Special report: Our promise to protect, our pledge to heal

Almost 20 years ago, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was created by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a means to create a system of accountability of all dioceses throughout the United States. The charter serves as a guide in ensuring that dioceses have put into place best practices for the protection of children. 

The Diocese of Sacramento is ever vigilant in looking and implementing ways to improve our methods to prevent abuse.

Background Checks

All clergy, employees and volunteers are required to complete a Live Scan fingerprinting background check. Volunteers are cleared through the Department of Justice. Clergy and employees are cleared through the Department of Justice and FBI. In addition, all clergy who have served internationally are cleared through the respective countries.

Safe Haven Training

In addition to background checks, all clergy, employees and volunteers are required to complete a child abuse recognition and reporting program. This training is designed to help adults in our diocese recognize potential abuse and act quickly on behalf of the children and young people entrusted to them.

The training is completed through Safe Haven and has to be renewed every three years. This three-part video series identifies real-life abuse and neglect situations that volunteers and employees may encounter. It increases awareness of and sensitivity to grooming techniques, social media interaction and boundary issues. The training also covers the different types of abuse and neglect. Most important, the training makes clear to everyone who serves in our diocese that our policies for the protection of youth must be understood, accepted and followed at all times.

Circle of Grace

Circle of Grace is the designated training program for children enrolled in faith formation and diocesan schools. Circle of Grace is taught each year with lessons unique to each grade level.  Circle of Grace serves the dual purpose of educating and informing youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others.

Through Circle of Grace, adults assist children and youth to recognize that each of us lives within a Circle of Grace that holds our very essence in body, mind, heart and soul. Through the program, children and youth are taught to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries; recognize when boundary violations are about to occur; and demonstrate how to take action when boundaries are threatened or violated. 

Annual Audit

Each year, the Diocese of Sacramento is audited by an outside agency for safe environment compliance. Every three years, the diocese participates in an on-site audit. Compliance is based upon inquiry, observation and review of specifically-requested documentation. Every year, the Diocese of Sacramento has been found to be in full compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the auditors.

Independent Review Board

An Independent Review Board that includes lay experts in criminal justice, psychology and child welfare advises Bishop Jaime Soto in the assessment of all allegations of abuse of minors. This review board brings outside expertise and a focused commitment to child safety, and advises on whether an accused cleric is suitable for ministry. In addition, the board regularly reviews the diocese’s polices and procedures for dealing with abuse of minors.

Victim Assistance Coordinator

The diocese provides a pastoral care coordinator to assist persons who have suffered sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy and other Catholic Church workers. The pastoral care coordinator arranges for professional counseling and resources. The toll-free number to reach the Victim Assistance Coordinator and to report abuse is 866-777-9133. Reports can be taken in English and Spanish.

Reporting Abuse

Anyone who has reason to believe abuse of a child or young person by clergy, employees or volunteers in any of the diocese’s schools or programs has occurred, or could occur, is encouraged to report this immediately. It is important to understand that you need not wait for proof or certainty that abuse occurred. If you suspect abuse, please report it immediately.  Reports should be made first to law enforcement or other civil authorities (child protective services or adult protective services) and then to the Diocese of Sacramento via the toll-free line at 866-777-9133.

The Diocese of Sacramento pledges its commitment to solid and enduring programs and policies that will: protect children and young people, foster vigilance on the part of all our staff and volunteers to keep children safe, and help heal the pain caused by abuse and bring lasting peace to victims. We are trusted by the faithful to bring compassion and aid to all God’s children and to dedicate ourselves to that sacred responsibility.

Katita Schloemann is safe environment coordinator for the Diocese of Sacramento.

Did you know?

--The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was established by the USCCB in June of 2002. It is a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of abuse.

--The charter calls for annual audits of dioceses to ascertain compliance with the Charter by the bishop and his diocese. Annual audits have been conducted since 2003. 

--The Diocese of Sacramento has been in compliance with all audits since 2003.

--For the 2018-2019 audit period, more than 15,000 adults completed background checks and safe environment training for the Diocese of Sacramento. 

--For the 2018-2019 audit period, almost 30,000 children were trained in Circle of Grace. Through this program, children are taught to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional and spiritual boundaries.

Learn more

About the diocese’s safe environment programs and policies at www.scd.org/safe-environment.

About the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People at www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/child-and-youth-protection/charter.cfm

For safe environment and ministry and family resources, including links to videos, audios, small group materials and prayer resources visit www.scd.org/safe-environment/safe-environment-ministry-family-resources

Catholic Herald Issue