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CURRENT ISSUE:  October 9, 2006VOL. 44, NO. 17Oakland, CA

Diocese puts child abuse training on-line

Nancy Libby, coordinator for the Oakland Diocese’s Safe Environment for Children program, has a dream. She envisions “all of us as a Church watching out for kids. We all need to keep our eyes open and to be aware.” Libby may be well on the way to seeing her vision come true.

Since August 14, some 7700 individuals affiliated with the Oakland Diocese have logged on to the “Shield the Vulnerable” website, a new 90-minute interactive course which teaches priests, diocesan, parish and school staffs and volunteers how to recognize, report and prevent child abuse.

When one considers how many children these adults come into contact with on a daily or weekly basis, the outcome of her vision is a happy probability.

“Shield the Vulnerable,” is a collaborative effort between the Oakland Diocese and LawRoom, a web-based company started by Walnut Creek lawyer Ralph Yanello 10 years ago to provide computer trainings for employees around human resources topics.

Last year, the diocese used one of LawRoom’s on-line programs for departmental supervisors to comply with a 2005 federal law mandating that companies with 50 or more employees provide classes in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Supervisors loved the idea of being able to complete the required training online in the comfort of their homes or offices, said Libby.
During the same time the harassment prevention training was taking place, Libby and her staff were presenting a series of required workshops for diocesan employees and volunteers on how to recognize and prevent child sexual abuse.

When the feedback sheets began coming in from Libby’s trainings, a similar message surfaced. Most said they were suffering from a glut of meetings; they wanted a class they could take on-line.

So Libby asked Yanello if he’d be interested in developing a new computer program for her project.

He was immediately interested. “It definitely seemed like a worthy effort to help children,” he said.

Between January and May, Libby worked with Yanello’s staff to research the topic of child abuse to develop a program that met the guidelines set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
By June, they were actively creating the on-line workshop. For compelling graphics use with the material, Yanello selected illustrations from the Getty Museum’s generous supply of clip art.

The Oakland Diocese is one of the few in the country to offer this particular type of on-line training, said Libby. Yanello added that there are some other on-line web providers who have created their own programs for various dioceses.

This month, the Archdiocese of San Francisco and the Diocese of Santa Rosa have adopted Shield the Vulnerable and are beginning their own on-line trainings.

The U.S. bishops have mandated that every employee and volunteer must take classes in how to recognize and prevent child abuse. To take Shield the Vulnerable costs $5 per person. Anyone affiliated with parishes and schools in the Oakland Diocese is welcome to take the class.

The Oakland Diocese is also continuing to offer trainings at parish and school sites. Libby is looking for volunteers who might want to conduct these trainings.

“We need as many effective ways as we can to get this information out, and sometimes it’s easier to listen to the people you know, rather than chancery and diocesan staff,” she said.

For further information go to www.shieldthevulnerable.org. or contact Nancy Libby at (510) 267-8315, or nlibby@oakdiocese.org


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