Sex Offender Step-Down Program


The increasing awareness of youth who have engaged in sexually harmful behaviors, resulting in being labeled as juvenile sex offenders, has altered our culture’s view for providing treatment pertaining to sexual abuse. Given that the typography of juveniles is significantly different than that of adults, the perception of specialized intervention for both victim and offender should especially occur as early as possible. Support for this position is derived from the victim-offender cycle, which has been well established in research literature. Therefore, attention has turned to the ongoing effort to interrupt the cycle of sexual abuse through the tenets of Balanced and Restorative Justice.

Our goal is to provide specialized foster homes for those youth who are ready for community-based placement, but for whom home is not currently a viable release option; as well as those adolescents termed “abuse-reactive.” The term “abuse reactive” was coined to describe youth who have been abused in some way and are reacting to their early trauma in abusive, aggressive, and inappropriately sexual ways (Cunningham, C. & MacFarlane, K., 1991).

A major challenge of treatment is to help these youth work through sex offense specific issues while assisting the nuclear family to do the same. It is often advantageous to remove the youth from their family in order to ensure that specific treatment modalities are put into place and to protect victims. This program uses both confrontative and supportive approaches in which adjudicated youth, both delinquent and dependent, can receive necessary services for desired outcomes by being placed in an intensive, specialized foster care setting. Concurrently, we offer their parents individual and/or family therapy and parent effectiveness training.

The program emphasizes family unification–with the intervention program continuing for a number of months as efforts are made to consolidate the gains made by both the youth and his family. It is acknowledged, however, that in some cases training the youth for independent living may be necessary. Thus, the overriding goal of treatment is the invitation to all parties to take control of their lives in a meaningful, responsible fashion, while assisting the enrolled youth in gaining the skills and knowledge necessary for independent living.

The average length of stay in the program can usually be expected to be around six to nine months. This estimation is contingent upon the achievement of each youth’s intervention objectives. The goal is a concentrated, short-term placement. Clients will successfully complete after careful review from the team. Staff will observe and document progress of each youth’s adherence to program guidelines, placement expectations and treatment goals. The intention is to ensure that each client possesses effective problem-solving and decision-making skills for healthy, safe, socially normalized behavior. Specific emphasis is placed on each client possessing a demonstrated understanding of his sexual abuse cycle, has developed and successfully implemented a relapse prevention plan, and that he shows a high level of empathy for his victims, family, and community.

Follow-up will be offered to each graduate who becomes independent for as long as the team and county personnel deem necessary. Follow-up will be available to each client after release for up to two months provided he lives in the area in which the program is located.

"Every moment is a fresh beginning."

T.S. Eliot