CHARLESTON—The Office of Child Protection Services is conducting a rescreening of all diocesan employees and volunteers whose original screening occurred in 2006 or earlier and who have access to children.
Bonnie Sigers, safe environment manager, said it is common practice among dioceses and is part of the ongoing effort to create and maintain safe environments for all children and youth in the church’s care.
Screenings will include a criminal history check, a check of the central registry, and a driver’s history check where applicable.
The diocese has always screened prospective employees and volunteers, but this is the first time they have conducted a rescreening process, Sigers said. The child protection office has about 3,000 people to run through the system.
“It’s going to be an endeavor,” she said. “It’ll take us three or four months to do it, but once we get through this initial phase, it’ll be a lot easier.”
Going forward, the diocese will conduct annual rescreenings on employees who have reached the four-year mark.
“Updating our screening records helps us ensure that those with access to children and youth continue to live up to the standards of ethical behavior our Catholic faith demands,” Sigers wrote in a letter to priests, parish life facilitators and principals.
Sigers said they will start with employees and volunteers in the schools and move on from there.
Everyone in the diocese is asked to support the initiative and embrace the charter, Sigers said, adding that it is the only way to make sure children are safe.
The “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” was created by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops. It touts the bishops’ “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal” mandates for the church in the United States.
The Diocese of Charleston was recently informed that it had passed the 2010 audit noting that it is in compliance with the charter.
Sigers said part of compliance is to be constantly vigilant.
“We can’t know the heart of any individual, so we must create boundaries that everyone respects and adheres to, and we must be constantly aware of what is going on in the lives of our children, as well as the adults we place in contact with them,” she said.