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A juvenile counselor provides care, guidance, and social services for children and adolescents. He or she works with young people who struggle with behavioral problems and issues at home and school. Juvenile counselors help their clients develop healthy living habits and motivate them to become productive citizens. Professionals work in many different settings, and the specific duties of the position vary between places of employment. A juvenile counselor may work at a correctional facility, group home, drug rehabilitation clinic, or social services office.
Young people who experience adverse life obstacles, such as parental abandonment, drug addiction, or mental disorders, depend on the services of juvenile counselors to learn how to overcome their problems. Most counselors enjoy their jobs immensely, and knowing that they make positive impacts on the lives of so many children is a very rewarding feeling. Some clients can be very difficult to help, however, especially if they do not think that they need guidance. In order to perform the job well, a juvenile counselor needs to be patient and empathetic at all times. He or she also needs to confidently establish authority and have the determination to enforce rules.
A juvenile counselor is usually responsible for overseeing the activities of many clients at a time. He or she makes sure that clients in a group home or correctional facility perform their scheduled tasks, show up to meetings with case workers, and take their medications. A counselor also spends one-on-one time with clients, helping them with homework or allowing them to express their personal feelings. Counselors act as role models for their clients by making smart lifestyle choices and showing respect.
The requirements to become a juvenile counselor vary among regions and settings. Most working counselors hold at least bachelor's degrees in psychology, social work, or a related field. New counselors often attend several days of specialized training courses that cover topics specifically related to dealing with children. They receive tips about interacting with young people and handling difficult situations when clients act out. Counselors learn how to restrain physically violent clients and what to do in the event of an emergency. After completing training courses, new workers often shadow experienced counselors for about two weeks to gain practical experience.
A juvenile counselor who wants to advance within the field usually needs to pursue continuing education. A master's degree or higher in psychology, counseling, or social work qualifies an individual to offer case management services and clinical therapy for clients. Professionals who earn advanced degrees and complete licensure requirements can become private practice family psychologists or administrators at government social service departments.
Like parole officers, juvenile justice counselors or juvenile delinquency counselors are often severely overburdened, making it difficult for them to do their jobs as effectively as they or society would like.
Prisons and juvenile detention centers are overcrowded, to say the least. In some jurisdictions, judges are told exactly how many spaces are available in area correctional facilities in a given trial period.
As a result of this overcrowding, many offenders are placed into the system, so to speak, and made the responsibility of a counselor or other court-related officer.
Budget cutbacks reduce the number of counselors available, further exacerbating the problem.
Put simply, the more cases a counselor has, the less likely he or she is to have the time truly necessary to make a difference in a child's life.
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