The following article briefly summarizes a few important principles for reducing the risk of sexual misconduct in your parish.
Reasonable and Prudent
In dealing with allegations of misconduct courts use a standard of "reasonable and prudent" to determine if an organization, such as a parish, put practices into place that could reduce the risk of inappropriate conduct. The interpretation of what is reasonable of course belongs to the court --not the parish.
Duty to Report
Clergy are required to report the abuse of a child.
Failure to act becomes a crime in itself. Recnetly the Roman Catholic Bishop in Kansas City was charged with failing to report an alleged abuse. Recently America has been reminded daily of the requirement to report as the Penn State scandal unfolded in the media.
"As risk increases, supervision should also increase,"said one expert. Risk increases: as isolation increases, when frequency of contact increases; when accountability decreases; when power and control increase. Special activities provide additional risk opportunities.
National Background Check
Most parishes understand the need for background checks for persons involved with youth and children. The webinar emphasized the importance of national background checks, which are more thorough, since an analysis of past checks reveals that more than half of the records found were from outside the applicant's state of residence.
You Need a Plan
Each parish needs a written manual defining practices to be implemented in this area. If you want to get started you may want to look at this Parish Risk Manual created by a parish some years ago.
OCA Misconduct Policy - a link to document
Frequently Asked Questions - a document to guide parish implementation of the policy .
Parish Risk Manual - A template to be used by parishes to create a localized manual/handbook to guide the implementation of the OCA policy in their parish and to adapt it to local circumstances. Based on a manual from a Midwest Diocese parish.
Implementation Checklist - a checklist for conducting an evaluation of your parish's compliance with the OCA policy.
Application for Working with Children and Youth - to be used as the primary document organizing background checks for parish workers.
Reference Contact Form - an OCA form to be used when contacting references for a church worker applicant
Reducing the Risk II - A pdf of a PowerPoint presentation given by Michael Herzak to the 2010 Midwest Diocesan Assembly.
Reducing the Risk Webinar -- An archive of the October 13, 2011 webinar delivered by Michael Herzak