Kathy McNamara

Reporter’s Notebook: Probation Officer & So Much More

Kathy McNamara has played the roles of surrogate mother, mentor, big sister, coach, cheerleader, kindly counselor, confidante, inspiration and friend to her young charges. All the while, McNamara’s also served as their probation officer just outside Chicago in DuPage County, Ill. For 16 years now, she has worked on hundreds of the toughest of juvenile cases — those of so-called “dual-status youth,” kids entangled in both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems.

Here and there, on the juvenile justice beat, you discover someone who goes so far beyond the call of duty you want to tell the world about that person. Kathy McNamara, a senior probation officer for juveniles, is one of those people. I first learned about McNamara, 45, while reporting on a JJIE story on dual-status youths.

Rikers Island

Reporter’s Notebook: Life on the Island

When you step off the Q100 bus on Rikers Island, the scent of saltwater hangs in the air, at least in warm-weather months. Within a few feet, however, you’re staring at cement on cement and inhaling some combination of cigarettes, steaming blacktop and too many people.