How Can Juvenile Probation Help At-Risk Youth?

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<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >How Can Juvenile Probation Help At-Risk Youth?</span>

Juvenile probation is a form of adjudication that allows youth to remain in their communities while under the supervision of the court. During the probationary period, a juvenile may be required to follow certain terms or conditions that are intended to provide stability, rehabilitation, and opportunities to contribute positively to society.

Probation Can Help Prevent Out-of-Home Placements

Children under probation are expected to learn and exhibit pro-social behaviors. They go to school, participate in extracurricular activities, and return home to finish homework. Some youth on probation have jobs, and others may be required to work on special projects such as volunteer jobs in their communities. 

Juvenile probation programs are intended to be restorative with the primary objectives of keeping youth in their home, maintaining public safety, pro-social skill development, rehabilitation, identifying and addressing treatment needs, and successful integration and contribution to the community. It’s important to keep in mind that youth assigned to probation may still be dependent on adults, caregivers, and guardians to have their primary needs met; therefore, it’s imperative that these adults be involved in the youth’s programming.

What Can a Probation Officer and the System do for At-Risk Youth?

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, more than half of the cases brought before a juvenile court result in a child being assigned to probation. In 2018 alone, there were almost 150,000 juveniles placed on probation.

Once placed, the youth is assigned a probation officer, who usually is responsible for overseeing that the at-risk teen is attending class, working at an acceptable location, and following all the guidelines and conditions of their probation. Probation officers do more than supervise a youth on probation. They listen, comfort, guide, and act as a positive role model.

Jurisdictions differ from area to area, but all agree that youth probation officers are more than just guards over a youth's time. Many probation officers say that out-of-home placement is the last resort, and instead, probation is intended to rehabilitate at-risk youth and lessen the chances that they break the law again. The solution is to get to the root of the problem and steer behavior in the right direction.

Courts and probation systems have been successfully moving away from control, coercion, incarceration with no treatment component, boot camps, and programs that scare children into good behavior—programs that have been shown to cause recidivism.

As an alternative, probation officers are seeking degrees and experience in social work and focus on rehabilitation, treatment, and skill development. An experienced probation officer assesses the needs of the child and determines what course of action is needed. Research has shown and many probation officers report, that the most successful programs include the child’s parents and guardians. Supportive families provide a way for youth to change their lives and turn toward productive activities.

Children placed in the probation system have successful turnaround statistics when enrolled in counseling and therapy services that work with their needs and the needs of their families. Probation officers and the systems in which they work are positioned to leverage and implement evidence-based programs that result in positive outcomes for at-risk youth like Functional Family Probation and Parole (FFP).

Functional Family Probation and Parole (FFP) Is an Effective Program for At-Risk Youth

Functional Family Probation and Parole (FFP), a scientifically proven intervention for at-risk youth, is a new model of case management that is based upon the Blueprints for Violence evidence-based program, Functional Family Therapy. At its core, the model is intended to make families the unit of intervention—not just a youth. Using more family-focused approaches, FFP has demonstrated enhanced outcomes around revocation rates, family functioning, employment, and recidivism.

The FFP model applies research on how to engage resistant youth or families and help them see that solutions and changes are possible. Through specific techniques and interventions, it then motivates youth and families to more fully take part in supervision as well as therapeutic interventions.

Case managers learn how to create and maintain alliances with family members to better comply with supervision conditions. They learn to view teens through relational systems and apply assessments so they can better match at-risk youth to interventions and monitoring programs in a way that enhances the chance for success.

FFP-trained staff become stronger advocates of helpful services; in turn, they play a powerful part in assessment, referral, monitoring, and maintenance of change brought about by effective programs and interventions.

FFP is implemented in sites across the United States and internationally. In a 2009 report, the Washington State Legislature noted that when implemented with fidelity, FFP-served youth had a nearly 15% reduction in felony recidivism and a 14% reduction in revocations compared to the control group. The findings showed that youth with the highest risk levels benefitted the most from FFP services. Other studies have shown lower out-of-home placement rates for youth on FFP supervision, as well as higher employment.

Services like FFP have good track records for turning around the lives of troubled youth. When a community uses evidence-based programs like FFP in conjunction with their juvenile justice system, several positive outcomes are returned: cost savings, enhanced public safety, and lower rates of recidivism to name a few. Though reformation of systems can be a tedious process, communities can start working together today to play a positive role.

FFT LLC brings Functional Family Therapy to over 40,000 families a year across the globe. FFP is currently implemented in 12 U.S. sites and 3 countries. To maintain positive outcomes, FFT LLC provides clinical oversight and ongoing research to ensure that all FFT providers adhere to the evidence-based practice standards. Contact us for more information about our evidence-based youth and family counseling services.