CHICAGO — Illinois has opened 24 investigations into alleged sexual misconduct by Catholic priests that the Archdiocese of Chicago previously reported to the state's child welfare agency, according to an agency spokesperson Wednesday.
Some of the reports were selected for investigation because the alleged perpetrator might still have access to children, said Jassen Strokosch, spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
“It’s important to us that the victims who had the courage to come forward with reports know that their reports have been looked at — that none of them fell through the cracks," Strokosch said.
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The investigations come amid concerns that the welfare agency did not properly review reports of about 1,100 cases of alleged abuse.
In 2006, the Archdiocese of Chicago entered into a voluntary agreement to notify DCFS every time it became aware of abuse allegations. The agreement arose after poor communication between the organizations allowed a priest later convicted of sexually abusing children to remain working in a school long after initial reports of abuse.
New revelations, however, suggest that the agency may have overlooked notifications from the archdiocese, the Chicago Tribune first reported Wednesday. Top agency personnel only become aware of the 2006 protocol approximately three weeks ago, Strokosch said.
“It’s difficult to know exactly what happened or at what point in time that procedure fell to the wayside, but the process that was originally in place was no longer followed. There was initially a more robust process," Strokosch told USA TODAY. "Once we became aware of this, we wanted to make sure that there are no current children put in danger."
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Strokosch said the archdiocese had notified DCFS of about 1,100 misconduct allegations since 2006. As the agency began to review those reports, it initially identified 24 cases that required further investigation. Those reports were made by adults who came forward years after the alleged abuse, which occurred when they were children.
Bryan Samuels, who was DCFS director at the time of the 2006 agreement, called the recent procedural lapse “both unsurprising and unfortunate.”
“Because this wasn’t a legislative requirement or legally binding, because it was done in a specific context—all of those things may have contributed to the agreement falling off the radar as leadership changed,” Samuels said.
There have been 13 different directors since Samuels left the agency in 2006, Strokosch said.
As part of the investigations, DCFS has retained Steven Block, a partner at law firm Thompson Hine, to conduct an independent review of how it handles notifications from the archdiocese, according to firm spokesperson Sheila Turner.
Anne Maselli, director of communications and marketing at the Archdiocese of Chicago, said the church does not know which reports the agency is reviewing, but that it has reported all allegations of child sexual abuse to DCFS and civil authorities.
The archdiocese has paid about $220 million in misconduct settlements over the past two decades, she said.
Follow Grace Hauck on Twitter @grace_hauck.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Catholic church sex abuse: Illinois investigates Chicago priests