The Archdiocese of Washington (ADW) Child Protection Policy
Most organizations that work with children have a child abuse prevention program. The Archdiocese of Washington has had a written Child Protection Policy since 1986. The most recent update was in 2007. This policy implements certain provisions and norms adopted in documents approved by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002 and 2005. The policy is considered one of the most comprehensive in the United States and has been adopted by a number of other dioceses nationwide.
The Archdiocese utilizes a training tool called VIRTUS for its preventive education programs. The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. created the programs. The word virtus derives from Latin, and means valor, moral strength, excellence, and worth. In ancient times, virtus denoted a way of life and manner of behavior that always aspired to the highest, most positive attributes of people and aspects of human interaction.
All VIRTUS training programs incorporate proven best practice standards for the prevention of child sexual abuse by clergy, staff, volunteers, and others who interact with children within the church environment. VIRTUS programs assist the Church in being a safe haven for children and a messenger for preventing child sexual abuse within the Church and society in general.
The VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children Training Program
PROTECTING GOD’S CHILDREN is the VIRTUS training program for protecting children from child sexual abuse. It was designed to maximize the effort to protect children by helping churches and religious organizations refine their roles as child safe environments and empowering them with new tools to help them, and adults and parents, protect children.
Child abusers seek to operate and abuse their power within nurturing, child-friendly environments where it is assumed that nobody would want to harm a child. Religious organizations of all faiths are an easy target. The PROTECTING GOD’S CHILDREN program implements safety mechanisms that send a message to all abusers and potential abusers:
- Child abuse is not tolerated
- Children are vigilantly protected
- Victims are listened to, heard, and shielded from further abuse
- Offenders are identified and punished.
The PROTECTING GOD’S CHILDREN program is a three hour awareness session that instructs adults that to protect children you must have continuous awareness and vigilance. Trainees will learn to understand the signs of sexual abuse, the methods and means by which offenders commit abuse and five empowerment steps one can use to prevent sexual abuse. The purpose of the program is to make adults who interact with children aware of how to protect children. Program sessions occur regularly and take place at locations throughout the Archdiocese and at the main Archdiocese office in Hyattsville, Maryland. HTS is attempting to schedule several sessions in upcoming months at HTS. A complete list of upcoming training sessions is available at www.virtus.org.
Implementation of the Child Protection Policy at HTS
The Archdiocese requires that all Archdiocesan personnel and volunteers who have substantial contact with youth must be in compliance with the Child Protection Policy. The Policy specifically applies to church and school personnel, employees of religious education programs, personnel providing childcare services, and all youth ministers and directors/coaches of children’s activities (such as coaches and scout leaders). The HTS policy is that all volunteers who are likely to have contact with children that is not incidental must complete the VIRTUS training and fingerprinting/criminal background check.
The following table indicates which HTS activities do and do not require VIRTUS training and fingerprinting/criminal background check for parent volunteers. Although we have done our best to make the table comprehensive, it may not include all possible activities involving parent volunteers. Additionally, a parent may have a particular role in an activity that will not require compliance with the Child Protection Policy. Any questions regarding whether VIRTUS training and fingerprinting/criminal background check are required for a particular activity should be directed to HTS VIRTUS Coordinator Mary Cooter.
|Activity||VIRTUS and fingerprinting/criminal background check required?|
|Field Trip Chaperon/Driver||x|
|Troop Leader (if meet at HTS)||x|
|Special Event Volunteers (Field Day, Photography Day)||x|
|Room Parents and HSA Representatives||x|
|Extracurricular Instructors (Irish Dance, etc.)||x|
|One time classroom speaker||x|
|Event Audience member||x|
|Class Party/McKenna sandwiches/other classroom visits||x|
|Group service projects||x|