The Probation Experience Project

The Probation Experience Project (PEP), funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is a research-to-practice partnership that utilizes participatory methods to shift the purpose, culture, and practice of youth probation systems. We aim to drive fundamental reforms in partnership with youth, families, and communities to learn from their experiences and identify policy and practice recommendations for transforming youth probation systems and ensuring equitable access to resources in the community.


Probation is the most common outcome for young people whose cases reach the juvenile court. Once children and young people are placed on youth probation, they must typically adhere to rules and court-imposed conditions, such as curfews, regular communication with their probation officers, community service, or paid restitution. Probation requirements are significant drivers of punitive outcomes like probation fees and removal from home, especially for youth of color and youth in underserved and marginalized communities. Further, probation can serve as a pipeline to deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system, as technical violations of probation rules may lead to placement in out-of-home settings (such as incarceration in a correctional facility).

Youth probation systems’ reliance on punishment and surveillance-oriented probation can negatively impact our youth, families, and communities. To dismantle this unjust system that drives and reinforces systemic inequities, we need to recognize the harms of the current framework and the potential for transformed practice.

386,600 delinquency cases were handled formally by juvenile courts nationwide in 2019. Of these cases, more than half were placed on probation. Black youth were placed on probation at a rate almost three times higher than that of White youth.


The Probation Experience Project consists of a Core Team (comprised of Annie E. Casey Foundation staff, family members of youth who experienced probation, and young adults who have experienced probation), local research partners, and Child Trends as a technical assistance partner. Our approach to driving reforms is to:

  • Develop a research agenda to guide our research on youth and family experiences with the youth probation system.
  • Conduct research in partnership with six local research partners and youth researchers who have or had probation system experiences. Each local research partner will conduct research with youth researchers in their local communities using focus groups and surveys.
  • Identify recommendations for transforming the youth probation system based on our findings.
  • Share research findings with advocates and policymakers—nationally and within each local research partner’s local community—to advance positive change in the youth probation system.


Each of our partners shares the vision to learn from youth and families’ probation experiences and to co-create policy advocacy strategies that will help bring about probation transformation. Our research findings will inform a probation model that aims to promote youth’s personal growth, positive behavior change, and long-term success through the following goals:

  • Advancing equity: Advancing equity means both reducing disparities and creating opportunities for youth who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC); those with LGBTQ+ identities; those who have disabilities; and those who live in underserved or marginalized communities.
  • Culture shift away from punitive model: Youth probation currently operates using a model that punishes youth for breaking rules or making mistakes. We envision a culture change that includes a new model focused on creating opportunities to help youth learn and grow.
  • Ensuring access to community resources and removing obstacles: If youth probation is no longer punitive, it can instead focus on connecting youth and families to resources that can address their needs rather than create obstacles to their success.
  • Family and community involvement, support, and collaboration: Shifting the role of community-based organizations as frontline service providers for youth and families who have contact with the youth probation system can increase family involvement, support, and collaboration. This goal can only be achieved by increasing youth and family engagement and providing organizations the support and resources they need to do their work effectively.


Learnings from this project were shared in a webinar facilitated by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Core Team, local research partners, and Child Trends.

For more information about this project, contact us at


Annie E. Casey Foundation

Core Team Members

  • Liane Rozzell, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Cherae McWilliams, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Amir Francois, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Opal West, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Steve Bishop, Annie E. Casey Foundation
  • Jaleel Terrell, Consultant
  • Aazia Marie Ross, Youth Justice Strategist
  • De’Onyae Dior Valentina, Young Lived Expert
  • Kim Palma, Consultant
  • Lakeisha Woods, Consultant
  • Vee Drake, Consultant

Local Research Partners

Child Trends Staff