Diocese gets thumbs up on safe environment audit
For more information
Safe Environment Project
Diana Bitz, coordinator
Anyone wishing to report any allegation of sexual misconduct by any clergy or diocesan employee should contact the local authority, i.e. police or sheriff's department, and also the interim chancellor/victims assistance coordinator of the diocese:
Very Rev. Robert Herbst,
Interim Coordinator of Victims Assistance
Diocese of Oakland
2121 Harrison St., Suite 100
Oakland, California 94612
Or contact a survivor at:
All across the country, we recognize the month of April as Child Abuse awareness month.
The Safe Environment Project in the Diocese of Oakland supports this endeavor through awareness education, training for adults in recognizing the signs of abuse and background screening of all employees and volunteers who work with children.
We are responsible for providing our children with the tools they need to claim respect for themselves, teach them what constitutes loving relationships and how to stay safe. Our goal is to assist in the efforts to end child abuse. We do this every day of the year.
The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, first developed in 2002, is what guides us in our work. This is an organic document, whose essential norms are reviewed and updated frequently.
The latest revision, 2011, is available on our web page on the Diocese of Oakland website —www.oakdiocese.org.
While the charter is what guides us in our efforts for compliance in contributing to both ending sexual abuse and helping to heal those who have suffered sexual abuse in the church, it is our calling as — Catholics that moves us. Our foundational theological understanding as Catholics calls us to respect the dignity of every human person, and to care for each other.
Each and every one of us is to model right relationships to further the Gospel of Jesus — whatever we do to the least of these, we do for him. What we do as Church to respond, protect and heal shows the world that we will no longer tolerate abuse; that our efforts are more than just risk mitigation, or a series of policies or procedures that have little meaning. Our work is at the core of our beings as Catholics, and it is the work of all of us.
Every year each diocese/eparchy in the United States performs an audit on the Safe Environment projects. Are we meeting our goals? Are we conducting training that is viable, effective and current? Are we doing background screening? We undergo an on-site audit every three years, much in the same way as all sites are asked to retrain in our diocese every three years. 2013 saw us having our on-site audit in the fall. This audit is extensive, involves interviews with many with regards to the project, including the bishop and key staff people.
Three sites are chosen by the auditors for a meeting with the pastor, principal (if applicable), director of religious education and local safe environment coordinators.
From this information, along with many documents compiled for the audit instrument, the auditors make recommendations to the bishop to assist in developing our efforts.
I am pleased to say that we did very well, kudos to the parishes of Sts. Theresa, Benedict and Jarlath.
The auditors issued us our compliance for three years. While they did not make any recommendations that affected our compliance with the charter, some suggestions were made for our consideration:
• While we maintain several databases at the diocesan administration offices on fingerprinting and safe environment training for adults, it was suggested we have a central system that we can access to give the sites a report as needed. We are looking into the possibility. This will help us to keep better control and to have better communication with each site.
There are several factors to consider, and we are working on the most comprehensive, reasonable solutions. We want each site to have a safe environment coordinator who is aware of policies and responsible for communication to our office. I am beginning site visits designed to assist each site to ensure that everyone is aware of the requirements, and is moving in the direction of compliance.
• It was not in the suggested materials from the audit, however we are working with several of our trainers to develop new training options; our online program Shield the Vulnerable has developed several new courses that folks can take after they do the initial basic recognize and report course.
• We are updating our handbook and website.
During the audit year July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 in the Diocese of Oakland:
• We trained 47,000 children in awareness education.
• We trained more than 46,000 volunteers and employees.
• We checked via the LiveScan system the backgrounds of 2,000 employees and volunteers.
Every volunteer and employee is screened annually through Megan's Law.
If the trend continues, we are well on our way to increasing these numbers this year. Our efforts to check all adults who work or volunteer with children is ongoing. This includes every parent in our schools or faith formation programs who volunteer. The work of ongoing fingerprinting and background screening for all volunteers continues.
Together we will make the Diocese of Oakland safe, strong and committed to living out our call as followers of Jesus. We can do no less than this: To care for each other, to help heal the wounds caused by abuse and to make our sites safe for families, children and vulnerable adults. I am always available to you, please don't hesitate to contact me.
(Diana Bitz is coordinator of the Safe Environment Project of the Diocese of Oakland.)
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