National nonprofit evaluates archdiocese’s child protection policies

| May 18, 2020 | 0 Comments

A nonprofit think tank dedicated to safeguarding children evaluated the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ written policies on child protection against similar policies in other archdioceses, finding that “overall its policies do well” in the comparisons.

The 76-page report from Philadelphia-based Child USA was commissioned by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office near the end of its four-year oversight of the archdiocese’s safe environment efforts, following a settlement agreement of civil charges it had filed against the archdiocese in 2015 alleging that the archdiocese had failed to protect three children from abuse. That settlement agreement included improvements and codifications to the archdiocese’s safe environment policies.

Noting that there was no “current standard” for an evaluation of archdiocesan policies, Child USA began its review of the archdiocese’s written policies by comparing the policies of all 32 Catholic archdioceses in the United States. Its investigators found that across the archdioceses, the policies’ components could be categorized in four general areas: prevention, detection, care for victims and investigation.

The report notes that the review was based solely on the examination of written policies and, therefore, “it may not provide a complete picture of how the archdiocese handles issues related to child protection and sexual abuse.”

The report identified the archdiocese as having, among archdioceses, the strongest whistleblower protections and the “most complete” policy for responding to credible but unsubstantiated abuse allegations. The report also stated the archdiocese was above average in its written policies on specialized child abuse prevention training, victim assistance and responding to substantiated abuse.

The report found the archdiocese’s written background policy appears to be below average in in comparison to some other archdiocese and cites a few examples relating to hiring processes. However, the report notes, “After reviewing an earlier draft of this Report, the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment provided documents to show that they do most of these as part of their hiring practices.”

In a May 15 statement, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi said he appreciated Child USA’s work.

“We believe Child USA’s innovative approach used in comparing archdiocese policies with the child protection standards used by dioceses around the United States will serve as a useful platform to assist the archdiocese as it continues to further develop effective child protection protocols as well as provide context for their efforts,” he said. “The Child USA report can also serve as a useful scan of existing best practices for communities throughout Minnesota and the United States.”

Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese’s director of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, wrote in a May 5 letter to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office that “the Report’s gap analysis comparing the policies of the archdioceses in the United States is a useful exercise for considering varied approaches and which ones work best in different contexts.”

O’Malley noted that his office this year has undertaken a review of all of its policies, procedures and protocols. A copy of the Child USA report will be provided to people participating in the review process and the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office will be consulted, he said.

“Although we are pleased that Child USA found that the policies of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are among the most comprehensive of all those reviewed, we remain committed to continual improvement,” he said.

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