The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was created 20 years ago by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a response to the wake of the sexual abuse crisis. Under “The Charter”, as it has come to be called, dioceses must employ safe environment programs to shine light on circumstances where abuse might occur, teaching children to identify dangerous situations, and training adults to spot warning signs and to report misconduct and abuse.
Our mission in the Diocese of Sacramento is to create a safe environment for children through ongoing education and discussion and to create a community of trusted and trained adults.
Training trusted adults
In the Diocese of Sacramento, more than 140,000 adults have been trained over the past 10 years in child abuse prevention. Our current program, Safe Haven, is required for all clergy, employees and volunteers. Safe Haven is a three-part video series, which boldly identifies real-life abuse and neglect situations that volunteers, and employees may encounter. The training addresses important topics such as pornography, grooming techniques, social media interaction and boundary violations.
It is important that we train adults on what grooming looks like and how to recognize these behaviors. The Safe Haven program goes into detail to explain and show how an adult grooms a child. What is grooming? Grooming is when someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit, and abuse them. It is generally a slow and gradual process that involves boundary violations and secrets. In many cases, being able to identify grooming techniques allows for intervention prior to abuse occurring. Knowing and understanding the warning signs means adults can recognize early signs of inappropriate relationships between an adult and a child and identify potential abuse before it happens.
The Safe Haven training also covers the different types of abuse that adults should be aware of. It explores emotional, physical, sexual abuse, and neglect. The comprehensive program covers what the signs are for abuse and neglect and how to report. Each video segment is followed by a short quiz that emphasizes the key learning points of the video. Safe Haven training has to be renewed every three years.
Empowering our children
Circle of Grace is the designated training program for children enrolled in parish faith formation programs and diocesan schools. The lessons are taught each year and are unique to each grade level. Circle of Grace serves the dual purpose of educating and informing youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others.
Each of the lessons in the Circle of Grace curriculum centers on the following meditation:
Raise your hands above your head then bring
your outstretched arms slowly down.
Extend your arms
in front of you
and then behind you
embrace all of the space around you
slowly reach down to your feet.
Knowing that God is in this space with you.
This is your Circle of Grace;
you are in it.
The program teaches children to recognize that each of us lives within a “Circle of Grace” that holds our very essence in body, mind, heart, and soul. Through Circle of Grace, children are taught to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, and spiritual boundaries; recognize when boundary violations are about to occur; and demonstrate how to take action when boundaries are threatened or violated.
The beauty of this program is that is discussion based – it is taught in the context of a relationship. It is through face-to-face interaction and discussion that children learn how to communicate and foster appropriate relationships. Moral development and discernment mature with real relationships not with technology relationships.
The overall objectives of each lesson are to teach that each of us are sacred in God’s eyes.
Objectives of the Circle of Grace Program
- Children will understand they are created by God and live in the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- Children will be able to describe the Circle of Grace which God gives each of us.
- Children will be able to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries.
- Children will be able to identify all types of boundary violations.
- Children will demonstrate how to take action if any boundary is threatened or violated.
We hold the responsibility to provide a safe and protective environment for our children. A truly safe and protective environment is one where children recognize when they are safe or unsafe and know how to bring their concerns, fears, and uncertainties to the trusted adults in their lives.
The Diocese of Sacramento pledges its commitment to solid and enduring programs that will protect children and young people, foster vigilance on the part of all our staff and volunteers and help heal the pain caused by abuse.
For more information about the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, visit: usccb.org/offices/child-and-youth-protection/charter-protection-children-and-young-people.
For more information about the safe environment programs in the Diocese of Sacramento visit www.scd.org/safe-environment.
Anyone who has reason to believe abuse of a child or young person by clergy, employees or volunteers in any of the dioceses’ schools or parishes has occurred, or could occur, is encouraged to report this immediately. It is important to understand that you need not wait for proof or certainty that abuse occurred. If you suspect abuse, please report it immediately. Reports should be made to law enforcement or other civil authorities (child protective services or adult protective services) and then to the Diocese of Sacramento via the toll-free line at 866-777-9133.
Katita Schloemann is safe environment coordinator for the Diocese of Sacramento.
Protecting our children and youth
Safe environment policies and practices in the Diocese of Sacramento
• In June 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) created a document that would guide the efforts of the Church in the United States in creating safe environments. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People was promulgated in June 2002.
• Each year, the Diocese of Sacramento is audited by an outside agency for safe environment compliance with The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Diocese of Sacramento has participated in charter compliance audits since their inception.
• All clergy, employees and volunteers are required to complete Live Scan fingerprinting. Volunteers are cleared through the Department of Justice. Clergy and employees are cleared through the Department of Justice and FBI. In addition, all clergy who have served internationally are cleared through the respective countries.
• In addition to background checks, all clergy, employees, and volunteers are required to complete a child abuse recognition and reporting program – Safe Haven. This three-part video series identifies real-life abuse and neglect situations that adults may encounter. This training, which is renewed every three years, increases awareness of and sensitivity to grooming techniques, social media interaction and boundary issues. Most importantly, the training makes clear to everyone who serves in our diocese that our policies for the protection of youth must be understood, accepted, and always followed.
• Circle of Grace is the designated training program for children enrolled in parish faith formation programs and diocesan schools. Circle of Grace is taught each year with lessons unique to each grade level. Circle of Grace serves the dual purpose of educating and informing youth about the value of positive relationships with God and others.
• The Diocese of Sacramento provides a Pastoral Care Coordinator to assist persons who have suffered abuse by members of the clergy and other Catholic Church workers. A toll-free number is made available to report abuse: (866) 777-9133.
• An Independent Review Board that includes lay experts in criminal justice, psychology and child welfare advises the bishop of Sacramento in the assessment of allegations. The review board brings outside expertise and a focused commitment to child safety and welfare.