In 2010, there were 1,809 certified juvenile probation officers in Texas, each of whom processed an average of 18 cases, according to the state's Juvenile Justice Department.
Victoria County, meanwhile, has eight field juvenile probation officers and three administrative juvenile probation officers, including the Chief Pama Hencerling, Assistant Chief Paul Zuniga and Juvenile Probation Supervisor Suzanne Tristan.
They work with anywhere from 100-200 juveniles, Zeplin said.
The job is often believed to be a thankless one, Hencerling said.
"One, it takes a special person to work with a juvenile at all," she said, "but you can imagine adding kids that have problems in their lives, whether it be criminal problems, substance abuse problems or whatever along with the maturing process, and it gets really complicated."
Zeplin, who already is raising two children, works with seven kids, but at one point as many as 29 were under her watchful eye.
"The first thing I'll tell my kiddos is, 'I'm going to be like your mama, you know? I'm gonna be right there. You do something, believe me, I'm going to find out. And if I have to find out from somebody else that you did something wrong, then we're going to have problems,'" she said.
And like any proud mama, she boasts about their accomplishments, especially because a disheartening 50 percent of the kids drop out of school.
On hard days, Zeplin likes to fish out a green thank-you card from the belly of her wooden desk. The bubbly handwriting on the card belongs to a 16-year-old girl, the same girl who used to fling not only obscenities but also fists at Zeplin.
"Thank you for everything and not giving up on me, like almost everybody around me has," the girl, who was charged with possession of marijuana, wrote.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Day in the life of a juvenile probation officer
Here's a window onto an under-appreciated job from the Victoria Advocate (July 24), detailing a day in the life of a juvenile probation officer. Here's a notable excerpt: