of the SAFE Program

The Services for Adolescents and Family Enrichment (SAFE) Program in Pittsburgh, PA, is an outpatient program that has provided treatment for child and adolescent with problematic sexual behaviors and their families since 1998 (Kolko, et al., 2004). Funded initially by a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, the SAFE program is currently supported by the Department of Human Services. SAFE integrates probation officers from the Special Services Unit (SSU) and clinicians from the Services for Adolescent and Family Enrichment (SAFE) program at UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital. Together, these two programs constitute the "SSU/SAFE Collaborative Treatment Program". This program represents the only comprehensive service in Pennsylvania serving children and adolescent who engaged in problematic sexual behavior that involves a coordinated collaboration between probation officers and mental health practitioners.

It was good that he got to talk to someone and understand that what he did was wrong and why. He learned to think things through so he doesn't put himself in bad situations.

Parent of a Client (Age 14)

I thought the program was great in terms of the impact it had on my son. It seemed to really sink in.

Parent of a Client (Age 14)

The SAFE program provides clinical assessment, consultation, and treatment to children and adolescents who have engaged in problematic sexual behavior and are mandated or ordered to this program by an Allegheny County Juvenile Court Judge in Pittsburgh, PA. This program addresses community safety by offering a cost-effective alternative to placement or incarceration. In order to coordinate between the justice and mental health systems, weekly collaborative treatment team meetings are held with the probation officers to review program and case progress, and quarterly interdisciplinary program meetings are held to discuss case progress, obstacles, and treatment plans.

The program’s components were based on input from judges, court administrators, probation officers, national experts, clients and their families, and the empirical literature. The program addresses common themes associated with problematic sexual behaviors (e.g., behavior problems, family relations, peer relations, academic performance). Furthermore, since it is well documented that children and adolescents with problematic sexual behaviors have psychiatric disorders, SAFE routinely administers Evidence Based Treatments (EBTs) for the primary disorders that have been identified in our population over the past two decade s(ADHD, MDD, ODD/CD, and Anxiety). Thus, all clinical assessment and program monitoring data are used to identify individualized treatment targets, document treatment progress and needs, and determine the response of each child and adolescent to these clinical services.

I liked the fact that I was taught to fight temptation and about healthy relationships. Learning about thinking errors helped me to control my temper.

Client (Age 18)

Parent sections were helpful in having other parents to talk to. The clinician was always available for me; she allowed me to voice my concerns. Group and individual sessions were helpful to my son; even when it was court ordered he was never made to feel bad about himself.

Parent of a Client (Age 15)

The program also incorporates a research component by inviting the child/adolescent and his/her parent to allow all of their routine assessments, treatment progress summaries, and discharge assessments to be used for research purposes through an informed consent/assent process. Research data based on official court records collected up to three years after discharge document a low rate (<1%) of sexual recidivism. Every two years, the Allegheny County Juvenile Court Judges and Court administrators meet with SAFE program treatment staff for a program review.

In recognition of its clinical and research excellence, the SSU/SAFE Program was the Court Operated Program of the Year in Allegheny County (2002) and was runner-up for the award in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2008) as voted by the Juvenile Court Judges' Commission.

You were able to help with the problems I had. Helped me to realize that what I did was wrong and how I can prevent it from happening again.

Client (Age 14)