Studies show that most youth who sexually offend come to the attention of law enforcement when they are between the ages of 12–14 and that early adolescence is the peak age for sexual offenses against younger children.
Youth with problematic or illegal sexual behavior are a diverse population of youth who, for a variety of reasons, engage in such behavior. Research shows that youth with problematic or illegal sexual behavior successfully respond to interventions that address the behavior problem and promote healthy development.
Intervening early and appropriately works to reduce revictimization as well as mitigate the negative impact on all youth and families involved. With appropriate and effective interventions, most youth can learn to make better choices and be contributing members of society. The most comprehensive treatment services for youth with problematic or illegal sexual behavior include family- and community-based interventions.
In Fiscal Year (FY) 2010, recognizing a gap in programming for youth with sexual behavior problems and the lack of a systemic and holistic approach to managing these cases, OJJDP and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking collaborated to fund this program. Since FY 2018, OJJDP has continued to fund the program.
The program Supporting Effective Interventions for Youth with Problematic or Illegal Sexual Behavior funds evidence-based intervention strategies and supervision services to address problematic sexual behaviors and prevent reoffending.
The program also provides vital support to caregivers, family members, and victims. Not all youth who exhibit illegal or problematic sexual behaviors have a history of abuse or trauma. However, all children with illegal or problematic sexual behaviors need treatment. This program is designed to address the needs of all families impacted and improve the response to child victims. It uses a three-pronged approach to preventing sexual reoffending by adolescents with illegal sexual behavior and problematic sexual behavior of children – focusing on accountability, support, and public safety through:
- Capacity building for disciplines and system levels;
- Intervention and Supervision services at the individual, family and community levels; and
- Treatment services for child victims and non-offending family members.
This program assists communities in developing a multidisciplinary, comprehensive and holistic approach to providing treatment services and community supervision for youth with sexual behavior problems and treatment services to the victims and families of these youth.
Training and Technical Assistance
OJJDP provides training and technical assistance to improve the accuracy, accessibility, and strategic use of information about the nature, incidence, prevalence, prevention, treatment, and management of youth with problematic sexual behaviors. Since 2010, through their National Center on the Sexual Behavior of Youth, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center (UOHSC) has been the integral component in providing support to project sites and communities working with youth with problematic or illegal sexual behaviors and their families.
In Fiscal Year 2016, OJJDP expanded its training and technical assistance to help all four branches of the military to address problematic sexual behaviors among youth on military bases in coordination with the Department of Defense (DOD). DOD decided to enter into an Interagency Agreement with OJJDP by providing $1,500,000 that was used to supplement the FY 2016 OJJDP cooperative agreement with UOHSC. These DOD funds are used by UOHSC to provide enhanced clinical training of military professionals who respond to problematic sexual behavior in children and youth (PSB-CY) involving military children and youth residing both stateside and overseas.
Between fiscal years 2019 and 2021, OJJDP awarded $7.4 million to enhance community capacity to address this issue.
From the Field
OJJDP grantee Cayuga Counseling Service, Inc. provides evidenced based treatment for children and adolescents who demonstrated problematic sexual behavior in Cayuga County, NY. The Problematic Sexual Behavior-Cognitive Behavior Treatment program serves children ages 7–18 and their caregivers through group or family therapy. Additionally, any client participating in the Adolescent Problematic Sexual Behavior Treatment Program are assigned a Case Manager. The Case Manager provides community supervision while the client is in treatment. The Clinical and Case Management team meet weekly to discuss cases, treatment recommendations, and assign supervision levels.
“I am so grateful for this program. It was scary when I learned of my son’s problematic sexual behavior. This program gave him and I the tools to heal from that experience. Our therapist was great, and she took her time making sure that my son learns coping skills to address his moods and gain self-respect,” said a caregiver whose 15-year-old son just recently graduated from the Adolescent Problematic Sexual Behavior Treatment Program.
- Barriers to Accessing Treatment Services: Child Victims of Youth with Problematic Sexual Behavior
- The Caregiver's Survival Guide
- Early Identification of Youth with Problematic Sexual Behavior: A Qualitative Study
- In Focus Fact Sheet: Sexual Behavior Problems in Children and Adolescents
- A Message to Our Caregivers Tip Sheet
- Model Programs Guide: Offending by Juveniles > Sex Offenses
- Performance Measures for OJJDP Grantees: Adolescent Sex Offenders and Children with Sexual Behavior Problems Program
- Restoring the Sacred Circle: Understanding, Preventing, and Responding to Problematic Sexual Behaviors of Youth. Toolkit for American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes
- Things I Wish I Would Have Known Tip Sheet
Restoring the Sacred Circle Podcast –This podcast is an accompaniment to the Restoring the Sacred Circle Toolkit, designed to address PSB of youth in Indian County.
Sexual Behavior in Children and Youth Series – This series addresses normal sexual behavior in children in addition to exploring cautionary and problematic sexual behavior that children may display.
OJJDP Adolescent Sex Offenders and Children with Sexual Behavior Problems Performance Measurement Training – This webinar for OJJDP grantees provides an understanding of the revised performance measurement reporting requirements.
OJJDP-Funded Program pages and Websites: