Transforming Juvenile Probation

The Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program is designed to guide and support teams from state and local jurisdictions—including probation leadership, judges, attorneys, and other key stakeholders—to fundamentally transform their system-wide approach to probation.

This Certificate Program is offered by the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) and developed in partnership with and support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation (Casey). The curricula for the program are based on the principles and practices outlined in the Casey Foundation publication, Transforming Juvenile Probation: A Vision for Getting It Right, and the CJJR and CSG Justice Center publication, Transforming Juvenile Justice Systems to Improve Public Safety and Youth Outcomes.

The Certificate Program builds on Casey’s 30 years of experience with the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative® (JDAI) and decades of studying probation with researchers, practitioners, youth, families, and pilot probation transformation sites. The Program also utilizes CJJR’s experience in delivering high-quality training and technical assistance (TA) to juvenile justice systems across the country on research-based, data-driven policies and practices to improve outcomes for youth.

Over the past two decades, juvenile justice systems in the United States have seen significant advancements—juvenile arrest rates have dropped to historical lows, and incarceration rates have been halved. Despite these gains, however, recidivism rates remain unacceptably high for youth under system supervision, and resources invested in supervision and services have not consistently produced improved outcomes.

A key reason that jurisdictions struggle to improve outcomes for youth in the youth juvenile justice system may be that the most common disposition—probation—remains largely unexamined and unchanged. Although some states and locales have made efforts to employ more research-based supervision strategies, few have fundamentally shifted the role of probation toward one that promotes the personal growth and long-term success of youth.

Once on probation, youth face a litany of rules and orders disconnected from the offense as well as system responses that are counterproductive, such as being detained for technical violations despite not presenting increased dangers to public safety. Further, as an overarching issue, current probation practice often fails to provide positive youth development opportunities that assist youth in achieving the developmental milestones of adolescence and perpetuates racial and ethnic disparities. Youth justice systems cannot expect to improve public safety and youth outcomes, employ resources more efficiently, or reduce the disparate treatment of youth of color by simply making minor adjustments to current approaches.


The Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program is a four-day period of intensive instruction, discussion, and planning for jurisdictions that seek to fundamentally transform their approach to probation in order to improve public safety and outcomes for youth in the juvenile justice system. Participating teams will receive instruction from researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, as well as guidance from CJJR and Casey, to develop and implement a Capstone Project advancing system-wide reform in their jurisdiction.

Specific training modules will cover the following topics:

Achieving better outcomes for youth and improving public safety requires a fundamental shift in probation culture and practice. This new vision of probation demands reshaping approaches to focus on promoting youth’s personal growth, positive behavior changes, and long-term success. It also requires incorporating the core principles of fairness and equity, positive youth development, and empowerment of youth, families, and communities.

Achieving system-wide transformation requires agencies and leaders who are committed to implementing a strategic approach to organizational change. This session will highlight key elements of effective transformation, including using research and data to evaluate and inform practice, empowering staff at all levels to become champions of probation transformation, utilizing staff training and targeted communication approaches to facilitate staff and stakeholder buy-in, and implementing ongoing efforts to promote sustainability and quality improvement.

This module addresses the role of the probation officer and what it means to be an agent of change to support, strengthen, and empower youth. In order to achieve this shift from a “control” probation model to one that features “coaching,” this module also discusses staffing policies and practices such as hiring, messaging, retention, and performance management, as well as training and probation caseloads and workloads.

Nearly all youth justice systems have the opportunity to expand and improve the use of diversion. This module focuses on the importance of community-based and community-led services, including discussions on how to keep young people in the community through a maximized use of diversion, and as an alternative to out of home placement. The module also explores restorative justice principles as well as effective diversion conditions and services.

Disposition decisions are central to promoting success for youth involved in the juvenile justice system. Specifically, probation officers, attorneys, and judges must collaborate to incorporate strengths-based opportunities, evidence-based risk and needs and behavioral health/trauma assessments, and youth/family partnership to make the right disposition for a youth. This module will examine the fundamentals of probation practice, including the purpose of supervision conditions and how to approach decisions about the length and intensity of the probationary period.

