A juvenile probation officer oversees many aspects of the life of a young person who has been convicted of some crime. When a young person is placed on probation in the United States, he is typically assigned to a probation officer who designs a plan that will help the youth to become a successful member of the community. Education, medical concerns, and court mandates are addressed by the probation department, as are family issues. The juvenile's probation may include home visits by a probation officer as well as office visits to the probation department. These are designed to monitor the offender's adherence to the probation plan.
When a juvenile probationer has committed an act of violence, failed to show for school, or otherwise disregarded a condition of probation, his probation officer will contact the young person and discuss the non-compliance with the rule. The youth can be reprimanded by the officer or taken into custody and brought before a judge to discuss the infraction. In most instances, the officer will attempt to work with the juvenile and find a way to get the plan back on track.
Kindness, fairness, and compassion are traits that a juvenile probation officer may need to do the job well. The officer should have good communication skills — both verbal and written — as well as basic problem-solving skills. A primary duty of the job is to work within the community to help young offenders ease back into society in a productive way. This can involve the young person finding employment or counseling, and substance abuse treatment or education is often involved. In some metropolitan areas, the probation officer may even participate in gang removal efforts.
In most areas, a juvenile probation officer needs a college degree as well as some job-specific training. In more cases than not, he or she is hired through the court system with some areas requiring approval from a judge to even apply for the position. While many parole officers carry firearms, the majority do not. In most cases, someone who works with juveniles does have the authority to hold a client and transport him to jail or to a youthful offender program.
Long hours and a heavy caseload are the norm for most probation officers. Many experience positive results from their clients; however, the recidivism rate for young offenders is very high. Working with the youth's family is often a difficult job at best and can be a dangerous one as well. Home visits and family counseling requires that the officer enter the family's home, since this often gives the officer the greatest insight into their clients' behavior patterns.