By Katherine Long | Editor
Again this year, those affected by child abuse, their families and friends, service providers, and advocates are invited to participate in a multi-faith prayer service to mark National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
Presented by Syracuse’s McMahon/Ryan Child Advocacy Center in partnership with faith communities including the Diocese of Syracuse, the service will be held April 21 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 801 E. Colvin St., Syracuse, at 7 p.m. There is no cost to attend. Donations of new teddy bears are welcomed; the bears will be given to children receiving services at the advocacy center.
The service is held “to honor the survivors of child abuse and their families, and those who work tirelessly every day to help that child and family on their path to healing.”
National statistics on child abuse underscore the need for that continued work and commitment. According to data in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Child Maltreatment 2014 report, for federal fiscal year 2014 there were a nationally estimated 702,000 victims of child abuse and neglect; 75 percent of victims were neglected, 17 percent were physically abused, and 8.3 percent were sexually abused, and a nationally estimated 1,580 children died from abuse and neglect.
National Child Abuse Prevention Month is “a perfect time for adults to take action and protect our kids,” said Jacqueline Bressette, diocesan director of the Child & Youth Protection Office, as it “brings attention to a community issue that affects everyone — no child is immune — and is an opportunity to come together and stand strong for children.”
Bressette’s office is responsible for the screening, training and protocols mandated by the U.S. Bishops’ 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People and the diocesan Child and Youth Protection Policy. The policy mandates that all clergy, all members of religious communities, all employees, and volunteers whose ministries place them in contact with minors participate in a training and submit to a criminal background check every five years. The training, which educates participants on preventing and identifying child abuse, has been completed by more than 36,000 adults in the diocese to date, according to Bressette’s office.
The office also notes thousands of children in diocesan Catholic schools and faith formation programs have been educated on age-appropriate personal safety issues — more than 17,000 students this year alone.
The office stresses that successes to date are positive, but that continued vigilance is necessary.
For more information on this year’s multi-faith prayer service or on diocesan child and youth protection, visit syrdio.org.
If you think a child is in immediate danger, call 911. To report known or suspected child neglect or abuse, call the New York State Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-342-3720. After you have called 911 to report suspected child abuse by a priest, deacon, member of a religious community, diocesan lay employee, volunteer, or member of your diocesan community, contact Jacqueline Bressette at (315) 470-1465.
Students taught about safe surfing
On March 30, diocesan social media specialist Nicole Ossevoort addressed parents and teens at Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville at a special Internet Safety Night. Joining Ossevoort was Officer Angela Palmer from the Manlius Police Department.
The evening’s topics included safe social media use, using parental controls and safe passwords, best practices for interacting on apps like Snapchat and Facebook, and more. Parents had the opportunity to follow up with questions. Officer Palmer lent her expertise and discussed issues like sexting and cyberbullying in the community, and how parents can protect their children.
“The more you talk to your kids, the better,” said Officer Palmer.
For more information, visit YouTube.com/syrdio and watch the April 6th edition of Around the Diocese. To host a similar information night in your parish or school, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.