HARTFORD – The Office of Safe Environment of the Archdiocese of Hartford (AOH), which implements procedures to ensure the safety of minors and vulnerable adults, received notice from Stonebridge Business Partners that it has successfully completed its annual audit and is in compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
All results from this audit are compiled with data collected from all dioceses in the United States. A final annual report is produced by the National Review Board and submitted to the Holy See in Vatican City. The mission of the Holy See is to adhere to the moral authority of Pope Francis.
The on-site audit took place this past October. In addition to reviewing information from the Office of Safe Environment, auditors selected four parishes and two Catholic schools at random and reviewed their records, finding them to be compliant, as well. The parishes were St. Gabriel in Windsor, St. Mary in New Britain, St. Mary in Simsbury and St. Therese in Granby. The Catholic schools were St. Mary in Simsbury and St. Gabriel in Windsor.
The Office of Safe Environment of the AOH is committed to upholding the national charter, “Promise to Protect, Pledge to Heal Charter,” which was implemented by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in 2002. Every parish and school has a site coordinator who ensures that all policies and procedures are followed in their parish or school.
The charter, which includes 17 articles that each diocese in the United States must follow in order to be in compliance with mandated audits, requires that a safe environment program be provided for all minors, employees, volunteers and clergy. For adults, the AOH has adopted the “Virtus: Protecting God’s Children” program, and, for minors, the “Child Lures Prevention” program. The latter is offered to all children attending Catholic schools and those enrolled in parish religious formation programs in grades one through 10. The Virtus sessions are mandatory for all employees of the church and for most ministries that have volunteers in parishes and schools. Those who attend the Virtus trainings must be age 18 or over.
A listing of sessions can be found by going to www.virtusonline.org and following the links for the sessions held in the archdiocese.
“We are very fortunate to have a volunteer force of about 70 facilitators who conduct these sessions. The sessions are available in English, Spanish, Polish and Korean. This year alone, over 225 sessions were conducted and over 4,500 adults were trained,” said Kathleen Nowosadko, director of the Office of Safe Environment.
In addition to the safe environment program, the charter mandates that all staff and volunteers who come in contact with children submit to a criminal background check. In 2014, an estimated 200 fingerprint background checks were completed, and over 5,700 standard background checks were submitted, according to Office of Safe Environment records.
“The commitment from our schools and parishes is tremendous in helping to keep minors and vulnerable adults in our archdiocese safe,” said Mrs. Nowosadko.
If you have knowledge or suspect that a minor or vulnerable adult (an adult with an intellectual disability) has been sexually abused, in any manner, by personnel of the Archdiocese of Hartford, you are urged to report this information to: Sister Dolores Lahr, CSJ, victim assistance coordinator, at 860-541-6475 or firstname.lastname@example.org. All reports of sexual abuse are immediately reported to law enforcement, which is mandatory.
“As an archdiocese, we are committed to providing support and healing to those who have been tragically abused,” said Mrs. Nowosadko.