COVID-19 Unsung Heroes: Kane Probation Officers Monitor 3,400 Adults, 400 Juveniles In a Time of Pandemic

COVID-19 Unsung Heroes: Kane Probation Officers Monitor 3,400 Adults, 400 Juveniles In a Time of Pandemic

There are many unsung heroes in this war on the coronavirus, from the folks who sell us groceries to the truck drivers delivering much-needed food and medicine to every mom and dad who stay home to help their kids through school, keep spirits up and stop the spread of the disease.

But among those unsung heroes are local government workers whose efforts behind the scenes are keeping us safe and healthy — without us ever knowing.

Falling into that category are Kane County’s probation officers, whose essential work is only increasing during the pandemic.

Probation officers are monitoring 3,400 adults and 400 juveniles who live in Kane County, including people in Drug Court, Mental Health Court, and Veteran’s Court.

“We have had to prioritize our efforts at supervision while reducing the number of staff in the office due to social distancing mandates,” said Emily Saylor, the director of Specialty Courts for Court Services. “It has been a real challenge,”

Now, appointments are handled via the phone, through e-mail, and “virtually” through Facetime and online meetings.

Probation is still trying to meet state standards and monitor for public safety. They complete residency verifications for registered sex offenders and visit high-risk clients that have been convicted of drug, domestic violence, and sex offenses at their homes.

The probation officers are standing in the driveway or on the front stoop and maintaining visual contact with the clients through their doors or windows while talking on the phone. Since the stay-at-home order, 300 “home visits” have been completed this way.

According to Probations Director LaTanya Hill, many probationers who already faced barriers to employment are now struggling with more than 513,000 other individuals who filed initial claims for unemployment benefits.

“During the virtual appointments, probation officers are linking clients to resources like mental health services, food pantries, online AA meetings, and drug treatment,” she said. “We are still working with clients to change the behavior that led to their offending.”

Because so many treatment agencies are closed or not taking new clients, Hill said it is important for probation staff to hold cognitive treatment groups using on-line meeting apps.

“Each day brings a new set of challenges and opportunities for forward thinking,” she said. “The pandemic has taken a horrible toll, but probation is working to keep the officers and probationers healthy and our communities safer.”

SOURCE: Kane County Probation Department news release