Catholic diocese hires director for new new child protection department

A former manager who once led a team of financial advisers will serve as director of the new department of child and youth protection for the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, church officials announced Wednesday.

Carrie Cooper, who had previously worked for American Century Investments, will lead an existing team that includes the diocese’s safe environment coordinator, ombudsman and victim’s advocate.

Among her duties, Cooper will create educational programs for diocesan parishes and schools; make sure that clergy, diocesan employees and church volunteers submit to background checks; and investigate and report to authorities any allegations of suspicious or inappropriate behavior or sexual misconduct by clergy, church staff and volunteers.

“Carrie Cooper will be the point person for the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in our diocese,” said Bishop Robert Finn in a statement. “She brings an extraordinary wealth of experience and a complete commitment to the protection of children.”

The charter was adopted in 2002 by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and outlines diocesan efforts to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse within the church.

The creation of the child protection department was announced in early November when Finn entered into a five-year diversion program with the Clay County prosecutor. The agreement enabled Finn to avoid a possible criminal misdemeanor indictment in his handling of a priest accused of child possessing child pornography. Finn is required to meet each month with the Clay County prosecutor.

Finn also is facing a misdemeanor charge in Jackson County of failing to report child abuse suspicions. He has pleaded not guilty.

The priest, the Rev. Shawn F. Ratigan, was indicted by a Clay County grand jury in August on three counts of possessing child pornography.

Rebecca Summers, spokeswoman for the diocese, said the diocese posted the director’s position in mid-October. A search committee interviewed candidates and recommended that Cooper be appointed, she said.

Cooper, a graduate of Missouri State University, was manager of the investor center at American Century and had oversight on a range of federal securities compliance matters. She also is involved in church and civic organizations and is a volunteer at her children’s school.

“I am ready to begin and hopeful to not only develop an iron-clad model of compliance with diocesan policies but also to foster a strong culture where the safety of each child is guarded throughout our community,” Cooper said in a statement.