Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $425,000)
Children's Aid & Family Services (CAFS) will expand the highly successful WISE Families Program to extend evidence-based therapeutic services to older youth with sexual behavior problems that result in child-on-child sexual abuse in the family or close social network. Grant funds will expand the number of families served in the current program for children aged 7-14 and will develop a corresponding component for teens aged 15-17. WISE treats both the youth and their family in New Jersey with the goal of maintaining youth safely in their family and community. Services provided since WISE began in 2010 have successfully diverted hundreds of youth from involvement with juvenile justice systems. WISE relies on an evidence-based treatment model known as Problematic Sexual Behavior Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (PSB-CBT) which has 15+ years of documented success. Youth and parent(s) each join a 16-week therapy group supplemented by individual and family sessions to reinforce skill development. WISE is unique in Essex County, NJ, as it treats both the offending youth and their parents based on research showing that parent involvement is the #1 indicator of the child’s success in treatment and subsequent lack of recidivism. WISE is utilized by the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Child Advocacy Center in Newark to refer youth to specialized therapeutic services that help them overcome sexual behavior difficulties. This program is a collaboration that brings together three highly skilled agencies to coordinate services to both the child victim and the child offender:
1. Children’s Aid and Family Services (CAFS) to treat child offender/family.
2. Metro Regional Child Abuse Diagnostic and Treatment Center (RDTC) to treat child victim/family.
3. Wynona’s House Child Advocacy Center (CAC) to manage referrals and oversee service delivery through a monthly Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT)
CAFS proposes to close a gap in service which the Prosecutor’s Office indicates exists for older teens by hiring additional clinicians and arranging advanced training in PSB-CBT for this older age group. This will allow WISE to form a third weekly therapy group specifically for teens and a group for their caregivers. The project will serve 90 families over the span of the grant.