In order to maximize the effectiveness of community-based services, probation must partner with youth, families, and community stakeholders in core probation practices (e.g., by including teaming, case planning, and credible messenger strategies), as well as in the court process. Amplifying the voices of youth and families will improve probation and court practice and promote the importance of procedural justice.

Transformative probation practice must incorporate an equity framework, beginning with an understanding of the impact of racial trauma and implicit bias across race, gender and ethnicity, and acknowledging institutional and structural racism. Probation practice must also incorporate gender and culturally responsive strategies to identify and reduce disparities.


Instructors may include:

  • chris bijoux, Deputy Director for Equity and Racial Justice, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy
  • Stephen Bishop, Associate Director of Probation and System Transformation, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Danielle Lipow, Senior Associate, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Scott MacDonald, Justice Consultant, Justsolve Inc., and former Chief Probation Officer, Santa Cruz County, California
  • Regina Mitchell, Chief Policy and Programs Officer, Center for Children’s Law and Policy
  • Sherika Shnider, Managing Attorney, Center for Children’s Law and Policy
  • Michael Umpierre, Director, Center for Juvenile Justice Reform, Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy
  • Opal West, Senior Associate, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Capstone Project

As a critical part of the Certificate Program, teams will develop a Capstone Project laying out the transformational plan for their jurisdiction. The Capstone Project is a detailed, concrete, strategic action plan and a blueprint for the broader transformative local system changes that each team will seek to effectuate.

Throughout the Certificate Program, participants will have dedicated team-planning time to develop and refine their Capstone Project and will receive support from CJJR and Casey staff. In addition, each team will be assigned a Technical Assistance Team Lead, supplied by the Casey Foundation, who will support teams in designing, implementing, and evaluating their Capstone Project. More information on this post-program TA can be found in the next section.

As part of the Capstone Project, a one- to two-page Capstone Summary is due approximately one month after the Certificate Program. The final Capstone Project Proposal outlining key deliverables, timelines, and responsible parties (5-8 pages) is due approximately three months after the Certificate Program. After the Capstone Project is developed and approved, participants receive an Certificate from Georgetown University and become part of the CJJR Fellows Network. While the initial Capstone period will last one year, the full transformative plan will be an ongoing, iterative process.

After the conclusion of the initial Capstone year, CJJR will also request formal annual progress updates for at least two years. Based on these updates, CJJR recognizes the team across all Certificate Programs that has made the most significant progress in improving outcomes for youth in their community with the Capstone of the Year Award. First distributed in March 2012, this award marks an annual CJJR practice to honor and recognize the success, innovation, and tremendous work of CJJR Fellows through their Capstone Projects. The recipient of this award can be any CJJR Fellow from any year. The recipient will receive national recognition for their accomplishment and is awarded free registration and travel for two individuals to attend CJJR’s annual Janet Reno Forum.

During and after the Capstone period, teams will receive additional TA, courtesy of the Casey Foundation, to support the implementation of their Capstone Project and ongoing probation transformation work. This additional engagement will include an in-depth examination of current organizational structures and practices, establishing common system metrics with regard to probation outcomes and processes, and broadening and deepening stakeholder engagement in the effort to transform juvenile probation.

As part of the ongoing technical support, jurisdictions will be asked to:

  • Establish collaborative and inclusive work groups or committees to ensure progress and forward movement.
  • Designate a lead point person or coordinator to work with the assigned TA team leader and facilitate ongoing connections with site leaders, including community partners.
  • Work with the TA team to participate in and inform convenings, virtual sessions, and/or on-site activities designed to launch, education, and broaden engagement and partnerships within the jurisdiction to promote ongoing probation transformation efforts.
  • Participate in cross-site calls bi-annually to assist in forming a peer-to-peer learning network across jurisdictions.
  • Submit baseline and ongoing annual performance measure data to the Pro-Data dashboard to capture changes in referrals, diversion, formal filings, probation, placement and institutional detention and commitments.

