I stumbled into working for London Probation Area, (as it was then called) in 2002. I studied law at university but had always been interested in what motivates people and psychology. I saw the Probation Service as an interesting combination of criminal law and human behaviour. Since then, I have managed a caseload, presented breaches in court, and co-facilitated accredited programs with adult individuals on licence or serving a sentence in the community.
My first experience working with children in the Criminal Justice System whilst working as a probation officer in Bermuda for three years where Probation Service manages the risk of convicted individuals aged eleven to ninety-nine!
I must admit, when I arrived for my first day at work in Bermuda, I was not looking forward to working with children. I had memories of horror stories told by friends who had worked in residential children’s homes in the UK and to be quite honest; I was scared. However, my experience challenged my unconscious bias about children who offend, and I became keenly aware of how vulnerable, impressionable some children are and learned how to adapt to situations with Safeguarding and welfare of children clearly now at the forefront of my mind. Also, I found the skills I gained as a probation officer and my knowledge and training around trauma informed practice helped me remember how important it is to take the time to firstly listen carefully to hear and respond to the underlying needs that may be driving the behaviour. Once the needs have been explored, communication around meeting needs with pro social behaviour can start.
After my return to the UK, I was the liaison probation officer for the Youth Offending Service and NPS. Cases involving young people can be challenging, sad, and frustrating at times but it can also be enlightening and rewarding. I enjoy hearing the different perspectives young people have on society, hearing their thoughts on why they are friends with certain people, why they like certain things, what their goals are and exploring their emotions and feelings can lead to some interesting and hilarious conversations.
In 2022, I have begun supporting young people with completing a Hate Crime intervention with Redsnapper. The cases are so varied and concern speech and behaviour that can be highly sensitive, embarrassing and confronting for the young person involved. However, the workbook materials are not punitive or judgmental and instead allow for a strength-based guided educational approach that develops thinking around the damaging effect on victims and how to make positive changes.