This report describes the implementation and evaluation of the Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Juvenile Court's project to identify and improve the ability of both probation and detention officers to address individual, family, and organizational stress before the stress becomes debilitating; this project was conducted under a Federal Corrections and Law Enforcement Family Support (CLEFS) grant (June 1999).
At the time the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court applied for the CLEFS grant, the court was experiencing a period of wide-scale administrative changes that began in January 1998 and continued through 2000. The court had also experienced increases in both the volume of the complaints and the severity of the offenses committed by the youth coming before it. These changes were expected to increase the level of stress among the workers. In addition to these circumstantial stressors, it became apparent from a literature review that relatively little was known about the nature of the stress experienced by juvenile corrections officers and even less was known about juvenile probation officers' stress. The objectives of the project were to identify sources and symptoms of stress and identify available personal and organizational resources for treating stress among officers and their families; to increase staff morale and the level of job satisfaction; to decrease the incidence of staff turnover, medical leaves, and absenteeism; and to increase the level of family satisfaction. Additional project objectives were to enhance the ability of managers to recognize the signs of stress among officers and to increase managers' skills/comfort in assisting officers with stress-related problems. The evaluation measured types of stress and coping assets, attitudes about the work environment, work attendance, and post-program satisfaction. The most helpful aspects of the programs were in coping with personal problems/stressors as well as work-related problems/stressors. Overall, the program did reduce stress among employees. Workers involved in the pilot program expressed a need for acknowledgement from the administration, and the wellness programs met that need. It also taught new skills and provided officers with the chance to network with colleagues both in and outside their departments; however, these benefits may be short-lived if no further actions are taken to capitalize on the information obtained through the program. Activities that must be instituted and maintained are charting a clear direction for the court, communicating with employees about this direction, involving employees in decisionmaking whenever possible, conducting limited training for the administration, and developing a means to recognize employee effort regularly. 8 tables and appended evaluation instruments
Date Published: December 1, 2003
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