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Diocese of Joliet Names New Director of Diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection

Bishop Ronald A. Hicks announced the appointment of Leah McCluskey Heffernan, MSW, LSW, as the director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection for the Diocese of Joliet. The appointment is effective Dec. 1, 2020.

Heffernan joins from the Archdiocese of Chicago, where she was the director of the Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review in the archdiocese’s Office for the Protection of Children and Youth.

“The protection of children and young people is the highest priority of our Church,” said Bishop Hicks. “Ms. Heffernan brings nearly two decades of experience serving victims and their families in a child protection ministry that has set national standards. We are pleased to have attracted such an accomplished and compassionate leader to the Diocese of Joliet.”

As director, Heffernan will supervise the diocesan victim assistance coordinator and ensure all incoming allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Church employees or volunteers are properly received and handled according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and state laws. In addition, she will serve as staff to the Diocesan Review Committee.

Heffernan joined the Archdiocese of Chicago in 2002, where she received allegations, interviewed victim-survivors and interacted with civil authorities. She conducted investigation of allegations and served as the staff liaison to the Archdiocese Independent Review Board.

Prior to joining the Archdiocese of Chicago, Heffernan was as a clinical therapist at the Center for Contextual Change in Skokie, IL. She served as a child welfare specialist at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago and as a child-care supervisor at Hephzibah Children’s Association in Oak Park, IL.

A native of Oak Park, Heffernan is a licensed social worker in the State of Illinois. She holds a master’s in non-profit administration from North Park University, a master’s in social work from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a Bachelor of Science degree in sociology from Illinois State University. She is a member of the Lake County Sexual Assault Coordinating Council.

The Diocese of Joliet Office of Child and Youth Protection is responsible for implementing and maintaining the diocesan response to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the Essential Norms, and for creating a culture of safety for the Children of the Diocese. It is responsible for supervising and coordinating the assistance needed by any victim of sexual abuse that occurred in the past or the present.