Preventing Child Abuse

Cute family reading on porch

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” would be a fitting slogan for the month of April which is Child Abuse Prevention Month. In an effort to promote education and assist parishes and families to make child safety and abuse prevention a priority, the Diocese of Orlando offers several programs and resources.

The Diocese of Orlando has always taught that child abuse prevention is not just one person’s job and that all are responsible for the safety of children. The high use of social media among youth often makes this seem a daunting task. More children than ever before have the Internet at their fingertips thanks to smart phones, tablets and other digital devices.

In a statement of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2000 entitled “Your Family and Cyberspace” the bishops noted, “… technology comes at a different kind of price… some of the highest traffic on the Web is to pornography sites, while other sites purvey hatred of particular groups and still others are simply new opportunities for old-time confidence artists. Internet use, then, can be a little like visiting the best theme park in the world and coming across a toxic waste dump.”

Addressing the issue, the diocese created Raising Saints in the Digital Age—a workshop designed to empower parents and teens to maintain online safety while creating an environment that supports their faith life. The workshop is available for parishes to present to their families. From resources with tips regarding how content is shared and how to secure your computer—to helpful conversations to have with your children regarding the image they project and protect online, the program teaches families what they need to know.

In addition, the Diocese of Orlando has had its own Safe Environment Policy in place since 1997, requiring criminal background checks and fingerprinting of any personnel before they are able to 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.

The effort to protect children from abuse went one step further when Safe Environment Training was launched in 2001. In conjunction with this program, parishes are required to offer religious education students, “Learning about LIFE (Love, Infatuation, Friendship and Exploitation) Plus,” a faith-based, family-centered curriculum designed to teach children about safe environment awareness as well as chastity, values and virtues education. Perhaps the programs greatest asset is that it enables dialogue between parents and children about the difficult topic in a non-threatening way.

The diocese’s Safe Environment Training falls under USCCB’s Charter for Protection of Children and Young People which requires all archdioceses and dioceses in the United States to follow certain guidelines with regard to safe environment training. To insure compliance, all undergo regular audits by the USCCB .

Child Abuse Prevention Resources

Diocese of Orlando Safe Environment Training: www.orlandodiocese.org/safe-environment

Raising Saints in the Digital Age: www.orlandodiocese.org/ministries-offices/communications-welcome/social-communications

USCCB Faith and Safety: www.faithandsafety.org

March 30, 2017