Across U.S. Catholic archdioceses, child protection policies vary widely
Although the 32 Catholic archdioceses in the United States have some sort of policy to protect children from clergy sex abuse, the content and quality of these policies varies, with little to no standardization across the board, according to a new report from the nonprofit think tank CHILD USA, founded and led by Penn’s Marci Hamilton.
“We live in a time where everyone is asking, How do we prevent child sex abuse in every institution, whether that’s the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church or at boarding schools,” says Hamilton, a national expert on child sex abuse and the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice. “In the past decade, some of the bishops have claimed to have the ‘gold standard’ for child protection and thus should no longer be subject to scrutiny or criticism for their past problems with child sexual abuse. We decided to examine the evidence.”
The project began when a district attorney’s office in Minnesota asked CHILD USA to assess the policies of the archdiocese of St. Paul & Minneapolis. The research team soon realized there weren’t good criteria against which to measure the institution, nor was there a great tool to use to do it. So, CHILD USA’s visiting scholar Stephanie Dallam created one.
Dallam began by analyzing the child protection and safe environment policies of every archdiocese in the country. Fourteen different policy types—from background screening and abuse reporting to victim assistance and evidence handling—emerged, fitting into four broad categories of prevention, detection, care for victims, and investigation and response.