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Career Story: Probation Officer

Probation Officer

Job Title: Probation Officer

Type of Company: I work for the Probation Department of the Norfolk Probate and Family Court in MA. We provide dispute intervention services to litigants to help them settle court matters prior to seeing the judges.

Education: AS Endicott College •• BS Framingham State College

Previous Experience: I've had my own family day care, and worked as head teacher in a preschool for Brookline School teachers. Thereafter I educated parents about child development, and helped them learn about and find quality day care. I worked for DSS (Department of Social Services) evaluating and assisting families who were found to be negligent or abusive towards their children. Currently I work in the court system doing mediation or dispute intervention for families in need.

Job Tasks: I meet with litigants in a court house, and sometimes with attorneys if the litigants have chosen to hire them, to address what ever issues are before the court. This streamlines the Judges' work. They don't have time to meet with everyone and to hear in detail everyone's issues.

I write up agreements (full or partial) that become court orders. If the litigants don't agree, they must return to court at a later date for Pre Trials, and possibly for Trials.

I meet with three to four groups of litigants each day, and present their cases to the Judges, along with the Stipulations (agreements) that they have signed.

Sometimes I am assigned to do Investigations into custody and visitation matters. I must gather documents from doctors, teachers and other professionals, interview all parties concerned and often visit the home environments prior to writing a report, including recommendations.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is that it is very fast paced and interesting. Every case is a bit different. I also feel that I am making a difference in the lives of many family members. My own work and personal experiences have greatly aided my ability to provide quality services in the court system.

The worst parts of the job are the stress I sometimes feel from the litigants, and the stories of abuse and neglect that sometimes come up during the dispute intervention sessions and court hearings.

Job Tips: Tip 1 - Take courses in family dynamics and child development. A Social Work degree is often required. Tip 2 - Get experience in jobs involving the courts, and/or families; like day care centers, afterschool programs or YMCAs so you understand child related issues. Tip 3 - Ensure you have healthy outlets for your spare time. This job can be stressful, and you need to take care of your own mental and physical health.

Additional Thoughts: A person must be a good listener, and be fair in their approach to people of all types of personalities, ethnicities, religions and classes. The litigants are usually very emotional and under a great deal of stress when they come to court, and the Probation Officer must know how to keep the sessions under control and productive.

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