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What does a Juvenile Probation Officer do?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments

By anon944573 — On Apr 08, 2014

Speaking from experience as a juvenile probation parole officer: We do not get into this field for the pay; we do it to make a change in lives of our young ones that others have either given up on or have damaged.

JPO has a high turnover rate because we witness the worst the world has dealt to the kids in our community. A normal person can only take so much of that. I work in a city of almost 1 million and we see everything from the first time shoplifter to teenage pimps involved in human trafficking gangs and extreme violence. They have learned these behaviors from somewhere and it is our job to help them get away from these harmful lifestyles.

We often encounter families who support these behaviors and are not willing to help with any treatments, either because the child is helping to support the family financially or this is the “family business”.

You have to be that positive role model they have lacked probably their entire life, but also be that boundary setter that they are not used to. Although it is hard with very few visible, immediate rewards, you come to realize at some time, some place, you have made a change in a child for the better. And those few times you are blessed to see the positive change you have made, makes every other day worth the effort.

If you are looking at this job for the money, stop looking. If you are all about long hours, mediocre pay and the desire to help our youth, JPO is a good fit. Average pay is about $28-$40 K depending on entry experience. I make $46K a year after six years.

By anon305865 — On Nov 27, 2012

Will an underage drinking ticket/ DUI prevent anyone from pursuing a career in criminal justice / juvenile probation officer? A response will be greatly appreciated.

By sunshined — On Sep 26, 2012

@myharley-- My son has worked as a juvenile probation officer for about 5 years, and he makes around $45,000 a year. I think this is fairly typical for someone with this position and experience.

During that time he has noticed quite a bit of turnover. This must be a job that not everyone is cut out for, or they probably get burned out after awhile. I sure don't think I would have the patience for a job like this.

By myharley — On Sep 25, 2012

What is the average juvenile probation officer salary? In my experience many of these positions are not very high paying jobs, which is too bad because they are so important. When I think about the risks that are involved, I imagine most people go into this field really hoping to make a difference.

By golf07 — On Sep 24, 2012

There is always a degree of risk when working as a juvenile probation officer, but I think a lot of it depends on what part of the country you are working in.

I have a cousin who works in a large city as a juvenile probation officer, and his job can be very dangerous at times. I know he is able to carry a gun and think he has one with him much of the time.

He has worked with several youth that have been involved with gangs, and this can be especially challenging. One of the things that frustrates him the most is when the kids have absolutely no desire to make any kind of positive changes in their lives.

By SarahSon — On Sep 23, 2012

My aunt has worked as a juvenile probation officer for about 20 years. She has witnessed a lot during that time, and I would consider her very successful at what she does.

It takes a special person to work with these kids and it also takes a balance of kindness and compassion without letting them get away with anything. As far as I know she has never had to carry a gun, and I don't think this is something she would ever feel comfortable doing.

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