- CHILD ABUSE POLICY AND PROCEDURES
- REPORTING CHILD ABUSE - THE REPORTING LAW
- MAKING A REPORT
- DETECTION OF CHILD ABUSE
- WHO TO CALL
- INTERVIEWING A VICTIM AT SCHOOL WHEN THE MATTER PERTAINS TO CHILD ABUSE WITHIN THE CHILD'S HOME
- EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS
- PREVENTION AND PREPARATION
- WHAT TO DO WHEN ABUSE OR NEGLECT IS SUSPECTED
- INDEPENDENT FACT FINDING COMMITTEE
- A FINAL NOTE
CHILD ABUSE POLICY AND PROCEDURES #
The terms “childhood” and “innocence” are synonymous in nature. That is why the pain runs so deep for all those of good will when we learn that the innocence of a child has been harmed, and in some cases destroyed, by the experience of childhood abuse. In the Gospel, Jesus says, “Let the little ones come unto me”, and “Woe to him who brings harm to the child”. Recognizing the particular beauty, innocence, and vulnerability of children, Jesus entrusted them to our special care. Therefore, these policies and procedures have been developed to provide prompt and objective investigations of claims of abuse of children and to provide effective pastoral assistance to those who have been harmed.
As a condition of employment, those who serve the Archdiocese of San Francisco are required to follow the Policies and Procedures set forth below.
REPORTING CHILD ABUSE – THE REPORTING LAW #
While everyone should report suspected child abuse and neglect, Article 2.5 of the State of California Penal Code provides that it is a crime for certain individuals who have contact with and supervision of children (e.g., school, parish and agency teachers and administrators, coaches, etc.) not to report suspected abuse to the proper authorities. The following are excerpts and summaries of sections from the State of California Child Abuse Reporting Laws:
… any child care custodian, health practitioner, or employee of a child protective agency who has knowledge of or observes a child in his/her professional capacity or within the scope of his/hef employment whom he/she knows or reasonably suspects has been the victim of child abuse shall report the known or suspected instance of child abuse to a child protective agency immediately or as soon as practically possible by telephone and shall prepare and send a written report thereof within 36 hours of receiving the information concerning the incident. For the purposes of this article, “reasonable suspicion” means that it is objectively reasonable for a person to entertain such a suspicion, based upon facts that could cause a reasonable person in a like position, drawing when appropriate on his/her training and experience, to suspect abuse.” (Pen. Code, #11166)
Since January 1997, California law requires that clergy join childcare custodians, school personnel, health care practitioners, and other professional groups as mandated reporters of suspected child abuse. The law allows for exemptions from reporting by clergy in limited circumstances called a penitential communication, which is defined as “a communication, intended to be in confidence, including, but not limited to, a sacramental confession, made to a clergy member who, in the course of the discipline or practice of his or her church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hear those communications, and under the discipline, tenets, customs, or practices of his or her church, denomination, or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret”. For Catholic clergy, this limitation, however, is only available when there is a clear religious tradition, supported by the teachings, laws and practices of the Church, that would outweigh the reporting mandate. Clearly, this exemption includes the hearing of a penitent’s confession by a priest or bishop. In cases of confidential communication apart from confession, the duty to protect children by reporting the known or suspected child abuse may, and in some instances should, prevail over the presumption of confidentiality. This would be true where a member of the clergy determines that children are currently at risk of abuse. Should a clergy member have questions about whether he must report in a given instance, he should consult with the person designated by the Diocese to provide advice on and/or coordinate these issues.
- Failure to report by telephone immediately or as soon as practically possible, and then in writing within 36 hours, is a misdemeanor “punishable by confinement in the county jail; for a term not to exceed six months or by a fine of not more than $1000 or both”.
- Those required to report should be aware that mere reporting does not necessarily mean that a civil or criminal proceeding will be initiated against the suspected abuser.
- The written reports that mandated reporters must submit within 36 hours must be on a Department of Justice form.
- The reporting duties (and statutory penalties for failing to report) of a mandated reporter are individual, and cannot be delegated to another individual. Supervisors or administrators may not impede or inhibit reporting by a mandated reporter, nor may they take any actions against the reporter for making a report. However, it is appropriate to establish internal procedures to facilitate reporting and apprise supervisors and administrators of reports so long as these procedures are not inconsistent with the reporting law.
- Mandated reporters of child abuse are immune from civil or criminal liability. C. DEFINITIONS
is defined as a person under the age of 18 years.
includes sexual abuse, non-accidental physical injury, and neglect.
“Child care custodian”
includes school administrators, teachers, instructional aides, teacher aides, teacher assistants or extended care personnel employed by any public or private school. It also means an administrator or employee of a public or private youth center, youth recreation program, or youth organization, as well as administrators or employees of a public or private organization, whose duties require direct contact with, and supervision of, children. The law states that volunteers of such organizations are encouraged to obtain training in the identification and reporting of child abuse. The Archdiocese wholly endorses this principle.