The intensive, specialized TA will support sites as they implement well-designed, innovative ideas contributing to the national probation transformation reform effort, which may include:

  • Creating a community-led diversion continuum
  • Building and sustaining community partnerships, including the development of an array of research-based services and supports to promote youth’s positive development
  • Applying principles of adolescent development to juvenile probation practice (general training on adolescent development and TA on use of graduated responses and incentives)
  • Strength-based, family- and youth-centered case planning training
  • Using a race/ethnic equity and inclusion framework in probation practice
  • Family/youth partnership and engagement
  • Data collection, reporting, and performance management to promote data-driven system change
  • Analytic support of annual data submissions of cross-site probation transformation measures, with the goal of sustained data utilization
  • Transforming organizational culture within probation
  • Supervisory training (supervising in a reform environment)

Application Guidelines

The Transforming Juvenile Probation Certificate Program will be held on June 10-14, 2024 in Washington, D.C. The program begins with an opening dinner in Washington, D.C. on the evening of June 10th, with sessions officially starting on the morning of June 11th. The program will conclude mid-day on Friday, June 14th. Participants must commit to attend the full program in-person in order to receive the CJJR Certificate Program Certificate.

Through the generous support of the Casey Foundation, participant’s tuition for the Certificate Program and a minimum of one year of distance and on-site consultation and implementation TA is provided at no cost. Teams will be responsible, however, for covering their travel expenses for the Certificate Program, including airfare, local transportation, and meals and incidentals (outside of breakfast and lunch provided during the program).

Selection Criteria

A total of five multi-disciplinary teams will be selected for participation in the Certificate Program. Each team should be comprised of a maximum of ten members and include representatives from the following constituencies:

  • Core Probation Team
    • Chief Probation Officer;
    • Field Probation Supervisor/Deputy; and
    • Line Staff Member
  • Judge (Presiding Juvenile/Family Court Judge or Designated by Presiding)
  • Prosecutor (e.g., District Attorney, County Attorney)
  • A youth of family representative who has personal experience with the youth justice system
  • Youth Justice Community-Based Organization Leader (someone who is viewed as a leader among the CBO community and is committed to cross-system collaboration and positive youth development)
  • Defense Attorney (e.g., Public Defender or Youth Defender)

  • Chief Juvenile Division Law Enforcement Official
  • Public Information Officer or Communications Director (e.g., Probation PIO, County PIO)
  • County Commissioner/County Manager
  • Human Services Agency Leader
  • State Agency Representative
  • Researcher/Data Analyst

The teams selected will represent both geographic and demographic diversity and are expected to have representation from a local jurisdiction. In this regard, state-level teams, whether from a state or locally-run probation system, should include a pilot local jurisdiction on their team. Local teams applying from a state-run probation system are expected to have state-level participation and approval for selection. Applicants should note that the Capstone Project is intended to be implemented at the local level, so team composition should reflect the guidance noted above.

While the requirements and recommendations detailed above should guide team composition, the exact composition of the teams will depend on the jurisdiction applying. If your team chooses a composition that differs from our recommendations, please explicitly explain that choice and their contribution in Essay Prompt #6 of your team’s application. Further, successful applicants will propose teams composed of individuals who hold decision-making authority within their agencies and the ability to influence the successful implementation of the Capstone Project.

Teams should demonstrate the following characteristics in their applications and interviews:

  • A sustained commitment to system-wide probation transformation.
  • A history of juvenile justice reforms and evidence of effective implementation of these reforms.
  • A history of successful cross-agency/systems/stakeholder collaboration and reform initiatives.
  • Stable organizational structure, leadership, staffing, and funding; a foundation of guiding policies and practices; and the ability to reallocate staffing and other resources in a flexible manner.
  • The capacity and commitment to annually collect, analyze, and report data on both system performance and youth outcome measures. This data collection will continue beyond the initial one-year technical assistance period, with teams routinely monitoring outcomes to measure change and sustain improvements.
  • A willingness to contribute to peer-to-peer learning networks among the Certificate Program cohorts, as well as to inform and inspire the juvenile justice field nationally around probation transformation.