Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2022, $425,000)
Mission Kids Child Advocacy Center proposes to develop a pre-trial diversionary program for youth with problematic sexual behaviors (YPSB) and adolescents with illegal sexual behaviors in Montgomery County, PA. Once established, this program will divert children from the juvenile justice system and into evidence-based therapeutic treatment. The project’s primary objective is to develop an enhanced intervention and supervision program for YPSB that will decrease the likelihood of sexual re-offense.
There are currently no pre-adjudication services available for YPSB in Montgomery County. If prosecutors are unable to press charges—e.g. if the child is under 10 or if evidence is lacking—no services are available. In Montgomery County, criminal charges are only filed in 27% of cases, meaning that over 70% of YPSB are left without treatment. When left untreated, problematic sexual behaviors persist in up to 43% of children. To address this immense challenge, Mission Kids will recruit four licensed trauma therapists to attend the University of Oklahoma’s intensive training program in Problematic Sexual Behavior-Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (PSB-CBT). After receiving their certifications, these therapists will be overseen by a licensed Clinical Supervisor at Mission Kids and will begin conducting PSB-CBT for all eligible children in Montgomery County, PA.
To determine a child’s eligibility for this program, Mission Kids will establish an expert Diversionary Panel composed of law enforcement professionals, prosecutors, mental health professionals, and child protective services caseworkers. When a YPSB case is reported to any of Montgomery County’s 50 police departments, Mission Kids will assemble the county’s multidisciplinary team to perform a forensic interview. The victim will receive comprehensive services on-site at Mission Kids’ child-friendly office. If the child who committed the abuse is a suitable candidate for PSB-CBT, Mission Kids will refer the case to the Diversionary Panel to determine his/her eligibility. If enrolled, the child will be diverted from the juvenile justice system and enter treatment. The Project Lead will provide regular reports on the child’s progress to the Diversionary Panel as a condition of the child’s continued diversion from juvenile justice.
In a County of 830,000 residents, Mission Kids currently handles 100-200 YPSB cases each year. When these children are enrolled in evidence-based treatment, this program will prevent dozens of re-offenses annually. This effort represents a crucial step in building a safer community for Montgomery County’s children.