, I’m coming back to you in a second. We’re about to end our podcast. We know that, you know, everybody’s listening, they’re charged up, we’ve listened to podcasts before, and we know that we’re going to lose a lot of what we heard, what one or two kind of final closing statements, if people are going to forget most of what you said today, what are one or two things that you just want to make sure that they know about restorative approaches? I’m sorry, restorative approaches, restorative justice?
Marc Wennberg: (40:50)
I would say for me start at the foundation, start with the values and the principles. And I will put up the seven core assumptions, what we believe to be true which was put out by the Kay Pranis and Carolyn Boyes-Watson. Cause I just, I feel like it’s not only an aspiration, it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to us as people and how we do our work. And it doesn’t mean that we have to necessarily adopt all those, those values there, but, but they are great ways to check ourselves. And so I just think that’s a great place to start. And if that leads you in further from there. Great. I think that would be a good place to start.
Tabitha Moore: (41:29)
Thanks Marc. Kate?
Kate Brayton: (41:30)
I think I would simply want people to be thinking about the fact that harm happens between people and it happens. You know, harm is not owned by the criminal justice system and justice is not owned by the criminal justice system. That harm and justice are relational concepts and that this is this restorative approach and restorative justice is about the harm and the justice in those relationships.
Tabitha Moore: (42:09)
Some great advice. Thank you, Kate Brayton, Marc Weinberg. Thank you so much for talking with us today about restorative justice. We appreciate so much your expertise and the work that you’re doing to refocus relationships to recenter relationships when it comes to justice. So this has been an episode of ‘Welcome to the Field’ with the Vermont child welfare training partnership. If you found this podcast useful hop on over to our website, the Vermont CWTP and check it out not just this podcast, but some of our others as well. You also find the micro-learning that Kate and Marc are doing with practitioners in their field. The topic of restorative practices. And you may want to give that just a glance over if you’re aching for more on the topic of restorative practices. Thank you, Marc and Kate again for being with us and thanks everyone For listening.
Marc Wennberg: (42:59)
Kate Brayton: (42:59)
Cassie Gillespie: (43:00)
Thanks for listening. If you have any ideas about topics that you want us to cover or episodes that you’re interested in hearing, shoot us a message. You can reach me by email at email@example.com, or you can leave us a comment on the webpage where you downloaded this podcast. ‘Welcome to the Field’ is produced by the Vermont child welfare training partnership and the state of Vermont and a special thank you to brick drop for composing and recording our music. See you next time.