Fostering safe environments in Church, school, family is a work of mercy

Everyone called to participate in National Child Abuse Prevention Month

The “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) says, “In Matthew 25, the Lord, in his commission to his apostles and disciples, told them that whenever they show mercy and compassion to the least ones, they show it to him.”

Reflecting on the logo of this Jubilee Year of Mercy, we see that we are invited to follow the merciful example of the Father carrying another on his shoulders. Safe environment programs are about carrying children and youth on our shoulders, diligently carrying out all possible efforts to keep our environments safe for the least among us. We carry on our shoulders the responsibility of giving children and young people an environment that is safe and nurtures wholesome growth towards holiness.

The Diocese of New Ulm, along with other dioceses throughout the United States, has enacted policies to address sexual abuse in Church ministry and to help ensure safe environments for children and youth. We recognize this as our responsibility, not as a one-time obligation or as a simple set of requirements to meet, but as an ongoing commitment to answer the call to protect all God’s children and firmly establish and maintain safe environments throughout Church ministry.

For over a decade, the principles and procedures of the USCCB’s “Charter” have been integrated into Church life.
These efforts are important in addressing child abuse.

As the diocesan coordinator of Safe Environment, I work to assist all entities of the Diocese of New Ulm in providing safe environments for the youth and young people we serve. In turn, each person involved with our sexual abuse awareness and prevention programs carries out works of mercy on behalf of the least ones among us.

These actions include educating oneself in order to have a better awareness of the signs of possible sexual abuse in our communities, especially by completing the ongoing VIRTUS safe environment training modules assigned to employees and to volunteers interacting with minors. They also include following protocols to address potential situations that need closer monitoring.

In the United States, April is designated as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. It’s a month intended to spread awareness of the importance of protecting children. The Diocese of New Ulm encourages all individuals and organizations to play a role in making the communities in the diocese a better place for
children and families.

By ensuring that parents have the knowledge, skills, and resources they need to care for their children, we can help promote children’s social and emotional well-being as well as help prevent child maltreatment within families and communities.

Research shows that when parents possess six specific protective factors, the risk for neglect and abuse diminishes and optimal outcomes for children, youth, and families are promoted. These six factors are: nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development, parental resilience, social connections, concrete supports for parents, and social and emotional developmental well-being.

We can all make a difference. April is a time to recognize the important role that each individual plays in protecting children. Everyone’s participation is critical. Focusing on ways to build and promote the protective factors, in every interaction with children and families, is one of the best things our communities can do to help prevent child maltreatment and promote optimal child development. Interested individuals and organizations may find more information at https://www.childwelfare.gov/topics/preventing/preventionmonth/.

We are signs of God the Father’s action in our lives when we seek to protect the least among us. We can give witness to our faith by being vigilant in keeping our children and young people safe. In this way, we continue to sow the seeds of mercy for the good of our children, young people, and families.