Safe Environment and Mandatory Reporting: ‘Am I obligated to report?’

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By Tricia Tenorio, Safe Environment Coordinator
For the Umatuna Su Yu’os

Reporting of Abuse and Neglect of Minors to Civil Authorities and the Response Coordinator

If a person is a clergy, an employee, or a volunteer in the Archdiocese of Agaña and he or she suspects or knows of a child who was sexually abused in the parish or Catholic school or one of their sponsored events, what must that person do?

First, that person must immediately report the suspicion or allegation in person or by phone to the Child Protective Services (CPS) at 475-2653 or 475-2672 or the Guam Police Department (GPD) at 472-8911 or 475-8508.

Second, he or she must submit a completed Child Abuse and Neglect Referral (Part I) form (found in Appendix 7 online at https://aganaarch.org/safe-environment-br-policies) to CPS within 48 hours.

After reporting to CPS, that person must immediately contact the response coordinator at 727-7373. Within 48 hours, a copy of the completed Child Abuse and Neglect Referral (Part I) form must be provided to the response coordinator, submitted at the same time to CPS.

Most importantly, he or she must not attempt to investigate the suspected or alleged incident and will not discuss the incident with anyone unless required to do so in conjunction with the formal investigation(s).

‘What happens if I don’t report?’

Archdiocesan personnel or volunteers who fail to report any incident of actual, alleged, or suspected abuse or neglect as required by law and this policy, will be subject to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal and may also be subject to civil or criminal penalties under Guam law.

Incidents of abuse or neglect revealed to a priest during confession are protected from disclosure by priest-penitent confidentiality, which cannot be breached (Code of Canon Law, Canon 983).

However, if a priest is made aware of abuse or neglect outside of a confessional context, the priest must report the actual suspected, or alleged incident to civil authorities as outlined above.

 ‘What if I’m afraid to report because I know the alleged perpetrator? If he or she finds out, it will make things worse’

The Archdiocese is highly aware of retaliation against one who reports abuse or neglect. An individual who makes a good faith report of abuse or neglect of a minor is entitled to confidentiality and immunity.

Retaliation and/or discrimination against any person who reports abuse or neglect of a minor in good faith is unlawful and is strictly prohibited, and will not be tolerated. Proven cases of retaliation will result in disciplinary action. All reports are kept in confidentiality.

Any information received by the response coordinator which could identify a subject of a report or the person making a report shall be confidential. Information received may be released to the designated diocesan investigator, the Promoter of Justice and/or the Independent Review Panel, on a need to know basis, and only as necessary to serve and protect the minor.

Guam Law

The Child Protective Act of Guam, Title 19 Chapter 13 requires that “any person who, in the course of his or her employment, occupation, or practice, comes into contact with children” and has reason to suspect that a child has been abused or neglected must make a report to the civil authorities of Guam. The person who suspects that abuse has occurred must not try to determine if the suspicion is credible.

The obligation under the Archdiocese of Agaña Safe Environment Program Article 8 is broader than sexual abuse and includes any suspected physical, mental or sexual abuse or neglect of a minor. Accordingly, all archdiocesan clergy, employees and volunteers who become aware of actual, alleged or suspected abuse or neglect of minors must make a report to civil authorities as indicated above.

Reminder to clergy, employees, and volunteers that if you haven’t registered please do so. The registration process takes about 10-15 minutes online at www.virtusonline.org/virtus.

You will have to create a username and a password. Remember (and record) this information so that you can return to your account after you log off.

You may direct any questions to your parish/school safe environment coordinator, to the archdiocesan safe environment coordinator at 562-0029, or by email to safeenvironment@archagana.org