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Archives Diocese builds on efforts to protect children

April 24, 2019

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBURG – With a corps of new training facilitators and a refresher training program rolling out, the Diocesepromise to protect of Ogdensburg continues to build on its extensive efforts to prevent and respond to the abuse of children.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg, like many dioceses, religious orders, educational institutions and organizations around the country, requires all clergy, employees and volunteers who have contact with minors to participate in the VIRTUS program, Protecting God's Children for Adults.

The training makes participants aware of the signs of child sexual abuse, the methods and means by which offenders commit abuse, and steps one can use to prevent child sexual abuse. Certified facilitators incorporate policies and procedures into the training, defining child sexual abuse, addressing the reporting of child sexual abuse, the screening and selection of employees and volunteers, and victim advocacy.

“We had an existing pool of about 50 trained facilitators, but some of them who had been active in the program for years were starting to back off a bit or had limited travel availability,” said John Morrison, director of the diocesan Safe Environment Office and Charter compliance coordinator. “And we had some geographic areas where we had no facilitators.”

So, in December, the Safe Environment Office scheduled a facilitator training.

“I was hoping to get maybe five to six more people,” Morrison said. “We got 18. Adding 18 people really helps make it so we can offer more sessions in more areas.”

While the course can be offered as an online training, Morrison said the diocese has opted to offer each initial training as an in-person course.

“This training is powerful stuff on the first exposure,” he said. “Facilitators are trained to respond to questions and emotions as people work through it.”

With the new facilitators joining the already existing pool, Morrison said the diocese has a stable program with the ability to offer courses all over the diocese.

“Can’t say enough about the corps of facilitators we have,” he said. “They’ve taken on a huge challenge to lead this program, and they embrace it. For the last couple years, they’ve trained more than 600 people each year. That means we’re still reaching people with this training and still getting new volunteers.”

In addition to training new facilitators, the diocese is in the early stages of rolling out a refresher course for clergy, staff and volunteers who have previously taken the Protecting God’s Children training.

“We have a population of people – clergy, paid employees, youth ministers, catechetical leaders, school principals and teachers – who are required to do continual, monthly trainings,” Morrison said. “But for those who only take it on a one-time basis, we want to roll out a refresher.”

The refresher would be assigned to the required participants through the VIRTUS online program.

“We’ve been piloting the roll out of a refresher module, Keeping the Promise Alive,” Morrison said. “The training is done online.”

Once rolled out, the refresher program also includes options for additional continuing education.

“There are a variety of different modules available,” Morrison said. “Most can be completed in less than 45 minutes. Each covers different topics. There’s one on boundary issues, for example.”

The trainings can be rolled out on a continuing cycle – every two years for example – or when there’s a need to refresh protocols or training on a particular topic.

Morrison said, required or not, he encourages any interested party to take the initial VIRTUS training and as much continuing education as possible.

“The more people out there who are aware of risks, the better,” he said. “This is about protecting our children. We want everyone involved in that.”

For more information, and for a list of upcoming training sessions, go to the Diocese of Ogdensburg Safe Environment page at rcdony.org/safeenv.

The Safe Environment and Charter Compliance Office can also be reached at (315)393-2920, ext. 1440.

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