Editor’s note: The Diocese of Syracuse provided the following summary of its safe environment policies and efforts.
Since the Bishops of the United States adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002, the Diocese of Syracuse has taken significant steps to create a safe environment and prevent the sexual abuse of children, young people, and vulnerable adults.
Child Safety Policies
The diocese has had a comprehensive Child and Youth Protection Policy since 2003 and is reviewed annually by the Diocesan Safe Environment Committee and the Diocesan Review Board. The Child and Youth Protection Policy governs the implementation of safe environment requirements including criminal background checks and training in abuse awareness and prevention. The diocese has a Code of Conduct that establishes a set of general principles, ethical standards, and mandated protocols for ministry in the Church. The Code of Conduct addresses a variety of situations in which the safety of children, youth, and vulnerable adults is implicated (i.e., social media behavior, overnight trips, professional boundaries, etc.)
Annual Safe Environment Report
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) requires all dioceses in the United States to undergo yearly audits to verify their compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. Since 2003, the Diocese of Syracuse has been found compliant with all audited articles within the Charter. The audit is conducted by outside auditors, under the supervision of an independent National Review Board established by the USCCB. Passing the audit for the 14th year not only reflects the quality of the Safe Environment training programs offered, but more importantly, reflects the commitment and dedication of all clergy, religious, diocesan/parish employees, and volunteers who play a significant role in maintaining safe environments for all children, youth, and vulnerable adults across the seven counties of the diocese.
Statistical Summary of Safe Environment Efforts to Date
• Nearly 40,000 background checks have been completed on clergy, religious, employees, and volunteers (this includes criminal records and sex offender registries)
• Nearly 40,000 clergy, religious, employees, and volunteers have received initial Safe Environment training
• Over 15,000 children of school and parish faith formation programs have received age-appropriate training
Ongoing Safe Environment Activities
• Recertification Training: The diocesan Child and Youth Protection Policy requires Safe Environment recertification training every five (5) years for all clergy, all members of religious orders who minister in our diocese, all parish and diocesan employees (including those who have no contact with children), and all volunteers whose ministry or role places them in regular contact with children, youth, and/or vulnerable adults. In addition to this one-and-a-half hour recertification training, all participants must complete a new criminal background check.
• Safe Environment Committee: In accordance with the Charter, the diocesan Safe Environment Committee convenes monthly to review policies, programs, and protocols.
• Safe Environment Resources: As part of its commitment to a safe environment for all children, young people, and vulnerable adults, the Diocese of Syracuse has compiled a list of resources for parents and families related to Internet and social media safety. The list is updated regularly and available on the diocesan website.