Protecting Our Children

Welcome to Protecting Our Children. We are parents, educators, and child advocates providing a forum for sharing resources that help the Catholic Community – lay men and women, priests, and bishops – keep our children safe. Our web page includes a mission statement, a selected bibliography, links to resources for Parents, Teachers, and Children.

Mission Statement: The POC mission is to keep children safe from sexual abuse within the Catholic Church. The obligation for all Christians to protect children flows from the ministry and example of Jesus Christ.

05/24/06 Letter to Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap

    Our goals are:

  • to increase awareness among the laity of child sexual abuse (PDF)
  • to identify and promote effective education and prevention programs
  • to monitor child protection policies within the Church.

Parish Safety Committee Motion

VOTF and its members will work for the formation of Parish Safety Committees (PSCs) in every parish. PSCs will actively support the formation and activities of Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) teams in each parish. CAP activities should include:

  • Prevention education conducted annually for all children, parents, staff, lectors, Eucharistic ministers and volunteers.
  • Ensure yearly criminal offender record information checks on all clergy, staff, ministers, and volunteers
    PSCs will work to ensure zero tolerance for sexual abuse by obtaining and disseminating information concerning past assignments of all new pastoral personnel.

Samples of Parish Safe Environment Programs: (Adobe Reader needed)

Protecting Our Children Action Initiatives

Action POC-1: Work with Your Diocese to Establish
a “Safe Environment” Program

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently issued its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (available on the Office of Youth and Child Advocacy website). The Charter mandates that all dioceses in the United States will establish “Safe Environment” programs.

These Safe Environment programs include programs that train parish adults to identify and prevent child abuse as well as training programs for children and young people that feature age-appropriate materials pertaining to personal safety, identifying improper touching, and explaining when a child or young person should seek assistance from trusted adults.

In Massachusetts, an independent body — The Gavin Group of Boston, Massachusetts — has completed audits of the parishes in the diocese and VOTF will monitor this process carefully to ensure that all dioceses comply with the Bishops Charter and implement the selected programs for the protection of children in parishes.

Action POC-2: Work to Ensure That Your Parish Is Safe
Your affiliate should insist that all employees, ministers, and volunteers of a parish who are in contact with children have annual criminal background checks (e.g., CORI). Then monitor compliance with this policy.

Promote awareness of seminars, workshops, and panel discussions that address Protecting Our Children for adults and children.

One parish council has adopted a Code of Conduct for all employees and volunteers and has created a Safety Committee and a Staffing Committee, essentially adopting the “Christian Stewardship of God’s Children” document created by a VOTF affiliate.

Also ask the diocese to make the VIRTUS program (called Protecting God’s Children) or a similar program available to all parishes. (VIRTUS is sold to dioceses, not to individual parishes.)

Action POC-3: Cooperate with Other Organizations That Focus
on Preventing Child Abuse

Cooperating and collaborating with longstanding child advocacy groups helps educate and activate communities, including our parish communities. In Massachusetts, POC is a member of the Massachusetts Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Partnership (MCSAPP),
a public/private collaborative whose mission is to prevent child sexual abuse by engaging adults and communities in effective perpetration prevention efforts at the local and state levels. Their web site gives more details about this excellent work.

The MCSAPP partnership has conducted two conferences on this important work. For information on the latest, click here.

Suggestions for Difficult Conversations with Children
Suggestions for Difficult Conversations with Children
Prepared by and Presented with Permission from the Family Institute of Cambridge

  1. Invite your children to talk about difficult matters, even if this makes you uncomfortable.
  2. Create a safe space for conversation.
  3. Confidentiality – “This is a private conversation.”
  4. Feelings are welcome – “However you feel is ok.”
  5. Value multiple perspectives. Be ready to tolerate statements like, “I hate you,” “Fr. Fred is weird,” or “I wish I were dead.”
  6. Normalize difficult conversations. Don’t make difficult conversation a once in a lifetime conversation. Talk about these things often and in a variety of ways.
  7. Talk about talking about it. Talk about why particular subjects are difficult to talk about and what can be done to make a conversation easier for all parties.
  8. Don’t be mysterious – Be transparent. Be sure to explain why these conversations are important.
  9. Listen for meaning, not for facts.
  10. Be curious. Listen for the unusual.
  11. Helpful barometers or indications that your child might be in trouble include depression, anxiety, sleep difficulty, aggressive behavior, drug or alcohol abuse, sexual promiscuity, avoidance of all things sexual, refusal to go to school, fascination with fire, or suicidal statements. If your child exhibits any of these behaviors it is essential that you work to understand the meaning of the behaviors, directly with your child and with professional help.

Project: Monitoring Compliance with Child-Safety Standards in Religious Orders