Southern reps attend child safety conference

CHARLESTON—The Diocese of Charleston’s charter for the protection of children will undergo some important updates in its next revision, according to Bonnie Sigers, safe environment manager.

A group of representatives from each of the dioceses in the Southern province recently attended a conference sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in San Francisco addressing child safety.

She said about 145 people attended the event and discussed a number of concerns, including at least three additions to the charter that will make it even more effective.

One is to include “vulnerable adults,” defined as “those who lack reason to make decisions for themselves,” into the charter, Sigers said. Currently the document only covers the protection of children.

Specific language will also be added to address the criminal offense of child pornography. Sigers noted that it has always been covered under general abuse guidelines, but will pack more punch when added to the charter for child protection.

Third, an updated screening process will tweak weaknesses to make sure screening reports are more reliable and less expensive. Sigers said screening international personnel has always been expensive and reports are sometimes incomplete or unreliable. The new process will cut the cost and pair the diocese with agencies willing to stand by the validity of a screening report, Sigers said.

The conference also discussed ways to help victims of abuse heal. Sigers said they want to make sure their voices are heard.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone signed the child protection charter into being in 2010.

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