Since the 1980s, public policies related to youth with problematic or illegal sexual behaviors have failed to take into account scientific knowledge about youth risk, heterogeneity, and responsivity to intervention and treatment. Public policy designed to enhance community safety has done more harm than good (Chaffin, 2008).
More recently, some governmental bodies and community agencies are amending public policy and agency practices to reflect current research. (See System Change)
Decades of research indicate that sexual recidivism of youth is generally very low; in fact a recent large study of adjudicated juveniles found less than 3% recidivated with a sexual offense(Caldwell, 2016).
Assessment and treatment guidelines based on research with children and adolescents with problematic and illegal sexual behavior are available at the ATSA website.
Evidence-based treatments for problematic and illegal sexual behavior of youth exist. Evidence-based treatment in the community with safety planning is ethical, effective, efficient and economical for most youth with problematic or illegal sexual behaviors.
Certain Federal, State, and Local policies designed to enhance community safety, such as juvenile registration and notification policies, automatic school disenrollment, have not been found to improve public safety, and these may cause undue harm to youth.
Effective public policies and practices are evidence-based and facilitate positive outcomes for youth, victims, and families while promoting community safety and cost savings.
Policies to enhance coordination of multiple agencies are particularly useful as cases often span a number of professions (e.g., law enforcement, child welfare, juvenile justice, child advocacy, schools, mental health, and medicine).