The child protection policies of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are among the best in the nation, but improvements can be made in areas such as staff training and background checks, according to a review released Friday by the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.
The 79-page report compared the archdiocese’s written child protection policies to those of the other 31 U.S. archdioceses. It was conducted by Child USA, a child abuse research group based in Philadelphia.
The report had been requested by Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, whose office sued the archdiocese in 2015 for failing to protect children. Although the archdiocese submitted regular audits to the court as part of its settlement agreement, Choi said he wanted to learn how the archdiocese’s child protection policies compared to others.
“I think the main takeaway is that the archdiocese is in the top tier,” said Choi. “We also remain encouraged by the archdiocese’s commitment to continual improvement.”
Child USA found that the St. Paul archdiocese has solid policies in areas where many archdioceses are lacking, including responding to victims and investigating child abuse allegations. The archdiocese’s policies on victims’ rights and victim assistance “are among the best offered in the nation,” the report said.
The main areas needing attention are in child abuse prevention and in detecting and reporting of abuse, the report said. The archdiocese ranks below average in its written policy on background screening compared to other U.S. archdioceses. The archdiocese is slightly above average in its written policy on specialized child abuse prevention training.
The detailed report breaks down policies into more than a dozen areas, ranging from whistleblower protection to public transparency to handling of evidence. It offers recommendations under each category.
The report does not evaluate implementation of policies, and only compares the archdiocese to other archdioceses, not best practices in the field.
Tim O’Malley, the archdiocese’s director of ministerial standards and safe environment, called the review “a useful exercise for considering various approaches and which ones work best in different contexts.”
In a response letter to the county attorney’s office, O’Malley said that the archdiocese has undertaken a review of all of its policies, procedures and protocols this year. The Child USA report will be provided to the child protection experts involved.
“We must continue to remember that the work of child protection is a marathon with no finish line,” Choi said, “and that there is still much more to accomplish in the years to come.”