What Harvest Bible Chapel did wrong when first reporting exploitation claims to DCFS

Harvest Bible Chapel announced this week it didn't follow the proper procedure for reporting to the state's Department of Children and Family Services that it suspected a youth-ministries worker had sexually exploited a teenage member of the church.

In a statement on its website Monday, the church said it made that discovery while investigating a discrepancy between what church leaders had told people about the report and the allegation by former Harvest pastor Rob Williams that he made the first report to DCFS when he feared church officials were going to handle the matter internally rather than involve government authorities.

Williams, who was a counselor with the church's Soul Ministry program, said he had been assigned to counsel employee Paxton Singer in early 2018, after a parent told church officials he found sexually oriented texts between his teenage son and Singer. The church fired Singer in January 2018.

Singer was charged in October 2018 with sexual exploitation of a child and disorderly conduct.

The church announced that month that three affected families, parents of other students on the campuses those families attended, and DCFS were immediately notified in January 2018. Singer had worked at the Aurora campus. It did not specify which campuses were involved.

However, on social media, and in messages and discussions with the Daily Herald, some church members have said they weren't told, and that more parents should have been notified because Singer's job put him in contact with youths from all Chicago-area Harvest sites. Singer was a cabin counselor at the church's Camp Harvest in Michigan.

Williams and others disputed that the Aurora campus pastor, Craig Steiner, notified DCFS in January 2018. DCFS confirmed to the Daily Herald it received the first notification in June 2018. It is prohibited from identifying who filed that report, but Williams said it was him, and the church statement confirmed that Monday.

Williams said he called Aurora police June 6, 2018, as well.

Monday's church statement said DCFS informed the church that Steiner did call the 24-hour DCFS hotline, but he did not provide sufficient information, so DCFS did not formally file an "incident report."

Steiner "believed that he had completed all the necessary steps in his role as a mandatory reporter by placing the initial phone call," the statement said.

"While we believe the proper intent and care was demonstrated by placing the initial call, the proper execution of reporting the event was lacking," it stated. The statement says all Harvest mandatory reporters have been trained in how to complete a full DCFS report, and the church is keeping written reports of every DCFS call "to ensure this never happens again."

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