Among our greatest challenges as a nation
today is making America a safe place
to grow old
.”  — Lisa Nerenberg


Learn About Elder Abuse

Restorative Justice Approaches to Elder Abuse Prevention

Restorative justice has been described as a philosophy, a set of practices, a movement, and even a way of life. Rooted in American Indian and native justice traditions, it addresses crime and abuse as violations of people and relationships, and assumes that certain conflicts, particularly those involving families, can best be resolved by repairing relationships and controlling risk, rather than simply punishing offenders. Restorative justice encompasses a broad range of techniques and interventions, including mediation and family conferencing. It further emphasizes abuser accountability by providing opportunities for abusers to pay restitution and make amends to their victims and their communities.

Resources on Restorative Justice

Promising Practices:

  • The Jamestown S’klallam project was a three-year research and demonstration project sponsored by the Administration on Aging as part of the Native American Caregiver Support Program. It explored the use of conferences to help families that are in conflict or having difficulties related to caregiving, including burnout and sibling rivalry, the need to address end-of-life issues, and confronting anger and guilt. For more on the project, see Native American Caregiver Support Program (NACSP): Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, [PDF:105kb]
  • The Restorative Justice Approaches to Elder Abuse Project is a collaborative of seven community agencies in the Kitchener-Waterloo area of Southwestern Ontario. Concerned parties meet to explore why abuse occurred and what can be done to repair the harm or prevent it from happening again. The project was designed in recognition of the fact that many seniors fail to report abuse or seek outside help for rear of losing their relationships with abusive family members or friends. The program is being replicated in other cities.
  • In Wisconsin, domestic elder abuse offenders may be granted the opportunity to work to regain the trust of their elderly victims and of society through a deferred prosecution agreement (Wis. Stat. § 971.37).  Prosecutors may, for example, require offenders to complete treatment programs, attend elder care training, and refrain from using alcohol and controlled substances for a specified time. Failure to comply may result in felony charges and a prison sentence.
  • After conducting an initial study to explore conferencing with Native American elders who are at risk of elder mistreatment on one Montana reservation, the College of Nursing at Montana State University launched a conferencing program.

From My Blog:

  • Mediating Elder Financial Abuse. Monday, December 29, 2008. A few years ago, my long-time friend, Oakland-based attorney Frederick Hertz made the switch from litigating conflicts over money and property involving family members and partners to mediating them. When he told me that he’d teamed up with another mediator with 20 year’s experience as a family therapist to explore the legal and psychological interface of “family business” gone wrong, I was intrigued. Read more
  • Comings, Goings, and Congratulations (September 05, 2007)
    As many of you know, I've had a strong interest in restorative justice approaches to preventing elder abuse. So, I was intrigued and pleased to learn that Arlene Groh, Elder Abuse Restorative Justice Resource Consultant for the Elder Abuse Response Team in Waterloo, Ontario, spent the Second World Elder Abuse Awareness Day in Busan, Korea, giving a workshop on her work. To see the full post, click on Comings, Goings, and Congratulations
  • Meditations on Mediation (November 08, 2006)
    My old friend Fred Hertz is arguably the nation’s leading expert on “gay divorce.” A lawyer, he represents partners in break-ups and has written a book on the subject, been interviewed on NPR, appeared on Oprah, and is frequently quoted in the press.  So, I was more than a little surprised when he told me recently that he doesn’t want to litigate cases anymore but instead, use his skills to help couples stay out of court. To see the full post, click on Meditations on Mediation
  • Offenders, Victims and Restorative Justice (July 10, 2006)
    Last month, I presented at the Offender Treatment, Victim Services, Restorative Justice conference in Miami, which was sponsored by the Institute of Evidence-Based and Best Practices. The conference was a bold one–it’s not that usual to bring victims’ and offenders’ advocates together, and when you throw in sessions on applying restorative justice (RJ) to domestic violence (DV), you know they were pushing the limits. To see the full post, click on Offenders, Victims and Restorative Justice
  • Walmart Benefits from Restitution Reform (May 15, 2006)
    The other day, I was updating a handout I use for presentations on financial abuse and decided to check up on a project I list in the "Best Practices” section. It's a program created to revamp Vermont’s restitution recovery system, which got started after a 2001 state auditor's report revealed that only 13 cents of every dollar owed for restitution had been collected during the previous year. To see the full post, click on Walmart Benefits from Restitution Reform
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For more on promising practices and developments in the field, visit my blog, Prevent Elder Abuse.
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