Protecting children allows no complacency

The diocese of Charleston passed the 2012-13 audit of its Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone said they received notification Sept. 3 from StoneBridge Business Partners, which conducted the audit on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We are constantly striving to make sure our children are protected,” Bishop Guglielmone said. “I’m happy it passed, but we will never be complacent.”

The charter is currently undergoing a revision process that will widen its scope of protection to include vulnerable adults, and address other areas in more depth, such as the issue of technology.

Bonnie Sigers, safe environment manager for the diocesan office of Child Protection Services, encourages everyone to actively participate in the implementation of the charter.

She notes that statistics show 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused in the U.S. before their 18th birthday, and said it is up to adults to teach their children about safe environment standards.

“Our goal is to provide children both the atmosphere and the understanding that ‘They Matter,’” she said. “They learn that if they have a reason to, they can tell, and they will be heard.”

The diocesan safe environment program teaches children and parents about prevention, Sigers said. It contains 10 lessons for parishes and schools and is broken up into four age groups. Topics cover issues such as boundaries, recognizing risky adult behavior, telling someone you trust, and internet safety.

“It is not our goal to make children responsible for their own safety,” she said. “That is our job. It is the job of every caring adult. However, we do want to be sure that our children … have every appropriate tool possible to keep themselves safe.”

The charter was created by the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops as part of the “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal” mandates for the Church in the U.S.

Since then, Georgetown University-based Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate has gathered data on the issue for the USCCB. It found a drop in the number of allegations, number of victims and number of offenders reported in 2012.

Also, most allegations reported last year were from the 1970s and 1980s, with many of the alleged offenders already deceased or removed from active ministry.