The mission or purpose of the Safeguard the Children program for all parishes in the Los Angeles Archdiocese is
“Providing a safe environment for children, youth, and vulnerable adults.”
Safeguard the Children is a program designed to promote a safe environment for children, youth and vulnerable adults and prevent child sexual abuse. The program was initiated in all dioceses in the United States at the direction of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Each parish has a Safeguard the Children (STC) Committee which helps to implement the objectives of the USCCB “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People."
Archbishop José H. Gomez writes:
"We have put in place “best practices” for child protection that can be a model for other institutions in American public life. In 2013, we trained 29,848 clergy, employees and volunteers in the VIRTUS® Child Abuse Prevention Programs. In the past 12 years, we have trained 200,000 adults and more than 1 million children and young people. In addition, we have fingerprinted 132,000 clergy, employees and volunteers who have contact with children.
We are also vigilant in reaching out to provide emotional and spiritual support, as well as, psychological counseling to victim survivors. The Office of Victims Assistance Ministry continues to assist parishes and schools in reporting all matters of child abuse."
The Los Angeles Archdiocese has produced an informative brochure entitled “Working Together” (English Spanish) that provides resources on how to prevent abuse, provides information on reporting child abuse and lists contacts and hotlines for reporting abuse.
The Archdiocese provides ongoing support, education, training and resources to help prevent child sexual abuse and to address children's safety in our parishes, schools, homes and communities. (Includes VIRTUS® Protecting God's Children™ Program Training). The Office of Safeguard the Children provides ongoing support, education, training and resources to help prevent child sexual abuse and to address children's safety in our parishes, Catholic schools, homes and communities. April is Child Abuse Prevention Awareness Month in the archdiocese.
Old Mission Santa Inés has an active Safeguard the Children Committee chaired by parishioner, Sue Gionfriddo. Other members include the Pastor, the Director of Religious Education, the Director of Youth Ministry and other parish volunteers. Meetings are held quarterly or more often as needed.
We are constantly reviewing and updating our procedures to meet or exceed archdiocese requirements. The role of our parish is to :
- Monitor using Archdiocese of Los Angeles Policies & Procedures and keeping accurate records for each parish staff and volunteer who works with or has supervisory control over a child or young adult:
- Run a “Megan’s Law” check
- Understand the State of California laws and Archdiocesan policies and procedures on how to report child sexual abuse.
- Ensure that each parish staff and volunteer has read and signed the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Guidelines for Adults Interacting with Minors at Parish/School Activities or Events and Archdiocese of Los Angeles Boundary Guidelines for Junior High and High School Volunteers Working with Children or Youth documents and keep a copy of each person's signature.
- Plan, organize and advertise the fingerprinting dates and locations and keep records of fingerprint dates
- Ensure that all adults who work with or around children
- Complete the required VIRTUS® Re-Certification every four years. This may be done by taking the 1 ½ hr. VIRTUS® Keeping the Promise Alive program
- Plan and conduct ongoing trainings
- That all children and young people have been educated in one of the Archdiocesan approved children’s programs
- Have attended the VIRTUS® Adult Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Programs or equivalent safe environment training program approved by the Archdiocese
- Provide Safe Environment Training either through distributing Teaching Touching Safety or Good-Touch/Bad-Touch and recording trainings on VIRTUS® Online.
- The committee may contact local resources such as police for a speaker/contact person who handles child abuse and neglect cases to learn how cases are handled and reports are filed at the local level.
- Sponsor special community speakers to address the issue of child sexual abuse, internet safety, etc.
- The committee should be familiar with the new Electronic Communications Policy & Resource Guide
- Evaluate facilities from the perspecive of child and youth safety issues -
- Find and secure secluded rooms or areas in buildings or grounds
- Ensure a clear view at all times rooms where adults interact with children
- Check the areas used for children's activities for dangerous equipment, broken chairs or tables, safe stair access, trash and storage usage, etc.
- Ensure visible signs are on "children only" bathrooms and play areas and appropriate signs with safety rules.
- Ensure sufficient fencing and security on the grounds to keep strangers out and children in
- Ensure safety "conveyance cameras" are in place and working
- Ensure there is a list of keys and who has access to them. Recall and change locks as needed for safety.
- Participate in the planning of new facilities
- Assist in the annual USCCB Safe Environment Audit Process
- Ensure the parish is in compliance with all the requirements of the USCCB Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
- Ensure all compliance records related to parish safe environment are clearly filed and easily accessible
- Assist the pastor in completing the annual USCCB Safe Environment Audit Report
- Participate in any "Safe Environment Pre-Audit" and USCCB audits
Reporting Child Abuse
It is important that everyone report suspected child abuse. The truth is that our first inclination is to not get involved, but if you fail to act, that is all it takes for abuse or neglect to continue. If you ever come across suspected abuse, we urge you to call the Santa Barbara County Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 367-0166. The hotline is operated Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5 pm. After hours, or on weekends or holidays and WHENEVER A CHILD IS IN IMMEDIATE DANGER, call 911.
You don’t need to know that child abuse or neglect is taking place, you are welcome to report your suspicions and consult with a social worker if you are not clear whether what you are witnessing or have learned of is abuse. Depending on your profession, you might even be legally obligated to report suspected child abuse and neglect, a so-called “mandated reporter.” But if you are not a mandated reporter, you can even make your report anonymously. Please see this article from the Safeguard the Children Committee Chair entitled “What Can I Do To Prevent Child Abuse” that appeared as an insert in the Holy Family School Guild Gazette in May 2012 as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month. What Can I Do To Prevent Child Abuse
Priests, deacons, school faculty and administrators and other staff members in our parishes and schools have been designated as mandated reporters under California law. When one of these persons receives information leading to a “reasonable suspicion” that a child is being abused or neglected, he or she must make a report to the appropriate child protection or law enforcement agency. For more information on Responding to an Allegation of Suspected Child Abuse contact the Los Angeles Archdiocese Victims Assistance Ministry. If you are being abused, have been abused, or know someone who is being abused, you can call the Los Angeles Archdiocese Victims Assistance Ministry at: 800.355.2545 for assistance to make a report. You may also seek help directly by contacting one of the Child Protective Services or one of the Law Enforcement Agencies listed below. In an emergency call 911.
Volunteer Ministry Opportunities - The Safeguard the Children committee chair welcomes inquiries from parishioners with backgrounds in social services, law enforcement, education, child health or legal issues who are interested in joining the committee.