California law defines clergy as “a priest, minister, rabbi, religious practitioner, or similar functionary of a church, temple, or recognized religious denomination or organization”. Roman Catholic tradition and Canonical definition indicate that this definition would include those who have received Holy Orders: a deacon priest or bishop.
includes suspicion based on circumstances that would cause a “reasonable person” in a like position, drawing when appropriate upon his/her training and experience, to suspect child abuse.
MAKING A REPORT #
The mandated reporter must provide his/her name and the following information when making the telephone report of suspected child abuse to the child protective agency:
- Name of child;
- Present location of the child;
- Nature and extent of the injury; and
- Any other information, including that which led the person to suspect child abuse, requested by the child protective agency.
Within 36 hours of making the telephone report, a written report must also be filed with the child protective agency. The written report must be filed on Department of Justice Form SS 8572, “Suspected Child Abuse Report”. Child protective agencies fill out Department of Justice Form SS 8583. These forms are available through county welfare and probation departments and law enforcement agencies. It is recommended that Archdiocesan parishes, schools, and agencies obtain a supply of these forms and keep them in a well-known and readily accessible location.
After the oral report is made, a person from a child protective agency will usually be dispatched immediately to the site. If neglect is suspected, the worker will respond to the site or to the child’s home within one to three days, as per county practice.
A copy of the report need not be made a part of any pupil’s cumulative record; however, a notation on the cumulative record indicating “C.A. report filed (with date)” would be appropriate. One copy of the report may be kept in a confidential file or log by the administration, but not placed in the pupil’s folder.
Follow-up with the family is the responsibility of the county agency. In all cases, they indicate:
- That it is the organization’s legal obligation and interest in the child’s welfare that prompted the report; and
- That the organization report without naming the individuals who made the observation and referral.
DETECTION OF CHILD ABUSE #
Child care custodians, clergy, and other parish, school and agency employees and volunteers can play a critical role in the early detection of child abuse and neglect. Symptomatic signs of abuse and/or neglect, which may include injuries, listlessness, poor nutrition, disruptive behavior, absenteeism, or depression, are often first seen by such personnel. Immediate investigation of suspected abuse by child protective agencies and the designated Archdiocesan officials (see Section J.) may save a child from repeated injuries. Therefore, personnel should not hesitate to report suspicious injuries or behavior. If in doubt, contact the appropriate person at the Chancery. The mandated reporter’s duty is to report after being satisfied that there is reasonable suspicion of child abuse, not to conduct an exhaustive investigation.
WHO TO CALL #
A phone call should be made to the appropriate county agency or local police department. The phone numbers for the protective agencies in each county are as follows:
|San Francisco: Child Protective Services||(415)||558-2650|
|Marin: Child Protective Services||(415)||499-7153|
|Police – San Rafael _||(415)||485-3000|
|San Mateo- Child•ProtectiVe Services||(650)||595-7922|
|Police – City of San Mateo||(650)||377-4545|
|Police – Redwood City||(650)||780-7100|
|For additional information or consultation, you may call:|
|San Francisco Child Abuse Council||(415)||668-0494|
|Marin Child Abuse Council||(415)||472-7164|
|San Mateo Child Abuse Council||(650)||327-8120|
INTERVIEWING A VICTIM AT SCHOOL WHEN THE MATTER PERTAINS TO CHILD ABUSE WITHIN THE CHILD’S HOME #
Whenever a representative of a child protective agency deems it necessary, a suspected victim of child abuse may be interviewed during school hours, on school premises, concerning a report of suspected child abuse that occurred within the child’s home. The following procedure will be followed by the child protective agency worker, school representative and/or staff member:
- The child will be afforded the option of being interviewed in private or selecting any adult who is a member of the staff of the school, including any certificated or classified employee or volunteer aide, to be present at the interview. Be sure that you witness the offering of this option.
- A representative of the child protective agency will inform the child of that right prior to the interview. The purpose of the staff person’s presence at the interview is to lend support to the child and enable him/her to be as comfortable as possible.
- The staff member will not participate in the interview.
- The member of the staff will not discuss the facts or circumstances of the case with the child.
- The member of the staff is subject to confidentiality, a violation of which is punishable by up to six months in jail or a fine of $500, or by both.
- The representative of the school will inform a member of the staff so selected by a child of the requirements of this section prior to the interview.
- If the staff person selected agrees to be present, the interview will be held at a time during school hours when it does not involve an expense to the school.
- In most cases, the child protective agency worker will notify the parents of their meeting which was held with the child. If this is not made clear to the school representative, there should be a discussion between the child protective agency worker and the school representative to make a decision as to who will notify the parents.
EMPLOYMENT REQUIREMENTS #
On January 1, 1985, Chapter 1718 (AB 2710) became effective. It requires any child care custodian who enters into employment on or after that date to sign a written acknowledgment of his/her legal requirement to report child abuse (see Page 25 -Acknowledgment).
In 1991, the statute was broadened to include administrators or employees of public or private youth centers, youth recreation programs or youth organizations, as well as administrators or employees of a public or private organization whose duties require direct contact and supervision of children.
