In the winter of 2017, the Diocesan Review Board (DRB) met to discuss and compare the diocesan safe environment training program for adults who have regular contact with children. The New Jersey Child Assault Prevention (CAP) program had been the training workshop since 2004.
The DRB looked at a national program called VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children. Collectively, they decided to recommend to Bishop Dennis Sullivan that the Diocese of Camden change from CAP to VIRTUS. Bishop accepted the board’s recommendation and for the past several months, my office has been occupied with the transition.
VIRTUS comes under the umbrella of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group. Development of the program began in 1997 and in March 1998 approximately 60 pre-eminent experts in the field of child sexual abuse met to put the program together. The main question these experts had was, “Can adults learn how to prevent child sexual abuse?”
Of the 197 dioceses and eparchies in the United States, 130 use Protecting God’s Children as the safe environment training program for adults. It is a three-hour session including two videos. Protecting God’s Children is presented in adult-learning style which means instead of a lecture, there is constant interaction among the participants. It is also a faith-based presentation, rooted in Roman Catholic spirituality.
In May, 15 people from around the diocese experienced a one-and-a-half-day training to become facilitators. In August I will train nine more. These people include catechists, catechetical leaders, school teachers, principals and more.
At the end of August, I will facilitate a session for new school personnel at Saint Vincent de Paul School in Mays Landing. As of now, six sessions are scheduled for September and there will be more in the Fall.
For more information on how to sign up for a Protecting God’s Children session, registrants are encouraged to contact the safe environment coordinator at the parish or school. In addition, on the front page of the Diocese of Camden website, there is a button that will guide a registrant through the process.
For more information about VIRTUS Protecting God’s Children, please call the Office of Child & Youth Protection 856-583-6115.
Rod J. Herrera, LCSW, is director, Office of Child & Youth Protection, Diocese of Camden.