Safe Environment Program
The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is committed to the implementation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Office of Child and Youth Protection assists parishes in the on-going development of safe environment programs in the school, religious education program and all parish ministries which involve children.
The Safe Environment Program includes but is not limited to:
• obtaining the background checks of all archdiocesan personnel, including clergy, religious and laity, as well as volunteers who regularly come in contact with children.
• providing educational programs for students who attend Archdiocesan elementary and secondary schools and parish religious education programs.
• providing training to clergy, parish personnel, catechists, teachers and volunteers regarding their responsibility, under civil law, as mandated reporters. This training also pertains to Archdiocesan personnel who are working in social services and educational ministry.
All clearances must be updated every five years. It is the responsibility of parish Safe Environment Coordinator to keep the records of each employee and volunteer.
Attendance at Safe Environment Training is expected within ninety days of start of hire.
Complete information on required background checks can be found on the Office for Child and Youth Protection webpage on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website www.archphila.org .
Employees must secure the required documents within thirty days of hire. During this provisional period, their service to children must be supervised. If the FBI Criminal History Record (fingerprint check) is delayed in being processed, the employee from day of hire needs to provide proof that he/she has completed the process for securing the fingerprint check.
Volunteers should have all of the required background checks as they begin their service to children or receive provisional permission to volunteer as long as these forms are submitted within thirty days. During this provisional period, their service to children must be supervised. Refer to Appendix XIV for a Parish Religious Education Program Safe Environment Checklist.
Protecting God’s Children Program (VIRTUS)
The Protecting God’s Children Program is a required awareness program for adults who are Church employees or volunteers of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and who interact with children. Trainees learn the signs of child sexual abuse, the methods and means by which offenders commit abuse, and five empowerment steps to prevent or avoid sexual abuse. Training dates and locations are listed on the Office for Child and Youth Protection webpage on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia website www.archphila.org .
The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries
The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia are intended to provide clear standards and boundaries of behavior regarding all interactions with children and young people by priests, deacons, religious, pastoral ministers, administrators, staff and volunteers. These standards are reviewed and signed by trainees during the safe environment training.
“KEEPING GOD’S CHILDREN SAFE” LESSONS
The Parish Religious Education Program is required to teach one personal safety lesson annually. The Parish Religious Education personal safety lessons are entitled “Keeping God’s Children Safe” and can be found at: http://archphila.org/catechetical/resources/resources.htm .
The Office for Catechetical Formation and the Office of Child and Youth Protection recommend that these lessons are taught in the second semester as a relationship between the catechist and students has been established.
PARENT OPT OUT
After a review of the personal safety lesson, parents/guardians may opt out their child from the scheduled session for the teaching of this lesson. The Director of Religious Education should, however, encourage parents who do not wish their child to receive a personal safety lesson to review this important lesson with their child at home.
The Director of Religious Education must obtain a written signed and dated opt out letter from the parent or guardian. These forms are to be submitted to the Office for Children and Youth with the annual parish audit report.
MANDATED REPORTING LAWS
Under the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) passed in 1974, all fifty states have passed laws mandating the reporting of child abuse and neglect. A child is defined as an individual under the age of eighteen.
Each state is responsible for:
• providing its own definition of child abuse and neglect.
• describing the circumstances and conditions that obligate mandated reporters to report known or suspected child abuse.
• providing definitions for juvenile/family courts when to take custody of the child.
• specifying the forms of maltreatment that are criminally punishable.