UIPD Perspectives: Protection of minors specialist committed to keeping kids safe

By Abbigail Kepp

URBANA, Illinois — The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign creates educational and developmental spaces for people of all ages, children included. With so many events throughout the year for which minors will be present on campus, University Police have processes in place to keep kids safe.

University Police are highlighting the program in observation of Child Abuse Prevention Month.

One person in particular serves as the central manager of those efforts. In 2019, Stephanie Vogelsang was hired as the Protection of Minors Compliance Specialist. The position was created when university administrators determined that having a full-time employee dedicated solely to the administration of the protection of minors policy was the best way to ensure safety. 

The policy was created in 2013 in conjunction with other Big Ten schools and universities nationwide. The policy applies to programs and activities designed for individuals under 18.

It requires event organizers to submit program information to University Police, including the title and dates of the event, whether it is a day camp or an overnight residential program, what they will do in the event of weather emergencies, and other general information related to the safety of the program.

“It’s important to have compliance and a checklist to make sure that we’re doing our due diligence to protect our children when they come on campus,” Vogelsang said.

Organizers must also submit the names of anyone who will be working with children over the course of the program so that those staffers can undergo Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act (ANCRA) training and a background check before the program begins.

“Being a parent, that’s one thing I am worried about,” Vogelsang said. “You’re entrusting somebody else with the care of your own child.”

Vogelsang said that compliance with the university policy is important for kids coming to campus, and it is also important for the faculty and staff involved in the event to make sure they have thought through the different angles and potential pitfalls.

“I always try to point out to people that we don’t just do this for the minors; we also do it for our faculty and staff on campus,” Vogelsang explained. “As an employee, you have to think about what you are doing around these minors, is it appropriate, and so forth. So my selling point is we don’t just do this for the kids. We also do it for you.”