The culture of your department is critical to all of the work you do. It is the “set of values, guiding beliefs, understanding, and ways of thinking that is shared” by you and your colleagues and is taught to new probation professionals who join your team. These features of your culture, directly influence the work you do and any effort to change your practice.
Effective supervision practice that emphasizes long-term positive behavior change requires a departmental culture that emphasizes not only the strengths of the youth on your caseloads, but of each probation officer; therefore, it is important for administrators to support practice improvements. Each department leader should work to establish a positive work environment that fosters positive attitudes and embraces the ideas set forth in this resource.
This video from the Urban Institute offers practical strategies probation practitioners can implement to improve outcomes for youth involved with the juvenile justice system. For more information, including materials that dive deeper into these strategies, visit Urban Institute.
While administrator support is vital, it is important to remember that you play an integral role in your department's culture.
You can be a champion for reform and work to improve your practice and your department’s culture. There are 5 primary ways you impact your department's culture
1. Be a champion for positive change
Stay informed of best practices in juvenile probation and encourage your coworkers and supervisors to adapt to these practices in order to best serve youth and other stakeholders. It is important to understand how to approach discussions of change. For example, if your administration seems unreceptive, it may be useful to bring it up in a group meeting so your suggestions do not “fall on deaf ears.” Another way of doing this is having quarterly meetings to address concerns. This information can then be taken up the latter.
2. Maintain a strong commitment to youth, families, and communities
Every youth deserves a chance to thrive. By being a champion for change and advocating for youth, you can effectively manage cases that emphasize individual needs and strengths, and youth will have the best chance for success.
3. Use appropriate approaches and language
By using practices that emphasize adolescent brain development and strength-based language, you can ensure that your case management approaches are appropriate for each youth and instill a feeling of hope in youth and their families.
4. Prioritize your health and wellbeing
Do your best to prevent stress or burnout, and have coping strategies in place for when you feel this way. Part of this should include taking precautions to make sure you feel safe while at work.
5. Collect and use data
The data you collect will likely be determined by your department, but it is important to make sure you collect consistent data on your cases. This includes collecting information from every youth and doing it the same way each time. Review this data in order to assess whether or not your practices are having the desired outcome, and encourage your coworkers and supervisors to do this too.
- Harvell, S., Derrick-Mills, T., Warnberg, C., Russo, M., Hull, C., Matei, A., Winkler, M.K., Love, H., Willison, J.B., & Liberman, A. (2019). Bridging Research and Practice: A Handbook for Implementing Research-Informed Practices in Juvenile Probation. The Urban Institute.