Juvenile detention officers work closely with at-risk children in trouble
with the law. Your help may be the spark that helps some troubled kids turn
their lives around.
"These kids need professional help and guidance so they can have the opportunity
to become productive members of society," says Patricia Smith, a social worker.
Juvenile detention officers are always working with or around jailed kids.
This could be in a conventional juvenile detention facility or a specialized
Typical duties could be monitoring inmates' eating, exercising and working
activities, enforcing discipline, and escorting clients to court or family
meetings. Some detention officers may participate in programs created to help
at-risk kids, such as life skills and substance abuse workshops.
"I'm first a corrections officer and therefore have to be sure of the safety
of the kids and the unit. I also do groups such as meditations, problem solving
or other topics," says Clifford Johnson, juvenile officer.
These correction officers work for courts or social service agencies. They
may visit incarcerated youth and their families, track court progress and
make recommendations about possible punishments and services.
Verbal and written communication skills are extremely important for this
career. Strong communication skills can de-escalate a dangerous situation
without a physical fight. Other people involved in the system (social service
agencies, the court and the families) require detailed progress reports.
"Communication is the most important tool we use on this job. It's essential
to properly communicate with these kids and remember to treat them as you'd
like to be treated," says juvenile detention officer Ross Stuart.
A juvenile detention officer's days and hours depend on where they work.
Facilities require 24-hour monitoring, so weekend and evening shifts aren't
uncommon. Youth workers for social service agencies or the courts may have
an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift. If there's a crisis, overtime or on-call work is
a strong possibility.
Because youth experts must communicate with so many people, there is a
heavy reliance on solid written and oral communication skills.
This is one job where it pays to stay in shape. Detention officers may
frequently have to safely restrain angry kids or break up fights. There's
always the possibility of getting hurt by physical violence. Some employers
may require potential employees to take a physical fitness test.
"Physical and verbal attacks are common. Negatives of this job [include]
getting too emotionally attached with some of the clients. When you hear they
have reoffended, it can break your heart," says J.C. Van, youth worker.