We are a community who cares about the vulnerable and commits to doing our part to ensure the safety of everyone within our community.
We use these five steps:
Step 1: Know the Warning Signs
Knowing the warning signs means that we can recognize the early signs of an inappropriate relationship between an adult and children and can identify potential abuse before it.
Some warning signs are:
An adult who prefers the company of children to adults
An adult who finds ways to be alone with children
An adult who discourages other adults from participating in or monitoring their activities with children or youth
An adult who give inappropriate or frequent gifts to a particular child
An adult who wants to wrestle or tickle children
An adult who allows children to engage in activities their parents wouldn’t allow
An adult who uses bad language or tells dirty jokes to children
An adult who shows children pornography
Step 2: Control Access through Screenings
Controlling access means we are careful about whom we allow to work with our children and require everyone to meet our standards prior to ministry. All employees and those volunteers who work with or around children must attend a Virtus® Protecting God’s Children for Adults Awareness Session and have successfully completed a criminal background screening.
Step 3: Monitor all Ministries and Programs
Once adults have been screened, all ministries and programs should be supervised to ensure proper policies and procedures are being followed to keep children safe. If an abuser knows that someone is watching, they have more trouble finding opportunities to abuse without getting caught.
Step 4: Be Aware of Child and Youth Behavior
Being aware means parents and caring adults should know what is going on in the lives of the children within their care and pay attention to subtle signs of a problem. Communication is key. When we observe and communicate with our children, we are more likely to detect the signs if they are in danger. We can notice a sudden change in behavior. Potential symptoms of sexual abuse include if they become moody or aggressive, lose interest in school, or stop taking care of their personal hygiene.
Step 5: Communicate Your Concerns
Communicating concerns means confronting and telling someone when you are uncomfortable with a situation, or discussing suspected abuse with a state official and supervisor. It means paying attention to your own feelings and not waiting until it is too late. Only by communicating concerns can we use our knowledge to protect children. Even if abuse is not occurring, it is still important to let others know when you have concerns. This is one of the most difficult, but important, steps in the process of eliminating abuse.
Safe Environments are created with three components:
Every single cleric and employee who work for the Archdiocese and ALL volunteers who work around children must successfully complete a background screening. Recently, the Archdiocese adopted protocol that repeats these screenings periodically for these categories.
Children—The Archdiocese uses a mandated, annual, age-appropriate safety curriculum to help our minors understand appropriate boundaries and to give them the ability to voice concerns or abuse.
Adults—All clergy, employees, and any volunteer who works around children must attend a sexual abuse awareness program entitled Protecting God’s Children, operated by VIRTUS
We expect our personnel to uphold the boundaries outlined in our policies and the training. We take a proactive stance on this issue by carefully reviewing any reports of crossed boundaries as they ultimately could be a precursor to abuse or at the very least endanger our vulnerable by teaching that inappropriate boundaries are acceptable.
Additionally, the USCCB audit tracks the training and safety curriculum status of our minors and agents
Adult Training and Screening
Who needs to complete the Adult Training and Screening?
- All employees, whether working around children or not
- All volunteers who have contact with children and/or youth who have either regular or unsupervised interaction with minors
- Volunteers between the ages of 16 – 18 who volunteer in environments and activities that may include other children. For those volunteers under the age of 18, a Parental Permission Form is required and we encourage a parent/guardian attend the same session.
- Children under the age of 16 should never attend the Adult Awareness session (nor should they be considered as adults or place in unsupervised environments requiring adult supervision of minors).
What are the requirements?
The following three requirements must be completed during employee training and prior to volunteering around children or vulnerable adults:
- VIRTUS®: Protecting God’s Children for Adults Awareness Session Attendance training is a live three hour awareness session which better equips adults to protect children and youth in the world around them. Sessions are offered throughout the year and at various locations across the Archdiocese. Register at http://www.virtusonline.org.
Virtus® is the safe environment program created by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group in the United States and chosen by the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas to provide ongoing training to all personnel on sexual abuse of minors, and how to prevent, detect and respond to sexual abuse. This training is required for all employees, clergy and volunteers, and there is special age-appropriate training provided to children. The Virtus safe environment program is in use in more than 80 dioceses in the United States.
- Background Screening is run by an archdiocesan-approved agency and provides a criminal history. This is an important step to screen out individuals who might present a danger to children and youth. Background screenings are initiated and processed online through the participants Virtus® account.
- Signed acknowledgement of understanding the Code of Conduct means that a person understands and agrees to the principles and standards outlined in this archdiocesan policy as it pertains to his or her ministry. The Code can be found on our site [provide link here] and the Acknowledgement is currently signed in conjunction with the background screening process.
How do I get started?
- Register for a Virtus account
- Sign up for a Adult Training Session through your Virtus account
- Submit a background check through your Virtus account
- Read the Code of Conduct [provide link here]
- Sign acknowledgement of reading and understanding the Code through your Virtus account
Educating our Children
All children under the age of 18 enrolled in Catholic schools or in religious formation programs or parish youth groups participate in age-appropriate awareness training. Parents who choose to ‘opt out’ of these children’s programs on behalf of their children may obtain the training materials from their parish or schools so they themselves can provide awareness training for their own children.
The personal safety lessons teach children and youth basic skills to be safe from dangerous or abusive situations either in person or online. Young people are taught to check with a trusted adult first, say no when confronted with an uncomfortable situation and are encouraged to share concerns with a trusted adult.
A note for parents
Office for Protection and Care reviews and approves vendors to ensure personal safety lesson materials used in the archdiocese are current, relevant, and supportive of Catholic teaching.
Parents, educators and others can find out more about key messages children and youth receive in each personal safety program by contacting the local coordinator at your parish or school. The lessons approved by the archdiocese are age-appropriate and respect parents’ role as their children’s primary educators. The concise tip sheet, Practical Advice for Parents on Preventing Child Sexual Abuse, is downloadable so you can print and share this resource.