PREVENTION AND PREPARATION #
- Screen all potential employees through the State Department of Justice and do reference checks.
- Train staff to recognize signs of abuse/neglect and to report to the administration any suspected cases. (Staff have an individual responsibility to report suspected cases to a child protective agency.)
- Establish procedures regarding adults with children at the school, parish, agency, etc., and off campus.
- Establish contact with your local child protective agency. Have names and telephone number(s) available.
WHAT TO DO WHEN ABUSE OR NEGLECT IS SUSPECTED #
- Notify the Child Protective Agency immediately by telephone when you have “reasonable suspicion”.
- If reasonable suspicion is determined, place employee on administrative leave pending consultation with the appropriate person at the Chancery. (The Archdiocese may determine that appropriate medical evaluation and/or counseling for the alleged perpetrator as well as an offer of counseling for the victim and family members is in order under such circumstances.)
- After determining reasonable suspicion, do not attempt further investigation without consultation with the applicable Archdiocesan Chancery official. It is the responsibility of such Chancery personnel to assure proper coordination with applicable legal authorities and to promptly initiate an effective pastoral investigation and response through the use of experts in such areas as physical, mental, and spiritual health, social work, canon law and civil law.
- Establish contact with the appropriate person at the Chancery.
If clergy is suspected, call the Office of the Archbishop or the Office of the Vicar for Clergy at the Chancery. (Backup is the Vicar for Administration.)
If school personnel are suspected, call the Superintendent of Schools at the Chancery. (Backup is the Assistant Superintendent for Personnel.)
If non-school personnel are suspected, call the Director of Human Resources at the Chancery. (Backup is the Human Resources Employment and Training Manager.)
For general guidance or backup, call the Archdiocesan Legal Counsel at the Chancery.
- Consider general advisement of staff, students, parents, etc., of the situation after consulting with the appropriate Chancery person, keeping in mind the various privacy interests involved.
- Reach out to actual or alleged victims and their families and communicate your sincere concern for their spiritual and emotional well-being. Tell family members who inquire that Archdiocesan officials have been notified and are investigating.
- Refer media questions and inquiries to the Director of the Archdiocesan Communications Office at the Chancery.
A current copy of the Child Abuse Prevention Handbook (available through the Crime Prevention Center of the Office of the Attorney General) or some similar general treatise on the subject (e.g., Slayer of the Soul: Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church, by Stephen J. Rossetti, Twenty Third Publications, P.O. Box 180, Mystic, CT 06355, Phone: 860-536-2611 or 1-800-572-0788) should be required reading for all staff covered by the laws referenced above, as well as other staff members and volunteers.
INDEPENDENT FACT FINDING COMMITTEE #
- Because of the unique physical, psychological, and moral dimensions involved in claims of abuse of minors, there is a particular need to do everything possible to avoid even the perception in the minds of alleged victims, their families, the Christian faithful, and the public at large that the investigative response to a complaint is anything less than thorough and objective. For this reason, if the suspected abuse involves alleged genital contact between an adult employed by or otherwise involved in the ministry of the Church and a minor, an independent Fact Finding Committee shall be appointed by the Archbishop to investigate such charges.
- While Archdiocesan personnel may, upon request, provide technical assistance to the Fact Finding Committee from time to time, such personnel shall not serve on the Committee. The Committee itself will be made up of persons not directly associated with the Archdiocese who have investigative skills that can be applied to the examination of allegations of sexual misconduct involving minors. Depending on the nature of the case, the Committee may include individuals with backgrounds in psychology, psychiatry, social work, nursing, licensed marriage and family counseling, medical doctors, lawyers (e.g., retired judges, prosecutors, public defenders), or retired police or other forensic investigators, if their assistance would benefit the particular investigation being undertaken. In view of the fact that some members might not be readily available when a crisis arises, the particular Fact Finding Committee used in a given circumstance will be chosen from a pool of qualified individuals willing to volunteer their time.
- This Committee will work independently and may assign one or more of its members to serve as the primary investigator. Such investigators shall report back to the entire Committee which will determine whether further investigation is necessary. Upon conclusion of its work, the sole responsibility of the Fact Finding Committee is to present to the Archbishop or his delegate its findings of fact concerning the allegation that has been investigated.
A FINAL NOTE #
The Gospel message calls for pastoral concern for both the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator when investigating and handling allegations of child abuse. This pastoral concern may dictate the need for the Church to respond to the alleged victim in particularly unique ways (e.g., offering spiritual and/or psychological counseling), but this pastoral concern should not be mistaken as an admission of responsibility or legal liability. These policies and procedures have not been prepared to serve as a precise legal yardstick by which third parties are to measure conduct, but rather as a visible sign of the Archdiocese’s genuine moral commitment to serve as responsible stewards of Christ’s Church. In extraordinary circumstances, the Archbishop may determine that it is necessary to modify the specific procedures set forth herein consistent with the provisions of canon and civil law.