The primary purpose of juvenile justice probation departments in the United States is to provide treatment, rehabilitation and supervision for children whose behavior has violated societal rules, laws and ordinances. This differs from the adult criminal justice system in that the former attempts to maintain community safety by rehabilitating and deterring children from further delinquent behavior, whereas the latter focuses more-so on punitive measure to sustain community safety.
The Fulton County Juvenile Court Probation Division not only provides treatment, rehabilitation and supervision, but also strives to maximize public safety by holding offenders accountable for their behavior using the most current and progressive means possible. The division fulfills these goals by addressing multiple causal factors which contribute to wayward youthful behavior. By providing maximum community based supervision and through the utilization of services provided by outside counseling agencies and service providers, the division seeks to positively impact not only the child, but the parents, family and entire community. Our holistic approach to reducing delinquency focuses on, but is not limited to, educational advocacy, job and employment readiness, addressing mental health concerns and identifying mentors to model appropriate behavior for our children.
The Fulton County Juvenile Court is a court of rehabilitation committed to transforming the lives of children and families that come before it. The Court has exclusive jurisdiction for children under the age of 18 who have been abused or neglected. Also, the Court has jurisdiction for children under the age of 17 who are charged with committing a delinquent act. Many of the cases presented to the Court are processed informally through mediation or the Community Restorative Boards.
For inquiries regarding Juvenile Court Probation, please contact:
Deputy Chief Juvenile Probation Officer
p: 404.613.4804 | e: firstname.lastname@example.org
Immediately upon the completion of any adjudicatory or dispositional hearing, the child and family report to the A.C.T. unit on the 2nd floor of the court where they are to meet with a probation officer. The family will have received a copy of a “Court Hearing Checklist” form which is completed by the Court Support Specialist in the assigned courtroom. The form will provide the outcome of the court hearing and immediate action that is to be taken based on court ordered conditions and directives from the bench.
Officers within the A.C.T. unit are responsible for all community based supervision, monitoring and compliance reporting for pre-adjudicated children to whom Judges have given court ordered conditions. This unit also serves as a follow up point of contact immediately following a hearing to ensure that all court ordered conditions, referrals for service, screenings and evaluations are scheduled when a child has not yet been assigned to a community based probation officer. Additionally, if a child was placed on probation for the first time during the hearing, an officer within the A.C.T. unit is to conduct an interview with the child and parent utilizing the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (Y.A.S.I.) to determine the child's individual level of risk, needs and protective factors. Upon completion of the necessary steps begin taken within the A.C.T unit, the child and parent will at a minimum be given the name and contact information of the Probation Supervisor of the unit the child is assigned to. If available, they are to meet with the probation officer before leaving the building that day.
The primary objective of the Community Accountability and Diversion unit is to redirect children who have been charged with relatively minor misdemeanor and/or first time offenses away from formal court processing, while still holding them accountable for their actions. Officers assigned to this unit are to refer families to community based service providers and or resources aimed at addressing the underlying issues which may have led to the child’s deviant behavior.
Diversion is used as a means to address the child’s behavior without exposing them to children who are involved in more severe delinquent activity. Research shows that the use of diversion efforts reduces the overall caseload size of the entire division and significantly frees up limited resources and allows for the concentrate efforts to be focused on more chronic or serious juvenile offenders who pose a higher risk of threat to community safety.
Parents are involved in the process as often as possible. We firmly believe that the best chance possible of the child not returning to the court for further deviant behavior is achieved when we work collectively with the parent to address the child’s behavior. For example, we require that parents attend the “First Offenders Workshop” along with their child, which allows us to reinforce to the parents the importance of their role in redirecting the behaviors exhibited by their child.
Nationally, when a child is adjudicated of a delinquent offense and is afforded the opportunity to remain in the community as opposed to being detained in a youth detention facility, the most frequently ordered disposition is that they be placed on an order of probation. The primary goal of probation supervision is to address identified causal factors of delinquent behavior and to build or restore deficient competencies which may have led to such behavior. Equally important is the probation division’s ability to restore any loss suffered by victims of the child’s offense and to reduce the likelihood of future behaviors that abolish civil order and peace.
In far too many jurisdictions however, the effectiveness of probation supervision is diminished when children are assigned to probation officers who have excessive caseloads which allow minimal substantive contact between the officer, child and his or her family. The high caseloads create demanding time constraints being placed on officers which promotes the unintended yet inevitable practice of seeking to attain compliance with quantitative contact requirements and thereby restricting effective individualized case management implementation for each child.
Naturally, the goal of any juvenile probation division should be to develop a model of case assignment and management that enables officers to supervise children in an environment inclusive of critical elements such as relatively small caseloads, qualitative contact standards, and effective community based service options for children and families. Our model of assigning all “non-designated felony” offenders based on their geographical place of residence as separated into three regions has been developed to achieve such an environment. Children placed on Probation for misdemeanor and felony offenses are assigned to a supervising Community Based Probation Officer based on the Zip Code of the child’s permanent residence. Zip codes are categorized by North Region, Central Region and South Region.
The Community Restorative Board is also an important function of the Probation Unit. Fulton County Juvenile Court has established five Community Restorative Boards in designated geographical areas of the county. Volunteers from the same geographical areas are appointed to serve on the board by the Juvenile Court Judge. The Board addresses the needs of victims, the community, and offenders by directly engaging all of these parties in repairing the harm caused by the offender to the action lives of individual victims and community members. First time, non-violent offenders are referred to the boards.
As previously described one of the most commonly identified barriers to effective community based juvenile probation is large caseloads. When this is the case officers don’t have much more time than to “check-in” with the child and monitor compliance with static conditions of probation as previously ordered, which may miss the true crime producing factors experienced by the child being that the children’s lives are so dynamic and rapidly evolving.
The basic premise of the I.M.P.A.C.T unit is to provide a more intensive level of probation monitoring and community based treatment options for children who have been adjudicated for a Designated Felony offense without restrictive custody sentencing. This goal is achieved by having officers assigned with smaller caseloads, which in turn allows an enhanced variety of risk control strategies, including increased face-to-face contacts, qualitative meeting standards as opposed to brief sterile quantitative contacts, increased access to electronic monitoring options and higher cost evidence based program options. Public safety is paramount for this unit.
The Mediation Program is an integral part of the Probation and Dependency Units. Mediation is used to divert cases from the court that are more appropriately resolved by the parties involved. Mediation fosters an environment where the child is directly accountable for his or her actions, addresses the victim’s needs, and models conflict resolution techniques for children and their families. Mediation allows the parties to meet in a private setting where a neutral person, the mediator, helps them work out a solution to their problems. The mediator is not a judge and does not decide who is “right.” The parties make the choices that lead to a mutually satisfactory settlement.
The Mental Health Clinic is dedicated to the prevention, early detection, treatment of mental health related issues of youth and their families. In addition, the unit provides crisis counseling to families. Mental health clinic staff perform mental health screenings/assessments, psychosexual evaluations, multidisciplinary/multi-agency staffing; crisis counseling, individual and family therapy services. Additionally they serve as case plan managers for children who have been deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. Quite frequently they are called upon to provide expert testimony in court hearings and provide consultation to judges, probation officers and other staff regarding clinical issues.