Every year, CALICO offers a multi-disciplinary child-abuse training for all its partners. This day-long training aims to help to keep Alameda County’s child-abuse professionals up to date with the latest research. This year marked CALICO’s 19th Collaborative Training and featured Dr. Daniel Rothman, a clinical and forensic psychologist who specializes in the assessment and treatment of children, adolescents and adults with sexual aggressive behavior problems. The training also featured a panel of professionals representing Alameda County agencies including Dr. Rachelle Zemlok, Alameda County Behavioral Health Care Service - Guidance Clinic – STRIVE; Judge Leo Dorado, Alameda County Superior Court; Lisa Meza, Court Officer for Alameda County Probation Department; and Pamela Nunley, Deputy District Attorney, Alameda County District Attorney Juvenile Division.
The theme of this year’s Collaborative Training was “Juveniles who Sexually Offend” and focused on the particular issues and challenges that arise when a young person commits a sexual crime against another child. Since these types of crimes account for more than one-third of all sexual offenses against children, it is no wonder that over 160 child-abuse investigators and service professionals took time out of their busy schedules to attend the training. Dr. Rothman was able to give an overview of the prevalence rates for youth who engage in sexually abusive behaviors and the range of reasons why adolescents may do this. Dr. Rothman was able to de-mystify many beliefs about this population. Including the idea that once a child offends he or she will continue to offend for life. Most studies demonstrate that children who sexually offend do not continue to commit sexual crimes in adulthood. In fact, 80-97% of children do not ever reoffend. Dr. Rothman stressed the importance and effectiveness of early intervention and treatment for offending youth. The panel of professionals representing Alameda County agencies focused on Alameda County’s response and interventions to youth who have sexually offended against another child. They sought to explain the process and eliminate any mystery that may surround the juvenile criminal process. Each panel member explained their agency’s work and their role in the process. The panel discussed how cases get to the Alameda County Juvenile Court and what happens to the child as he or she goes through the legal process. They emphasized the goal of this legal process was to identify appropriate treatment and services for the offending youth and their family. All panelists agreed that the ultimate goal was rehabilitation of the offending youth.
Attendees left the training with a greater understanding of youth who sexually offend and the processes that Alameda County uses to offer intervention and help to those children. Many attendees reported feeling more educated and eager to incorporate what they learned into their work. One attendee relayed, “I had some beliefs about why a child might hurt another child and what would happen to that child if they got involved with the system. Now I understand that the behavior can be changed and the system offers services to do that without branding the child for life.” Another attendee said, “I feel better bringing my cases involving minor perpetrators for charging.”
At CALICO we understand that working in the field of child abuse is challenging and involves regularly integrating new research into the work. We strive to make sure that our partners have as much information as possible to help them succeed in their work. We are pleased such a large group attended the training and showed their commitment to keeping up with best practices for handling child abuse cases.