by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — A cheerful look may bring joy to the heart, according to the Book of Proverbs (15:30), but two little words will do the trick for Father John Riley: “in compliance.”
Early last December the archdiocese received word that it was in compliance with safe environment and youth protection policies for the 2010-2011 audit period. The audit was conducted by StoneBridge Business Partners, a firm based in Rochester, N.Y.
“This is a compliance, or data, audit,” said Father Riley, archdiocesan chancellor and safe environment coordinator. “We are in compliance with our own policies as far as record keeping, data collection and procedures.”
The compliance audit is done annually to meet guidelines first established in 2002 by the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.” The archdiocese’s program has consistently passed its audits since its inception.
“This is important, because an outside, objective organization comes in to check whether or not we are complying with our own policies,” he continued, “and collecting the information and data our policy requires us to collect.”
Every third year, the archdiocese consents to an on-site audit, which takes about a week. The archdiocese will undergo an on-site audit this year.
“[The auditors] usually interview key personnel at the archdiocesan level, checking various records retention systems, and also make visits to parishes, schools and other archdiocesan programs,” said Father Riley.
“The sample for the on-site audit is chosen by the auditing firm itself,” he continued. “We don’t tell them which parishes we’d like them to see. [The auditors] randomly select parishes, and we don’t know what their selection criteria are. They go to these sites and interview key personnel.”
The archdiocesan safe environment program has three main components: the Virtus training program, the child protection policy, and the reporting requirement.
Virtus training sessions are conducted on an ongoing basis throughout the archdiocese for anyone having substantial and ongoing contact with minors in church ministry or the schools. They must also complete periodic 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 parishes 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 can contact the archdiocese or the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services. Some individuals, like teachers, are mandated reporters. They are required to make reports to SRS or law enforcement.
The archdiocese also has an independent review board. When a report of abuse is made and is being investigated, it is the board’s responsibility to look at the case and review the manner in which the investigation is being conducted.
“I should say that we’re very happy with the [audit] results,” said Father Riley. “The archbishop is happy, and we are very thankful for all those people — especially the Virtus coordinators, volunteers and staff in parishes and schools — who are dong their job to keep our kids safe.”
Despite having passed several audits, the archdiocese is not resting on its laurels.
“We can never let our guard down,” said Father Riley. “Our policies and procedures are under constant review, and we make corrections and enhancements to our policies and procedures when needed.”