Many job titles exist, but the American Correctional Association has taken the lead in referring to direct-care line staff in juvenile institutions as “Juvenile Careworkers." In a national survey of juvenile detention facilities, Rowan (1993) found that although the most frequently used job title was juvenile detention officer, it accounted for only 18 percent of the responses. Concluding that there was no predominant job title for juvenile detention workers, Rowan strongly recommended that the field follow the recommendation of ACA and adopt the title juvenile careworker.
Mixdorf and Rosetti reported that juvenile careworkers performed four overlapping roles: guardian, counselor, supervisor, and role model. The ACA description of the careworker role is consistent with the mission of the juvenile justice system. The careworker’s job is to engage and involve youth in productive and constructive activities while in detention. ACA recommends a positive approach to the job of juvenile careworker. This approach is expressed best by the following description of the role model job function:
Being a positive role model is probably the most important responsibility a careworker can undertake. Modeling good behavior, or setting an example, can affect juveniles in a positive manner more than any other careworker skill. Included in this activity is setting a positive tone or climate, respecting the juveniles, praising them when appropriate, being consistent and fair, and presenting a generally positive attitude. Admittedly, this positive, encouraging attitude may be difficult to maintain when working with angry, rebellious juveniles, but it is absolutely necessary. (pp. 16-17)
Brown (1982) identified five similar roles that detention staff must routinely perform in a detention facility. These roles are:
Recorder of behavior
Illinois is an exception when examining criterion-based job functions for juvenile detention staff. As a part of a comprehensive approach to determining detention staff training needs, the Probation Division of the Administrative Office of the Illinois Court (AOIC) developed a set of basic job functions for detention careworkers. The eight AOIC job functions are: (1) behavior management, (2) crisis intervention, (3) security, (4) safety, (5) custodial care, (6) record keeping, (7) program support and maintenance or special assignments, and (8) counseling or problem solving.
Job functions are a composite of what juvenile detention officers do in their jobs. The 8 job functions identified in the AOIC research were expanded to 10 by adding the additional functions of organizational awareness and external awareness, which were recommended by Christy (1989), who said that awareness constructs constitute components of the job.
The remaining job responsibilities include those characteristics of how the job is performed effectively. Roush and Hudzik (1994) combined the AOIC job functions with previously researched effectiveness characteristics. Those items related to job functions provide job-oriented information, while effectiveness characteristics are a composite of what juvenile detention workers say are important to doing their job effectively or well. The categories related to effectiveness characteristics provide employee-oriented information. The 20 functions and characteristics are listed and defined below.
Job functions (the “what" of juvenile detention) include:
Behavioral management – Using behavioral and developmental theories to establish clear expectations for resident behavior and employing immediate positive and/or negative consequences as a result of direct involvement with residents.
Crisis intervention – Using skill and composure to prevent or minimize physical and emotional harm to residents and other staff when handling a wide variety of crisis situations (e.g., physical violence, escapes, riots, and suicidal behaviors).
Security – Implementing the policies and procedures related to resident supervision and institutional security measures to ensure the physical presence of each resident in the facility.
Safety – Employing knowledge and skills in relation to emergency procedures (i.e., first aid, CPR, fire safety, and communicable disease) to ensure the well-being of youth.
Custodial care – Assisting in the proper identification and treatment of problems relating to the physical and emotional health and well-being of detained youth through the use of knowledge and skills in basic health related areas (e.g., medical and hygiene, adolescent sexuality, substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse, and symptoms of suicidal behavior and emotional distress).
Record keeping – Providing accurate and timely written documentation of both routine and special situations regarding residents, staff, and program activities through the use of observation and recording skills.
Program maintenance – Implementing, teaching, creating, and supplementing the facility’s daily program and activities (i.e., physical education, recreation, and arts and crafts).
Problem solving – Creating an environment or institutional climate in which a youth’s personal, social, or emotional problems can be openly discussed, explored, and possibly resolved through effective use of interpersonal relationship skills, communication and consultation with clinical staff, and leadership in group discussions or activities.
Organizational awareness – Understanding, supporting, and using the philosophy, goals, values, policies, and procedures that represent the daily operations of the facility.
External awareness – Identifying and periodically reviewing key external issues and trends likely to affect the agency (e.g., legal, political, demographic, and philosophical trends).
Effectiveness characteristics (the “how" of juvenile detention) include:
Balanced perspective – A broad view that balances present needs and long-term considerations.
Strategic view – Ability to collect and analyze information that forms an overall long-range view of priorities and forecasts likely needs, problems, and opportunities.
Environmental sensitivity – Awareness of broad environmental trends and their effects on the work unit.
Leadership – An ability and willingness to lead and manage others.
Flexibility – Openness to new information as well as tolerance for stress and ambiguity in the work situation.
Action orientation – Decisiveness, calculated risk taking, and a drive to get things done.
Results focus – Strong concern for goal achievement and a tenacity to follow a project through to completion.
Communication – Ability to express oneself clearly and authoritatively as well as to listen attentively to others.
Interpersonal sensitivity – Self-knowledge, awareness of the impact of self on others, sensitivity to the needs and weaknesses of others, and ability to sympathize with the viewpoints of others.
Technical competence – Expert and up-to-date knowledge of the methods and procedures of the work unit.
Brown, M. (1982) Juvenile Detention (Professional Development Program Series Monograph). Austin: Texas Juvenile Probation Commission
Christy, J.T. (1989) A Curriculum for Training Juvenile Detention Staff. Journal for Juvenile Justice and Detention Services, 3, 3-6
Mixdorf, L. and Rosetti, R (1992) Responsibilities and raining. In Juvenile Careworker Resource Guide. Laurel, MD: Author
Roush, D.W. and Hudzik, J.K. (1994) The Indiana Youth Care Worker Inventory: A Training Needs Assessment Report and Implication for Juvenile Justice Detention Training. Indianapolis: Indiana Criminal Justice Institute
Rowan (1993) Juvenile Detention Workers Rank Third – Not First in the Justice Field: A National Survey. NJDA News, 14-15, 17
Roush, D. (1996) Desktop Guide to Good Juvenile Detention Practice. National Juvenile Detention Association