Most state court youth caseloads comprise of dependency, delinquency and cases involving status offenses. Probation officers have a role to surveillance and control as well as providing guidance and assistance to the probationers. Both duties of the probation officers are very important in helping the probationer reform.
The surveillance and control function involves monitoring youths at particular times of the day to ensure that probationers are at home, school or other designated places. This is done according to the set program and there is little interaction with the probationer. However this is beneficial in keeping track of the probationers and ensuring they do not engage in committing offenses. On the other hand probation officers are capable of providing guidance and assistance to the probationers.
The officer may provide basic counseling, crisis intervention, family counseling and Job search assistance. The probation officer can also act as a link between the youth and family, employers, school administration and social service personnel where he could play a role as an advocate. The officers' regular contact with the youth could also help him understand the problems that contributed to the probationer's involvement with the law.
The benefits of carrying out guidance and assistance outweigh those of performing surveillance and control. Both are necessary but the probation officer should engage more into guidance and assistance which could help prevent the youth from committing offences in future.