Parents have a right to ask the Church ‘What are you doing to keep my child safe?’

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By the Safe Environment Office
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os

While the Church asks parents to send their children to participate in Church events such as Catholic school, CCD, youth activities, field trips, overnight retreats, etc., parents have a right to ask the Church “What are you doing to keep my child safe?”

The Church cannot expect parents to turn over custody of their children unless the Church can demonstrate that it offers a safe, protective environment.

Parents have a right to know that the adults interacting with their children have been trained and screened, that there is adequate supervision, and that there is an appropriate ratio of adults to children especially on higher risk activities such as off-site and overnight events.

Background Checks

Part one of this series addressed the training requirements and those persons in ministry that must complete them. In this part two, we address measures the safe environment program adopts to create that safe, protective environment.

First, the program initiates a background check system that is linked to the VIRTUS Online training program. During the online registration process, the registrants are asked certain questions about their role and ministry in the Church.

Depending on their answers, certain registrants are directed to register for a background check. Those requiring the background check are:

All clergy;
All employees;
Volunteers in a leadership role, such as lector, lay Eucharistic minister, sacristan-;
Volunteers in a ministry that has contact with children;

Volunteers serving as chaperones, babysitters or child care providers, even if only for a single event.

See, AOA Safe Environment Program Article XII. A copy can be found online at www.aganaarch.org.

Supervision

The safe environment program requires adequate supervision over children in the Church’s care. The adult to child ratio for children under 6 years old age should be at least one adult for every six children. In other words if there are seven children then at least two adults should be present.  For children ages 6 through 17, the minimum ratio should be one adult for every 12 children.

Even for small groups, the program recommends at least two persons in supervision of children at all times, if only one adult is available, then a second adult must be available on the premises in case of an emergency. See, AOA Safe Environment Program Article X.

Overnight and Off-Site Events 

The above minimum adult to child ratios are mandatory for overnight and off-site events. Sleeping arrangements may dictate an even higher ratio. Overnight events and off-site events must be approved in advance and must have an adequate number of trained & screened adult chaperones. See, AOA Safe Environment Program Article VI-5.

Parents Right to Observe

Parents have a right to observe programs and activities in which their children participate. To do so, coordinate first with your pastor or parish/school administrator. See, AOA Safe Environment Program Article IV.

The Safe Environment Policies are posted on the archdiocesan website, www.aganaarch.org.  You may contact the archdiocesan Safe Environment Office at safeenvironment@archagana.org for more information.

Editor’s note: this series regarding the Safe Environment Program of the archdiocese aims to help the faithful to better understand the changes and requirements in the program’s policies, procedures, and forms.