Better lives,through better choices.


 Preamble: Our Core Beliefs 

Problematic sexual behavior problems (PSB) are found in adolescents and children, even as young as 3 years old.  Though such behaviors may appear to be similar to those of adults who sexually offend, qualitative differences lead us to strongly caution against viewing youth through the same lens. The origins and motives of the PSB and the youths’ responsiveness to intervention are quite distinct from adults who commit sex offenses. Children are in their formative years and rehabilitation is the best response to this problematic and, at times, illegal behavior. 

Youth who have PSB are first and foremost children and adolescents.  Their path to problematic behavior was formed by a combination of life circumstances and individual factors that contributed to challenges following rules about sexual behavior, respect, and safety.  The National Center on Youth Sexual Behavior developed the following Guiding Principles to set the standard of practice for professionals working with children who have PSB.  These standards are not intended to replace the standards supported by other professional disciplines.

  • Utilize developmentally appropriate approaches

    We appreciate that each youth’s behavior must be conceptualized within a developmental framework.  Motivations and reasons for sexual misconduct by children and adolescents typically differ by developmental periods and generally have little in common with adults who commit sex offenses. Yet, age may not be the best indicator of child or adolescent functioning in any one domain because of the dynamic nature of child development and individual variation. Children’s social, emotional, language, and cognitive development and functioning are to be considered and integrated in interventions and decision making.

    For more information see: Understanding Youth, (Coming Soon) Assessment, (Coming Soon) Clinical Decision-Making

  • Approach each case as individual and unique

    We honor the unique and individual characteristics of children and adolescents with PSB and their families. Children and adolescents with PSB are heterogeneous. They are unique individuals. Professionals must examine the individual youth and family’s needs, risks, and strengths, as well as other characteristics that facilitate positive responses to interventions.  Decisions, such as safety plans, placement, treatment, and community response are best when made case-by-case in a manner that is objective and fair. 

    For more information see: Understanding Youth, (Coming Soon) Assessment, (Coming Soon) Clinical Decision-Making

  • Avoid unnecessary labels

    We appreciate that terminology impacts professionals’ understanding and response to youth.  Being labeled a “juvenile sex offender”, “perpetrator”, or similar terms can lead to misconceptions, harsh decision making, and discrimination.  These terms place all youth in the same criminal category despite their heterogeneity. We recommend people-first language that labels behavior rather than the youth, such as “children with problematic sexual behavior” or “adolescents with problematic or illegal sexual behavior”.

    For more information see: Understanding Youth PSB, (Coming Soon) Clinical Decision-MakingIntervention, (Coming Soon) Public Policy

  • Integrate socioecological factors

    We believe that youth are best understood in the context of their family and social environment.  Family members, peers, and other community members have fundamental influence on youth’s growth, development, decision-making, and behavior.  Effective interventions directly involve parents and caregivers to establish safety and support the youth’s healthy development.   Professionals must help youths and their families build social bonds, positive supports, and peer groups (e.g., pro-social friends, mentors, teachers, coaches, faith based and other community organizations) to successfully address youth PSB and promote healthy development.

    For more information see: Understanding Youth PSB, (Coming Soon) AssessmentClinical Decision-MakingIntervention (Coming Soon)

  • Use a collaborative approach

    We recognize that decision making regarding children and adolescents with PSB is a major responsibility that requires a collaborative approach.  The professionals and family are charged with promoting safety and addressing the needs of all the children (the youth with PSB, child victims, siblings, and others) in the context of the family, school, and community.  Coordinated responses and services are needed across agencies that commonly work with the youth with PSB, child victims, and families (as such they may include child protective services, law enforcement, probation officers, prosecuting and defense attorneys as well as judges, school personnel, child advocates and therapists). Family voice is an important part. A coordinated approach improves outcome for individual youth and families as well as promotes sounder policies and procedures.

    For more information see: Understanding Youth, (Coming Soon) Assessment, (Coming Soon) Clinical Decision-MakingIntervention (Coming Soon)

  • Conduct high quality, holistic assessments

    We support high quality holistic assessments to guide clinical decisions and effective interventions. Such assessments use evidence based practices and positively engage youth and their parents and caregivers. Assessments use multiple sources and methods to examine case specific needs, problems, and strengths that determine targets for reducing risks, facilitating protective factors, and promoting healthy, pro-social development.  Assessments reflect current functioning and circumstances and, due to the rapidity of child development, recommend timely reassessments. Professionals use assessments for safety planning, to provide evidenced based treatment recommendations and interventions, and to examine the risk and benefits associated with various placement options.

    For more information see: Assessment (Coming Soon)

  • Provide focused and effective interventions and treatment

    We respect that youth with PSB, child victims, and family members deserve evidence based treatments. Effective treatments eliminate PSB, reduce trauma symptoms, and improve family functioning.  We recommend professionals use the most evidence-based or supported treatment approaches that match the most urgent needs of youth with PSB and family members.  We recognize that youth with PSB and their families often present with multiple needs and factors—professionals must consider these when planning focused interventions and treatment. We caution against attempting to simultaneously provide a wide variety of interventions with multiple agencies. Such approaches overwhelm families and have been found less effective than focused interventions and case management. When multiple needs are present, professionals must prioritize needs to facilitate safety, family functioning, and progress.

    For more information see: Understanding Youth, (Coming Soon) Assessment, (Coming Soon) Clinical Decision-MakingIntervention, (Coming Soon) Public Policies 

  • Utilize a flexible continuum of service delivery options

    We recognize the need for a continuum of care that flexibly meets the needs of the case. Youth are to be placed in the least restrictive level of care consistent with community safety. Generally, community and home-based interventions are safe and effective in treating PSB.  Community-based interventions provide increased opportunities for healthy and pro-social development and positive supports for the youth. When out-of-home placements are necessary for safety or behavioral health reasons, it is important that these placements be as short in duration as possible. Family and caregiver involvement should be maximized and plans for community transition and re-integration should begin upon admission.  

    For more information see: Clinical Decision-MakingIntervention, (Coming Soon) Pyramid Illustrating Continuum (Coming Soon)

  • Ensure appropriate training, qualifications, and practice

    We value professionals and recognize the significant impact of their work on families. Relevant coursework, degrees, supervision and advanced training ensure professionals are qualified to work with youth and families. Professionals must have essential training in child and adolescent development and problematic and illegal sexual behavior of youth. Continuing education and training helps professionals stay current with empirical research on the PSB of youth, evidence-based practices and best policies. Professionals employ guidelines and ethical standards (such as, the Association of the Treatment of Sexual Abusers Standards and Guidelines). Professionals recognize and practice within the scope of their profession and abilities.

    For more information see: Guidelines and Standards of Care (Coming Soon)

  • Implement effective practices and public policies

    We recognize that sound and effective public policies and practices must be grounded in the best available research. Developing effective public policies and practices requires thoughtful steps that identify the relevant problems and the evidence that informs rectifying or ameliorating them. When new practices or policies are piloted or implemented, ongoing evaluation is needed to ensure effectiveness and that required standards are maintained. Public policies found to be harmful are (or should be) rescinded and replaced with effective practices. As research evolves, so should public policies and practices.

    For more information see: Public Policy