Judges often use probation as an alternative to detention in juvenile cases. The prevalence of this punitive option has generated a need for probation officers with extensive knowledge of developmental psychology, juvenile justice and addiction responses. Juvenile probation officers work with a variety of teens and pre-teens within structured or unsupervised environments. Their primary duty is ensuring that their charges adhere to the stipulations of the juvenile judge’s orders and to help them integrate back into the education system to become productive members of society.
Juvenile probation officer jobs involve monitoring the actions of the juvenile offenders in their caseload. Written or verbal reports are regularly provided to judicial authorities. If the juvenile fails to follow the terms of their probation or if they engage in prohibited behavior, it is often the responsibility of the juvenile probation officer to arrest them or alert police.
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Juvenile Probation Officer Job Description
Juvenile probation officer jobs will involve fulfilling the following duties:
- Obtain the terms of the probation from judges or court officials
- Investigate the activities, school attendance and employment of offenders
- Monitor the interactions of offenders with friends and associates
- Alert law enforcement about probation violations
- Assist offenders enroll in treatment, counseling or community service programs
- Assess the mental health and physical state of juveniles to prevent use of alcohol or drugs
- Coordinate with employers, teachers and service agency directors about the offender’s activities
What it Takes to Become a Juvenile Probation Officer
Most juvenile probation officers jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree and many require extensive specialized study at the post-graduate level. The most competitive majors for prospective juvenile probation officers are
- Social work
- Criminal justice
Coursework related to juvenile justice, adolescent development and crime prevention are likely to strengthen an application.
Many juvenile probation officers state that interning with probation related agencies is helpful for developing contacts with key employers and acquiring strong recommendations. Other agencies prefer candidates who have prior experience in counseling or supervision related areas including chemical dependency treatment or sex offenders.
Juvenile probation officer jobs may be found through the governmental websites of municipal, county, state or federal judicial agencies. Most jurisdictions require that applicants possess the following qualifications:
- Be a U.S. citizen
- Possess a valid driver’s license
- Be at least 21 years of age
- Ability to pass a drug test
- Ability to pass a background investigation
Following approval, job candidates usually must successfully pass an interview, background investigation and medical examination. A psychological assessment, drug test and polygraph examination may also be administered.
If hired, new officers are expected to obtain certification or training as a probation officer at the onset of their careers. Some departments may offer this training internally, while many others expect new hires to obtain necessary training through a state certified program within a set period of time. These programs emphasize skills in
- Drug searches
- Investigative techniques