Monday, March 15, 2010

From Shaun Groves

Israel McKinney update.

1) Israel McKinney filled out a criminal background check on-line form as requested by Compassion of anyone who will have any contact with Compassion's children.

2) On that on-line form he voluntarily listed his two misdemeanor criminal convictions.

3) His lifetime criminal records were then checked by Protect My Ministry (Compassion's external security agency).

4) They did find two misdemeanor criminal convictions and sent Israel's sealed criminal record to Compassion's trips department - not to me. Because his offenses were misdemeanors the file was "flagged" which means it was recommended by Protect My Ministry that the trip leader (me) decide whether or not he be allowed to travel with Compassion.

5) An administrator at Compassion was then supposed to open his file and alert me to his misdemeanor offense. I would then decided along with my superiors if Israel would travel with Compassion. I would not have allowed him to because his crime is in a violent class. This system failed, however.

6) We have determined this morning that the administrator "archived" his file for later processing instead of opening it immediately. The file was never removed from the archive and so I was never made aware of his convictions and was told there were none. All of this took place in our Colorado Springs office. Neither I nor anyone involved in the planning of the Kenya trip were involved in this background check process or exerted any influence over this process. Nor could we have.

7) That administrator's superior is addressing the mistake swiftly and thoroughly today. In his words: "This is certainly not acceptable – and please assure [all] that we are indeed taking steps to shore up this hole in the process. Specifically, I am meeting with my admin team today to discuss what happened and how we can prevent this from occurring in the future. Additionally, I am also calling our vendor to see what options we have for modifying the BG check tool – such as setting up some sort of redundant notification for flagged reports (email alerts, etc) – so that there is no way for this to happen again in the future."

8) I spoke with Israel this morning and assured him of my personal appreciation for disclosing his convictions voluntarily on the background check form. He was very forthcoming with me this morning about the details of both convictions, offering no excuses, never downplaying his responsibility or their severity, and very apologetic for causing me and Compassion any problems. He also detailed for me the consequences of his convictions and the steps he has taken personally to mature as a husband, father and follower of Christ and I encouraged him for that. I explained to him that had the process worked as designed he would not have traveled to Kenya with us. He expressed his gratitude for such policies and his understanding of why they are in place for the protection of children. He also expressed his appreciation for the life-changing time he had observing the ministry of Compassion in Kenya.

9) Because of his two convictions Israel will not be permitted to travel with Compassion Bloggers in the future.

10) I am married to a victim of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. I take abuse seriously, as I do the forgiveness and power of God. God has forgiven, forgotten and the power that turned Saul into Paul continues to transform Israel's life today. I marvel that the man I saw reading scripture, praying, comforting his wife, laughing, encouraging our team and being moved by the oppression of the poor in Kenya was once convicted of these crimes. God has been at work in him. While not perfected yet, Israel's character was above reproach in Kenya and continues to be formed in Christ's image daily. I continue to call him friend through this long reforming process and to pray for his continued progression toward being the husband and father he and God desire him to be. I'd ask that you do the same. To abuse the abuser or the abused is to lack the compassion and grace God lavished upon us all at the cross. The kingdom of God has come through Jennifer and Israel McKinney and their readers and streamed into the impoverished homes of children in Kenya. For that I am thankful to them and to God.

11) I and Compassion are aware that by standing with Israel and Jennifer we are inviting criticism from some. Compassion has never shied away from criticism when it is the price of extending grace to people in need of it. To say we "release children from poverty in Jesus' name" is to believe in the power and redemption of that Name and to extend His grace to all people everywhere at all times. We love Jennifer and Israel McKinney and stand by them as friends of Compassion.

12) I am thankful to the readers of MWOP for providing me with evidence of Israel's convictions and for bearing with me while I investigated how he was able to travel with Compassion in spite of them. I was not aware of MWOP or these serious allegations until the Kenya trip was underway and at that point I chose to believe Israel McKinney had committed no crimes as my co-workers/friends at Compassion and our reputable background check agency had claimed. The background check process had worked flawlessly in he past and I chose not to doubt it's effectiveness or duplicate its searches. This choice was made easier for me because public name calling, insults and a death threat from some within the MWOP community undermined the credibility and trustworthiness of allegations coming from the MWOP community. I made what I believed to be the most rational reasonable choice at the time and I was wrong. For that I apologize. Thank you to those in the MWOP community who remained respectful and helpful throughout this investigation.

-Shaun Groves