We want to give you an update regarding the five employees suspended for failure to follow ministry policy and procedures related to reporting abuse of a minor, as outlined in our Child Abuse and Neglect handbook.
For the past few weeks we have been doing an internal review of the facts and information surrounding the employees' responses to determine the appropriate disciplinary actions we should take based on our ministry guidelines.
As a result of that process, each employee has been met with, counseled on the seriousness of their failure and notified of all the disciplinary consequences invoked upon them including changes in responsibilities, accountability and reporting relationships.
As a result, we have restructured both the youth department and human resources department.
Rod Baker, Director of our Missions and Outreach Department who has been overseeing our missions and outreach programs, will now serve as Director of Missions, Outreach and Youth. Rod will oversee the 24/7 youth ministry, provide additional accountability, training and mentoring for all leaders in the youth department, and will be the direct supervisor of John and Charica Daugherty. Pastor Baker's leadership has been highly respected throughout his time at Victory, and we are looking forward to having him onboard our youth program.
Michael McCutchin, who serves as our Director of Finance and Administration, will be adding to his duties the role of Director of Human Resources. He has already stepped into that role and has been leading an internal committee to review our policies and procedures on responding to allegations of child abuse.
We believe these decisions, while difficult, were necessary and appropriate in moving forward with our process of strengthening and improving our ministry. I am confident these steps will help us stay focused on our mission of reaching people with the love of God.
This is to give you an update on what we have been doing internally to assess our long-standing policies related to child abuse and neglect and determine what improvements may need to be made.
We have formed a three-person committee to coordinate this process. They have already met a couple of times and are currently reviewing the policies related to child care and child abuse across all departments, from the church to the school. They have also started drafting a strategic plan for completing this improvement process. Shortly after that meeting, a member of the committee reached out to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services and the Oklahoma Department of Health, which also has a child abuse training division, for their input and assistance.
As many of you know, we have also encouraged our congregation and staff to report any suspected child abuse to proper authorities.
Our original reporting policy included contact information for DHS, but we found that some of our employees were not fully aware of the policy. In response, we are creating posters for each area that provides ministry to children and youth. The poster will remind readers to report suspected child abuse and provide the DHS hotline phone number.
You may have recently seen a story in some media outlets that Victory had not contacted DHS to start a discussion about reviewing our policies. That is not correct. Our church called Jan Thompson, our regular contact in the Tulsa office of DHS, on Wednesday and Thursday of this past week. We left voicemails, but apparently she was out of the office and did not reply to us. We sent a follow-up email Thursday evening, to which she responded that same night.
Regardless of that report, we are going to keep looking forward and taking steps to improve the safety of our campus for our children and families.
I want to begin by saying how personally grieved I am over this situation. My heart goes out to the victims, their families and to all those involved. I have spent much time seeking the Lord, asking for his guidance and wisdom and strength in this difficult time. I can assure you that His grace is sufficient. And I can assure you that our God reigns!
Questions have been raised about my knowledge of the incident. I was briefly told of an incident involving two facilities employees and members of 24/7 on Friday, Aug. 24 and was told it was being reported but did not receive any details on the specific allegations. I have since learned that human resources started its efforts to report the incident that same day but did not successfully report the incident until Aug. 30. I was extremely disappointed to later hear of the delay in the time it was first reported.
I want to personally say, that if anyone here is aware of any child being neglected or abused, physically or sexually, that you should please inform the authorities. Our children are precious, and we owe them our full protection.
Our mission and heart at Victory Christian Center is to reach out and help people who are hurting and in need. We are committed to continue to bring the message of love, hope and forgiveness to our city and the nations of the world. I know that we will learn from this experience and be better for it.
As you are all aware, a very serious incident took place on ministry property Monday, August 13th, that allegedly involved sexual abuse of a minor on our campus. This incident did not happen during school or any ministry service; nevertheless it did occur on our Lewis campus. Words cannot express how grieved and disappointed we are that something like this could happen to a young person on our property. The safety and wellbeing of those who come on our campuses is extremely important to us. Our hearts go out to this family and others who have been impacted by this. We have been and will continue to pray for them.
Many people have rightly asked how this could have happened. I wanted to share with you some of the details of the delay in reporting that we have started to share publicly.
The alleged rape victim shared what had happened with some of our 24/7 youth staff. They attempted to check out what she reported and to notify a family member. After a week passed, they shared with the human resources department what they had heard. The investigation surrounding this incident discovered another facility employee who was inappropriately communicating with a member of our youth group. The human resources department, based on that information, fired both facility employees on Friday, Aug. 24, and left a message with an individual who works with an anti-child-trafficking organization in order to seek advice on which authority to contact. They spoke directly on Monday, Aug. 27, at which time the human resource department was advised to call a police officer who was understood to work in sex crimes. He exchanged voicemails with the officer until Aug. 30, when they finally connected. The officer advised our HR director to call 911, which he did that same day.
