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Still keeping our promise to protect children

Local coordinators now keeping track of who needs Virtus training, background check


MIAMI | Twelve years after revelations about clergy sexual abuse hit the front pages of newspapers in the U.S., the Archdiocese of Miami — along with nearly every other diocese and eparchy in the U.S. — is doing its best to keep the promise made by the U.S. bishops when they adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children.

That promise is simple: to keep children safe, as safe as humanly possible, from sexual predators. The pledge entails:
  • Controlling who has access to children by fingerprinting and running background checks on Church workers — clergy or lay, employees or volunteers
  • Educating those same employees and volunteers, and anyone else associated with children, to recognize the grooming techniques of predators and the warning signs of abuse
  • Ensuring that the proper authorities are notified whenever an abuse allegation is received
  • Ascertaining that good records are kept in every parish, school and archdiocesan entity as to who has been background-checked and who has been Virtus trained. 
The latter is done both to comply with the annual audit conducted by independent investigators to ensure compliance with the U.S. bishops’ charter; and to make sure that no one falls through the proverbial bureaucratic crack to possibly endanger a child entrusted to the Church’s care.

The naming of “local coordinators” in every parish and school is the most recent addition to the archdiocesan efforts to prevent abuse and assure compliance with the Charter.

“The local coordinator is responsible for the compliance and record-keeping of the Creating and Maintaining a Safe Environment Policy,” explained Jan Rayburn, Virtus coordinator for the archdiocese. “Among their duties, the local coordinator will review the dates of fingerprinting for employees and volunteers, as this is redone every five years. They will also review Virtus accounts,” which includes not only the live, three-hour training but keeping up with the monthly bulletins.

Some requirements that Rayburn also wants parishes and schools to keep in mind:
  • All employees must successfully pass a background check, be Virtus trained, and sign a Pledge to Promote Safe Environment. The same requirements apply to volunteers who work with minors or vulnerable adults. This includes chaperones at school dances and field trips, even if the chaperone is the spouse of an employee.
  • The background check for employees and covered volunteers also complies with the Jessica Lunsford Act which is part of Florida law. The archdiocese recently changed the company used to run the background checks. Fieldprint has more locations throughout Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, making the process more convenient for participants.
  • Many parishes and schools hold carnivals as fundraisers. These events require a lot of work and volunteers are often the core workforce. But any event that attracts children also attracts predators. So even if a volunteer is only working one shift a year at the carnival, he or she is still required to comply with the Safe Environment policy of fingerprinting, Virtus training and signing the Pledge to Promote Safe Environment. 

Comments from readers

Sister Lidia Valli - 04/15/2013 11:31 AM
Thank you for the material that is available to help our students, parents, faculty to promote this important aspect and to feel safe.

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