I have worked in a facility for a year and a half now doing treatment for adolescents who have committed sex crimes. I have seen that in most ways the boys can and do get better. There is little to NO similarity between a young man who makes a mistake and an adult sex offender. (I also worked as a mental health professional in a county jail for eight years and came into contact with many adult sex offenders.) The only possible comparison between the two is perhaps the act each one did, and usually that is not even the case, as adults are fully sexually developed, while many of my clients were not when they committed their crime. There is such a slim, fragile connection between an adult offender and a teen that we don't even use adult terms for our yout, we state that they are guilty of Problem Sexual Behaviors and work to help them adopt Healthy Sexual Behaviors.
I will never and have never defended the actions of my clients and part of our program is the demand that each one take full responsibility for his actions and take deliberate, tough and meaningful steps to change their behaviors and, if they are willing and able, reconcile with their victims. We can and do accomplish these goals on a regular basis because these boys are still young and developing their personalities; still finding themselves. Think of the mistakes you made when you were young--I know personally that as I look back on my teen years I wonder at times if my brain left my head for a bit. Kids make impulsive, unwise decisions all the time. They need to be held accountable--that is so important and can play a big role in recovery. However, they do need to be given a way back; they are too young to throw away. Putting a young man on the sex offender registry is ludicrous and sentences him to a very difficult life.
If families and/or caregivers want kids to make good decisions when it comes to sex then they need to talk to their kids about sex, monitor their children's behaviors and they need to get their children help when they are traumatized in any way (which is actually a high risk factor for problem sexual behaviors). There is a lot of hope for these kids, and they usually do not re-offend. If we doom them by putting them on the registry then we are throwing them away.