Continuum of Services for Adolescents Who Have Sexually Offended:
The Early Years (1995-2003)
The Continuum was initiated by Dr. Judy Tudiver, Ph.D., C.Psych., a psychologist at the J. D. Griffin Centre in Toronto. As part of her role at that agency, she worked with youth with intellectual disabilities who had offended sexually. In the Spring of 1995, Judy contacted a few colleagues in Toronto who also worked at agencies providing services to adolescents who had offended sexually; with the goal of addressing service gaps and sharing resources. I was fortunate enough to be one of the people invited to the first meeting and to continue to work with Judy to address this goal. I was a representative from the former Thistletown Regional Centre, SAFE-T Program (Sexual Abuse: Family Education & Treatment), operated by the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services. In addition to Judy and myself, we initially had representatives from the Toronto Child Abuse Centre (Karyn Kennedy) Oolagen Community Services (Marilyn Vasilkioti), Youthdale Treatment Centre (Robert Sears), and Dellcrest (Laurine Martyn).
After our first few meetings, we referred to ourselves as the “Adolescent Sex Offender Continuum of Services”, and we held a public “visioning session” in 1995 to get input from key stakeholders in the Greater Toronto Area. In addition to our small Steering Committee, which was chaired by Dr. Tudiver from 1995 to 1997, we developed a Resource Directory Committee and a Training Committee. I was happy to chair these latter 2 committees at the outset. During 1995, the Training Committee prepared for our first formal training event and, in 1996, the Resource Directory Committee produced a comprehensive directory of services in the Greater Toronto Area.
In 1996, Rick Owens joined the Steering Committee, and he chaired a Legal Issues Committee that brought together legal and clinical professionals to discuss legal, ethical, and clinical challenges for youth who had offended sexually. In 1996, we also changed our name to “The Continuum of Services for Adolescent Sex Offenders in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)”. We wanted to stress the word “Continuum” in our name, as we had hoped to find a better way to streamline services with respect to such factors as client age (e.g., adolescent to young adult), intellectual functioning, and place of residence, for example. Our second formal training event was held in Toronto in 1996, and we talked about our plans to provide training on an annual basis, in addition to other goals, such as seeking funding for research and developing best practices, for example.
In 1997, we established a Research Committee, and I was honoured to act as the chair of that committee. Dr. Tudiver and I submitted a proposal in 1998 on behalf of the Research Committee, and we were fortunate to be awarded two grants for the Continuum: one to begin a research study of the impact of specialized treatment and the other to establish a website. The treatment-outcome study was then used as a springboard for a federal Canadian study of the impact of specialized treatment for youth who had offended sexually.
In September of 1997, Dr. Tudiver stepped down from her role as Chair of the Steering Committee for the Continuum, and I was honoured to take on that responsibility. In 1998, we added representatives from outside of the Toronto Area, including Jim Shea from the Peel Region of Ontario, for example. As a result, we decided to change our name in 1999 to the “Continuum of Services for Adolescent Sex Offenders” to reflect the fact that we were representing services beyond the Greater Toronto Area. In 1997, I created the current blue and magenta logo for the Continuum to represent our hopes of seamless services for this population. In 1998, we also used grant funding to start a Newsletter Committee, and we began to produce a regular newsletter focused on the work of the various committees—in addition to providing information about this population.
Many dedicated individuals from several different agencies in Southern Ontario assisted with our goals of training, information sharing, and working to address the gaps in services. In 2002, with helpful guidance from Rick Owens and Jim Shea, we changed our name once again to the “Continuum of Services for Adolescents Who Sexually Offend” to move away from labelling youth as “offenders”.
By the end of 2002, several committees had ceased to operate, such as the Research Committee and the Resource Directory Committee, and the central focus of the Continuum became the provision of an annual training event in Toronto. After chairing the Steering Committee for 6 years following Dr. Tudiver’s wonderful leadership, I stepped down from that role in 2003, and I was grateful to pass that along to two co-chairs: Rick Owens (Griffin Centre) and Peter Hoag (Thistletown Regional Centre, SAFE-T Program). The Continuum was subsequently renamed one last time to its present name, “The Continuum of Services For Adolescents Who Have Sexually Offended”. This last change underscores the fact that, for most of our clients, the sexual offending behaviour is something that occurred in their past.
It was a tremendous privilege for me to have been involved in the inception and early development of the Continuum, and I was honoured to speak at several of the annual conferences between 1996 and 2017. I hope that Dr. Tudiver’s vision of collaborative and enhanced services for youth who have offended sexually continues into the future.
Dr. James R. Worling, Ph.D., C.Psych., ATSAF