By George P. Matysek Jr.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore is in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
That’s the finding of a 2012-2013 data-collection audit conducted by Stonebridge Business Partners, a New York-based auditing company.
The investigation showed that during the audit period, 44,710 children received safe environment and child-abuse prevention education through the archdiocese’s Catechesis for Family Life. Approximately 31,330 active volunteers who have substantial contact with children were screened and received safe-environment training. Approximately 5,300 clergy and employees were screened and trained during the same period.
Alison D’Alessandro, director of the archdiocesan department of child and youth protection, said the results of the audit underscore the importance church officials place on protecting children.
“We must always be vigilant in our efforts to prevent any abuse,” she said. “I believe our parishes and schools continue to do a great job in seeing that all the volunteers who work with children and other employees have been screened and trained.”
STAND, the archdiocese’s child-protection training program, has “really helped everyone in our church to recognize boundary issues in order to prevent child sexual abuse,” D’Alessandro said. She added that Family Life Catechesis, mandated for children in schools and parish religious education programs, has also helped children feel comfortable reporting concerns to their teachers and catechists.
“They are talking to adults that they trust,” she said.
D’Alessandro noted that the archdiocese’s child-protection efforts undergo an on-site audit every three years. In the two intervening years, data-collection audits, such as the most recent one by Stonebridge, are performed.
As part of its child protection efforts, the archdiocese also makes public the names of church personnel who are “credibly accused” of child sexual abuse. It does so, D’Alessandro said, to be “open and transparent.”
“We owe it to the victims and we owe it to the faithful of the church,” she said. “When we go public, it’s to find the truth and see if there are victims out there. We want to make sure that we can provide outreach to the victims – to assist them with their journey toward healing.”