The police, after taking their initial report, began their investigation which is still in process. They are working to determine if there are any other victims or additional people involved. The ministry has been and is continuing to fully cooperate with the police in their investigation.
It became clear we did not follow our own ministry policies and procedures or that of Oklahoma law related to the reporting of such an incident immediately to the proper authorities. After reviewing the information we had at the time, three employees, Frank Sullivan, Paul Willenstein, and Anna George, were suspended for not following those procedures. We subsequently received additional information that led to the suspension of two additional employees, John and Charica Daugherty. All five employees are currently suspended until all the information can be reviewed to determine final disciplinary action.
It is with deep regret we did not report this incident immediately to the proper authorities. We understand the gravity of our failure. We are extremely sorry for potentially causing authorities any additional difficulty in doing their job.
All five employees who did not report the allegations immediately were charged by the District Attorney on Monday, Sept. 17th for failure to report this incident. Oklahoma law requires anyone who becomes aware of sexual or physical abuse of a minor to immediately report it to authorities. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor. Pastor Sharon was made aware of the situation and was told that everything was being properly handled and reported by human resources.
We have been asked why Pastor Sharon or other members of the church leadership have not gone on camera or spoken directly to the media. We are working with our legal counsel and have also engaged a public relations firm to appropriately and responsibly address the many requests for information that we've received. We especially want to make sure the police investigation has determined all the facts before we personally comment on them directly.
As a ministry we will be seeking the help and input of DHS and others to help us review, improve and strengthen our policies and procedures to insure a safe and secure environment for our children, youth and all who come on our campuses.
A former employee of Victory Christian Center, Israel Castillo, was charged yesterday with lewd or indecent proposal to a child and use of a computer to facilitate a sex crime.
In the course of investigating allegations of a rape at the Victory Christian Center campus, our staff discovered that Castillo, was inappropriately communicating with a member of the church's youth group. This employee was fired along with Chris Denman on Aug. 24. Police reports on both incidents were completed on Aug. 30.
The staff members involved in the internal investigation of Denman and Castillo were charged on Monday with failure to report abuse or neglect of a child under 18. Their response was not in accordance with the church's written policy on reporting suspected child abuse to the Department of Human Services.
Prior to their hiring, Denman and Castillo both passed a screening process that included personal references and a nationwide background check. No history of any criminal activity was found.
Along with working with DHS to evaluate our reporting process, Victory Christian Center will perform a full review of our policies to ensure the safety of our children and youth.
I ask you to continue to pray for all involved and impacted by these circumstances.
District Attorney Tim Harris filed charges today against five employees of Victory Christian Center for Failure to Report Abuse or Neglect of Child Under 18.
The employees involved were a high school outreach program director, an associate youth pastor, the director of the Human Resources department, and John and Charica Daugherty, who work at the church as sr. high youth pastor and assistant sr. high youth pastor.
Last Friday, in response to the delay in reporting the alleged rape, Victory Christian Center suspended three of these employees who were aware of the allegation, and did not report it in a timely manner in accordance with an internal policy on reporting suspected cases of abuse or neglect. The police investigation additionally determined that John and Charica both had some awareness of this incident. Because of this finding, the ministry has also suspended John and Charica in accordance with our disciplinary policies while we continue an internal investigation.
Again, we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with the victims and their families.
A tragic incident involving an allegation of rape at the Victory Christian Center campus has been the subject of much media coverage.
On behalf of Victory Christian Center, we fully understand the gravity of these allegations and are working with law enforcement and investigating within our organization to gather all information to address this matter. We are fully committed to the safety of our church family and our campus visitors, and this is not reflective of how we strive to operate.
Victory Christian Center has a written policy that requires any allegation of abuse to be reported by employees to the Department of Human Services, and internally within one hour to their department head and the director of human resources. It appears that this policy was not followed by the employees initially involved, and the allegations were not reported as directed within the required time.
The employees who we found to be aware of the allegation of rape have been suspended while we complete our internal investigation and assess our final disciplinary actions.
We will be asking the state Department of Human Services to partner with us to conduct a full audit of our policy for responding to allegations of child abuse, and will conduct an in-depth review of these procedures with all employees and volunteers.
Victory Christian Center has fully cooperated with the police and their investigation, and we will continue to do so in the future.
Most importantly, our hearts go out to the victims involved, and we ask that your thoughts and prayers be with them and their families. The safety and well-being of anyone who comes on our campuses is extremely important to our ministry. We are deeply saddened and greatly disappointed by this event.