April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and young people.
Throughout the years, the bishops of the United States and the administration of the Diocese of Orlando have taken great strides for increasing protections of children and vulnerable populations entrusted to their care.
“Children are one of our most precious gifts,” Bishop John Noonan said. “Our Church has always welcomed families and has traditionally been a place of sanctuary. It is where children can learn, grow and be nurtured. Creating a safe place for everyone, especially for our children, is very important to me.”
In 1995, leaders of the Diocese of Orlando, under the direction of Bishop Norbert Dorsey, established the Diocese of Orlando Review Board, whose role still today is to consult with and advise the bishop in matters relating to abuse. Two years later, the diocese took another step in protecting its children, requiring criminal background checks and fingerprinting of any personnel before they could work, volunteer or minister in the diocese.
Since then, more than 100,000 priests, teachers, religious, youth ministers, catechists, volunteers and diocesan employees have been screened. Follow-up screenings are required every five years.
Yet, one of the greatest efforts the diocese has taken in preventing child abuse has been through its Safe Environment Training, launched in 2001, one year prior to the release of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Charter for Protection of Children, a comprehensive set of procedures to prevent abuse of minors.
The Diocese of Orlando’s Safe Environment Training is a comprehensive program aimed at preventing abuse of children and vulnerable people through education and awareness. In addition to the background check/fingerprint screening, applicants must preview a 20-minute video “Protecting Our Youth” and then subsequently complete an on-line test, which consists of 13 questions.
The diocese’s Safe Environment Training falls under the USCCB’s Charter for Protection of Children requirements that all archdioceses and dioceses in the United States follow certain guidelines with regard to safe environment training. All undergo regular audits by the USCCB to be sure that they are in compliance with those regulations.
“The care of our children and vulnerable adults has been entrusted to us by our loving God. We must always have their precious lives and their protection as our highest priority – our Father expects nothing less of each of us. We assist with the healing of those who have been victims of abuse through prayer and counseling,” said Maureen Kane, Chairman of the Diocesan Review Board.
Child Abuse Prevention Blessing
Dear Lord, We ask you to bless these your holy people who have participated in the Church’s efforts to help stop child abuse. Open their hearts to your call to be the “ears, eyes and voice of children and young people” everywhere. Give them the vision and grace needed to fulfill the special commitments that each of them has made to making their homes, churches, schools, communities and world a safer place for all God’s Children. Amen.
Source: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops