This procedure outlines how to develop a positive working relationship with youth justice clients.


When to use this procedure

When providing statutory supervision and support to young people placed on community based court orders.


What else you need to know

Make sure you have read and understood the following procedures:


Practice context and legislation

  • Youth justice workers have a dual role to provide statutory supervision and support to young people on community based court orders.
  • Develop a positive working relationship with the young person when they enter the youth justice system. This is the first step to influencing positive change in their behaviours and attitudes, and diverting them from further offending.
  • Investing time to build rapport with the young person is the foundation for:
    • establishing a respectful mode of interaction
    • enabling an accurate client assessment
    • ensuring that the young person clearly understands the expectations of their court or youth parole order
    • helping them to make informed decisions about themselves and their future
    • providing practical support
    • supporting them to complete their order, meet general and any special order conditions and facilitate change.
  • Effective engagement with a young person should aim to:
    • be responsive to the young person's stage of development and differences between individuals
    • be responsive to both cultural and gender issues
    • identify the underlying reasons for patterns of behaviour
    • promote the young person's personal development and address behaviours that present a major risk to them or the community
    • support case management and risk interventions
    • set clear boundaries and expectations.

Roles and key tasks

Youth Justice Court Advice Service worker

  • Engage client in their initial contact with youth justice.

Case manager

  • If there is no dedicated court advice service worker, undertake tasks of the youth justice court advice worker.
  • Use effective interviewing techniques to conduct an assessment.
  • Develop a working relationship with, and engage, the young person.
  • Undertake a supervisory and support role and provide case management.

Team leader / team manager

  • Make arrangements for young person's intake appointment.
  • Endorse any reports prepared by the case manager.
  • Provide consultation on, and endorsement of, case management decisions.

Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support

  • Provide oversight, direction and monitoring of the area youth justice service.
  • Provide case consultation regarding young people exhibiting high-risk behaviours.

Youth Justice Senior Practice Advisor

  • Provide case consultation in relation to court recommendations, breaches and particularly for high-risk young people. This should occur subject to local area agreements between Assistant Director / Manager Individual and Family Support and the Senior Practice Advisor.

The procedure in detail

Purpose of engagement

Engaging with, and establishing a good rapport with young people enables workers to work towards meeting the following program requirements:

  • safety of the young person
  • worker safety
  • community safety
  • client assessment
  • development of rehabilitative options
  • diversion from further criminal activities
  • support the young person to understand and complete their order
  • promote support from other professionals.

Initial interaction

It is most often the first point of contact between a worker and client, after the court outcome, where the relationship and mode for ongoing interaction is created.

During the first interview, a worker should:

  • clarify their role and responsibilities
  • briefly clarify the expectations of the court order and youth justice program
  • show an interest in the young person
  • attempt to create a safe and supportive atmosphere
  • acknowledge the challenges facing the young person
  • acknowledge any strengths and positive aspects of the young person's circumstances and lifestyle
  • ensure the young person is aware of their rights
  • explain the limits of confidentiality
  • explain the information-sharing process and clarify that the information they provide will be recorded on the Client Relationship Information System (CRIS)
  • provide the young person with an appointment card detailing the date and location of the intake appointment
  • inform the young person that the intake appointment will be conducted by a team leader or senior (CYF-3) youth justice worker. Refer to the procedure on 'Intake' for more information.

Until the client assessment is completed, all contact between the worker and the young person should take place at an office of the department, unless outreach is deemed appropriate by a team leader or appropriate line manager.

Timeframe for assessment

Client assessments are carried out over time.

The client assessment plan is only relevant to sentenced young people. It must be completed in the first six weeks of an order.

Note: a client assessment plan is not needed for young people on bail or whose sentence is deferred. However the same principles for engagement and case management apply.

Develop a working relationship

Don't try to obtain extensive information in the first session, as this can impede the development of a positive relationship.

Talk to the young person with a view to establishing a rapport and trust over time by:

  • asking open ended questions
  • carefully and reflectively listening
  • reflecting on information provided and asking clarifying questions
  • responding to the young person's questions
  • showing respect
  • following up on questions for which a worker does not have an immediate answer
  • showing empathy and trying to understand the clients perspective
  • showing genuine interest in the clients wellbeing
  • demonstrating positive body language
  • providing encouragement as appropriate
  • confirming your understanding of the young person's concerns or motives
  • recognising the barriers which exist to setting goals
  • not making commitments that cannot be kept.

Effective interviewing

Identify information that will assist in effective interviewing, for example:

  • What is the young person's chronological age and level of maturity and/or intellectual functioning?
  • Has the young person been subject to abuse and/or neglect that may impact on their emotional maturity and functioning?
  • Are there any medical or health issues impacting on the young person's wellbeing or ability to communicate, for example, hearing loss?
  • What is the young person's level of literacy?
  • Is English the young person's second language and do they require an interpreter?
  • Who or what are the young person's sources of support?

Give the young person enough time to think and respond to questions.

Mode of interaction

Start the interaction with informal conversation and then move towards more formal content.

Use language appropriate to the young person's age, cognitive functioning and development.

Take note of the young person's body language and tone of voice as much as their words or physical actions.

The young person may not be aware of their behaviours and how they present, especially if these behaviours have been learnt and are acceptable at home.

For example, if the young person frequently swears, tell them that you don't want them to swear during conversation with you.

Be aware that the young person may be embarrassed about their offending or life circumstances and may become defensive or react in various ways.

Try to deal with the young person's emotions first, by allowing them to become composed or calm, before attempting to communicate further.

Duration of interaction

Exercise professional judgement in determining the duration of the interaction based on the young person's:

  • age and level of maturity
  • ability to identify their own feelings
  • recent events and/or influence of others
  • mood or level of anxiety.

In some instances it may be more beneficial to end an interview.

For example, the young person may be more responsive if a worker is sensitive to their emotional state and gives them time to reflect on information.

The quality and content of the interaction is more important than the duration.

Model by example

A worker needs to be a positive role model for a young person, demonstrating reliability, consistency, honesty, confidentiality and respect.

Communication and relationship building involves sharing information.

Be prepared to share something about yourself that you feel comfortable to communicate and that is professionally acceptable.

For example, you may share information about your pets, hobbies or interesting films you have seen.

Where to conduct client supervision?

Worker safety is a key consideration for interaction with young people and their families and supervision is generally conducted at the youth justice unit.

In consultation with the team leader consider whether it is safe to conduct outreach visits.

If a supervision appointment is made at an alternative site, always inform your team leader of the location and time frame for the visit. Refer to DHS Occupational Health and Safety policy for more information.

Some young people communicate more freely when the focus is taken off them.

Where suitable, consider conducting supervision while taking a drive, walking, sharing a coffee or engaging in another appropriate activity suggested by the young person.

Recognise cultural needs and influences.


Creating opportunities for choice in allocation of workers is not always possible.

However, in some cases to facilitate engagement, factors relating to the young person's history or offending may necessitate consideration as to the allocation of a male or female youth justice worker.

Refer to DHS Occupational Health and Safety policy for more information.


Additional information