Safe Environments Beyond Where Church Programs Reach

Teresa Pitt Green, Founder

The good news is that the US Catholic Church has rolled out a child protection program across every diocese and in every parish, school or other organization working with children or minors.

All adults working with children or teens undergo training – and re-training on a regular basis. Children and teens are also trained in ways that are age-appropriate. Ensuring a safe environment for children, teens and vulnerable adults is an ongoing process, worthy of time and attention and resources, always too slow if even one victim is harmed.

One of the central issues for survivors of abuse by clergy or others with authority in the Church is how to ensure no other child or minor suffers our agony. That is part of a ministry to survivors not just part of protecting those who need protection now.

The Church has done a great deal to keep that promise to us, although, of course, constant vigilance and awareness is needed to keep up with how sexual predators adapt to new “challenges.”

The key challenge? The one at the heart of all other challenges?

Sexual predators still exist. Child abusers do not disappear. Our Church environs may be safer, but children beyond the walls of our facilities and programs are still at risk. Thanks to technology, they are less safe, not safer.

For that reason, it’s good to know about programs online with resources for parents and also for everyone working with kids and teens all around us, including educators, coaches, mentors. The list is quite long. There are many who do not have the benefit of child protection programs within the Church setting.

Two of the best national programs are worth having on hand. Or using at home. Or sharing with non-Catholic educators, parents and any others caring for children and teens.

To start, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children does much more than most people realize.

For one thing, it offers programs, resources and online activities to promote child protection. This is their way of reducing the number of missing and exploited children.

NCMEC expertise has developed for years by working closely with law enforcement in missing-child incidents, family support teams, law enforcement training and research. Consider sharing or using some or all of this information:

  • KidSmartz has online resources in child protection for parents, educators and kids. There are four personal safety “rules,” and several kid activities led by kids in videos, for children even younger than four, taught by their peers in nonthreatening ways.
  • NetSmartz 2.0 is a great online resource for keeping kids and teens safe online. Considering that the average age of a child targeted and abducted into the sex trade in the US is 12 years old, parents and teachers getting savvy on this topic is very important.
  • Sexting is also a danger for kids and teens now, and in their future as well. There is a full program — with all needed resources — for getting your kid’s (or your) explicit photos or images off the web.

Prevent Child Abuse America has been noted in this magazine before. Founder Mike Hoffman serves as Chairman of the Board for Prevent Child Abuse Illinois. This organization is one of the highest rated groups in terms of charitable organizations with minimal admin costs and maximum impact. Consider some great resources and activities from these groups, too, like:

  • The national association offers the Resilience Project, which looks at the physical and psychological impact of abuse in childhood and explores ways to cultivate resilience in children.
  • From Child Abuse Illinois there is a resource about how to prevent child sexual abuse, including signs and cyber-security tips.

If you’re looking for a way to keep teens active this summer or fall, and they are interested in promoting safe environments for all children and teens, you can visit Mike’s Kits for Hosting a Pinwheels for Prevention Event for hosting a Pinwheels for Prevention Event in your parish or school.


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