The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is committed to providing a safe environment for children, which includes ongoing education on the prevention of child abuse.
Safeguard the Children Parish Committees are foundational in ensuring the safe environment of our parishes and schools throughout the Archdiocese. More than 95 percent of the parishes have formed a permanent committee to coordinate initiatives such as education opportunities, site evaluations, and local presentations by speakers including police, nurses and therapists. The committees are also responsible for implementing archdiocesan safe environment policies and procedures.
Beginning in 2003 an emphasis has been put on awareness and training programs implemented by the archdiocesan Office of Safeguard the Children. These trainings are having far reaching effects in maintaining a safe environment at all archdiocesan parishes and schools. "The only way we will make a difference is through education," says Joan Vienna, director of the Offices of Safeguard the Children and Family Life.
VIRTUS Adult Awareness Sessions include training about warning signs that indicate an adult is engaged in an inappropriate or abusive relationship with a child. All parish and school volunteers, teachers, clergy, religious, staff and paid personnel who work in any capacity with or around children must participate in the VIRTUS program.
Another focus has been the "Good Touch/Bad Touch" body safety program for children, which was launched in 2005 in Catholic elementary schools and parish religious education programs for grades K-6. It encourages children to trust their instincts, and to report or assert themselves when they feel unsafe. They learn that abuse is never the child's fault.
A program, Establishing Healthy Boundaries, is geared towards helping teachers and catechists engage 7th, 8th and 9th graders in discussions focusing on sexual abuse, sexual harassment and bullying. Students gain greater confidence in being able to say "No." Trained facilitators are ensuring that children, youth and adults are clear about appropriate body safety boundaries.
"Through these programs, children are being trained to come forward if they don't feel safe, and adults are being trained to listen," says Vienna.
Those working or volunteering with youth are also required to review and sign a code of conduct: Guidelines for Adults Interacting with Minors at Parish and Parish School Events. Another code of conduct has been developed for junior high and high school youth who work or volunteer with children or youth in school or parish settings. These guidelines establish boundaries for adults working with children.
To contact the Office of Safeguard the Children, contact Joan Vienna at email@example.com
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People is a comprehensive set of procedures established by the USCCB in June 2002 for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. The Charter also includes guidelines for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of future acts of abuse.
The Charter directs action in all the following matters:
Prevention of child sexual abuse is not just a church problem. It is a societal problem, and the need for broad child-abuse prevention measures throughout society is enormous.