Desktop Guide to
Good Juvenile Probation Practice

A Trauma Primer for Juvenile Probation and Juvenile Detention Staff

A Trauma Primer for Juvenile Probation and Juvenile Detention Staff

Juvenile probation and juvenile detention staff are clearly critical partners with the juvenile court in supporting the accountability, competency, and protection goals of the juvenile justice system.

Courts with juvenile jurisdiction disposed more than 1.2 million delinquency cases in 2011. Approximately 250,000 of those cases adjudicated delinquent resulted in an order of probation.2 In the same year, about 256,800 cases adjudicated delinquent involved detention.

An important consideration in working with youth on probation or in detention is that up to 90% of system-involved youth report exposure to some type of traumatic event with approximately 30% of youth meeting criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).4 Trauma tends to begin early in the lives of justice system-involved youth and can be chronic throughout childhood and adolescence. Although the physical injuries resulting from traumatic events often heal, psychological scars from trauma can remain with children and their families for life and across generations. Accordingly, effective interventions with justice system-involved youth should be founded on an understanding of how human beings respond to the experience of trauma and potential subsequent traumatic stress. This brief presents definitions of key concepts, overviews how children respond to trauma, and offers tips for juvenile probation and detention staff seeking to be more trauma-informed in their work.