Archdiocesan vigilance earns audit compliance kudos

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The archdiocesan approach in regard to child protection can be summarized in just six words.

“We never let our guard down,” said Father John Riley, archdiocesan chancellor and safe environment coordinator.

The reward for vigilance is that children and youth have been protected — and the archdiocese has yet again passed another audit.

“Based on the results of our recently performed onsite audit of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, the archdiocese has been found in compliance with all audited articles within the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ for the 2011-2012 audit period,” according to a letter sent to Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on Dec. 28, 2012, by StoneBridge Business Partners.

StoneBridge is a private auditing firm commissioned by the U.S. bishops to assess compliance by dioceses and eparchies with guidelines first established in June 2002 by the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” also known as the “Dallas Charter.”

Audits are done annually with data audits for two years in a row, followed by an on-site audit every third year. The archdiocese has consistently passed its audits since the charter’s implementation.

“[Archbishop Naumann] made it very clear to me that he places the very highest priority on the safety of children in this archdiocese,” said Father Riley. “Because of his strong commitment to child protection, we have invested significant financial and human resources in making our parishes and schools as safe for children as possible.”

But it is not only the archbishop whose commitment produced this success, but also all those who collaborated with him, said Father Riley.

“We are so grateful for the dedication of our pastors, our school principals, our teachers and catechists, our parents and volunteers, and especially our local or parish-based Virtus coordinators who help Archbishop Naumann carry out this critical responsibility,” he said. “And I think that the very positive findings of the audit firm reflect Archbishop Naumann’s firm commitment to protecting God’s children.”

Auditors usually interview key personnel at the archdiocesan level, check various records retention systems, and visit parishes, schools and other archdiocesan programs. The auditing firm itself chooses the sample for the onsite audits.

The archdiocesan safe environment program has three main components: Virtus training, the archdiocesan child protection policy, and the reporting requirement.

Virtus training sessions are conducted on an ongoing basis throughout the archdiocese. Anyone having substantial and ongoing contact with minors in church ministry or the schools must also complete online training bulletins.

Volunteers, archdiocesan clergy and employees also have to undergo a criminal background check conducted by an outside agency. No one will be hired to work at a parish or other places in the archdiocese unless they undertake Virtus training, submit to a background check, and sign an agreement to read and abide by the archdiocesan child protection, sexual harassment, and code of conduct policies.

People who wish to report abuse or concerns should contact the archdiocese or the Kansas Department for Children and Families. Some individuals, like teachers, are mandated reporters. They are required by Kansas law to make reports to the KDCF or law enforcement.

The archdiocese also has an independent review board. When a report of abuse is initially received and is investigated, the board chairman is notified within 24 hours. It is the board’s responsibility to review the case file and review the results of the investigation when completed.

“One of our roles with the independent review board is to review the effectiveness of [archdiocesan] investigations,” said Scott Wasserman, chairman of the board and a Lenexa attorney. “We are so impressed by how effective they are.”

Wasserman is impressed both by the archbishop’s and Father Riley’s respect for the independence of the board and by their openness.

“In our independent assessment, we have great admiration for Archbishop Naumann and his safe environment staff. Because of their good work, children and families can feel safe from abuse, and priests can feel safe from slander.”

Who to Call

Any person who believes that a child is being abused or neglected can make a confidential report to the Kansas Department for Children and Families Protection Report Center: (800) 922-5330.

In addition to reporting to the KPRC, please call the archdiocesan confidential report line: (913) 647- 3051.

You may also call:

• Father John Riley, chancellor and safe environment coordinator: (913) 647-0324

• Father Gary Pennings, vicar general: (913) 647-0340

• Father Brian Schieber, vicar general for clergy: (785) 272-5590 or (913) 488-2792

• Kathy O’Hara, superintendent of Catholic schools: (913) 647-0321

• Dr. Dennis Schemmel, victim assistance coordinator: (913) 909- 2740

• Catholic Charities offers access to community counselors through a staff counseling resource line that is monitored by school counselors. Callers will receive access to local community counselors throughout the 21-county area of the archdiocese. A direct counselor is available in Emporia through the agency’s Emporia Outreach Office. Call (913) 433-2100 and indicate the need for crisis counseling.

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