At the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, nothing is more important than the safety and well-being of all of our members, their families and our staff.
In December 2020, we were contacted by Federal authorities who informed us that a former Y member, Michael Porter, was the subject of a federal criminal complaint and has been in custody since that time. Mr. Porter was indicted on July 13, 2021 on a variety of charges involving the production, receipt and possession of child pornography. There is no current threat from this individual to anyone using the Y’s facilities. However, in an effort to be transparent, we have shared additional details of the situation with our members, especially those members who may have visited the same Y facilities the individual visited while he was a member.
Porter was an active member of the YMCA from 2006 until March 2020, when facilities closed due to COVID. Our records indicate he visited three YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago locations: South Side YMCA, High Ridge YMCA, and Leaning Tower YMCA. As with all our members, Porter’s name and information were regularly checked against the National Sex Offender Database, but no records were found prior to the government’s criminal complaint. Despite the fact that our policies prohibit any video recording or picture taking in our locker rooms or in our pool/aquatic facilities without permission, the Federal authorities have informed us that they believe Porter used concealed cameras to surreptitiously videotape, and on two known occasions inappropriately touch, boys in the locker rooms at one or more of these facilities. At this time, the Federal authorities have found no evidence to suggest Porter distributed the videos he surreptitiously captured.
We are disgusted and deeply saddened by the allegations that have been raised and the possibility this individual may have compromised Y members’ and their children’s and families’ privacy or worse.
The Y makes every effort possible to identify and prevent child abuse and neglect. Since 2015, the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago has been accredited (the highest-level certification) by Praesidium, the well-respected child abuse prevention organization, consultant and author of best practices in organizational abuse prevention. The Y has well-established and longstanding safety protocols in place to protect those who pass through our doors. Those protocols include requiring members and guests to swipe their membership cards or sign in before entering any of our facilities; extensive background checks for full- and part-time employees, volunteers and vendors; and recurring screenings of all members and employees against state sex offender registries and the National Sex Offender Database. Additionally, Y employees are trained Mandated Reporters in Illinois, meaning they are required by law to report suspected neglect or abuse.
We continue to fully cooperate with the authorities to ensure that nothing we do compromises their efforts to seek appropriate justice in this matter. As those processes unfold, we will continue to take prudent and appropriate action to keep everyone’s safety and well-being at the forefront of our work. This includes making any changes that Praesidium and other child welfare experts may recommend to protect the children and families in our care.
The Federal authorities have informed us that a former member of the Y, Michael Porter, secretly videotaped boys in the locker rooms at one or more of three YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago locations over a period of years using a concealed camera. Anyone with information relating to Mr. Porter should contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) and mention the “Michael Porter – Chicago” matter.
The Federal authorities have informed us that Mr. Porter recorded the activities of boys in the locker rooms at one or more of three YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago locations. Any additional questions should be posed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) and mention the “Michael Porter – Chicago” matter.
We first became aware that Mr. Porter was under investigation when we were contacted by the U.S. Attorney’s office in December 2020.
Since first learning about the alleged behavior, we have been working closely with the U.S. Attorney’s office and the FBI to support their investigation, including securing approval about when and what information we can and should convey. Since the authorities first contacted the Y in December 2020, Mr. Porter has been in custody and therefore posed no current threat.
The Federal authorities have informed us that Mr. Porter’s actions took place from approximately September 2006 to March 2020.
Our internal screening protocols and procedures were followed, but because Mr. Porter had not been convicted of any criminal behavior prior to the indictment from Federal authorities and was not listed on any sex offender registries or the National Sex Offender Database, there was nothing flagged in his background. We have launched our own externally-led examination of our policies and the interaction with Mr. Porter and his actions impacting our YMCA. As part of the examination, we continue to review our processes and procedures to ensure we keep everyone’s safety and well-being at the forefront of our work, and we will look for applicable areas of improvement.
Reclaim13, a not-for-profit crisis support provider recommended by the U.S. Attorney’s office that is not affiliated with the Y, is available at no cost to any member or family who believes they had contact with Mr. Porter. Reclaim13 can be contacted at (312) 462-3306.
The independent investigation is reviewing the Y’s policies and procedures and will make recommendations regarding whether any changes are appropriate.
These allegations are horrible, and if true, represent an abuse of trust in our community. Alleged actions like his naturally make us all question how we can prevent something like this from ever happening. Child safety is our number one priority, and we will redouble our efforts to ensure that we have the most comprehensive trainings and protocols. In addition, our externally-led examination, which is headed by a senior former criminal prosecutor, will identify any areas where we can improve. We will also continue to lean on child abuse prevention specialists at Praesidium and YMCA of the USA to advise on best practices and policies.
Yes. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our members and their families. We have longstanding protocols in place to protect those we serve including background checks and screenings for employees and those entering our facilities, secure admission and sign-in procedures and regular employee training, among other efforts. Our policies also align with best practices recommended by Praesidium, a child abuse prevention agency that has reviewed, audited, and certified the YMCA as following the most current thinking on child abuse prevention.
- The Y has long been committed to following and evolving practices, policies and training reflecting ongoing research to decrease the risk of abuse by employees, volunteers, members or other program participants. Nothing is more important to us than the safety and well-being of our members and their families. We have maintained Accreditation (the highest-level certification) by Praesidium, the well-respected child abuse prevention organization, on a continuous basis since 2015. Praesidium has identified best practices based on learnings using current research and root-cause analyses of thousands of cases of abuse across a diverse range of organizations.
- The longstanding protocols we have established to protect those we serve include using secure, documented admission and sign-in procedures; conducting extensive background checks for full- and part-time employees, volunteers and vendors who are 18 or older; we also conduct recurring screenings of members, guests, employees and volunteers against state sex offender registries and the National Sex Offender Database.
- In addition, each YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago employee is required to successfully complete Child Abuse Prevention training and is deemed a Mandated Reporter in Illinois, Wisconsin or Michigan, depending on their primary job location. We also require our legacy employees to refresh their Mandated Reporter training annually.
- We also have specific policies in place to protect the safety and privacy of our members, including prohibiting any video recording or picture taking in our locker rooms or in our pool/aquatics facilities without permission. We also have specific policies in place to require that any suspected or confirmed incidents of abuse or neglect of a child, whether at our facilities or at home or away from the Y’s facilities, are reported within our automated incident reporting system and, when required or advisable, to the appropriate authorities.
The Y is, and always will be, dedicated to building healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults, families and communities. There is no other nonprofit quite like the Y. That’s because, in neighborhoods across Chicagoland, we have the presence and partnership to not just promise, but deliver, positive change. Your continued support makes all of this possible.
If you were a member of High Ridge YMCA, Leaning Tower YMCA, or South Side YMCA from 2006 to 2020 and did not receive a letter from the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago, please find a link to it here. We apologize for not reaching you. Despite our best efforts, it’s possible we did not have your most recent contact information on file.
Additional Contact Information
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
If you visited the South Side YMCA, High Ridge YMCA or Leaning Tower YMCA and believe you or a member of your family may have had an inappropriate interaction with Michael Porter or if you have any questions about the investigation, please contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) and reference the “Michael Porter – Chicago Matter.”
If you visited the South Side YMCA, High Ridge YMCA or Leaning Tower YMCA and believe your or a member of your family may have had an inappropriate interaction with Michael Porter, please reach out to Reclaim13 at (312) 462-3306 for any support. They are a not-for-profit organization recommended by the U.S. Attorney’s office and are not affiliated with the YMCA. There is no cost for you to do so.
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago
If you have additional questions for the YMCA, please email us at [email protected].
If you are a reporter, please contact Katy Broom at [email protected].