Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

Protecting children and youth

Screening and training initiatives

The Archdiocese of Chicago has programs in place to help prevent incidents of child abuse. These initiatives focus on screening and training.

Prevention training on how to protect children began in September 2003 in the Archdiocese of Chicago. The Virtus program developed by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. titled Protecting God’s Children for Adults™ educates employees, clergy, and adult volunteers who work with children in the prevention of child sexual abuse. Virtus training emphasizes the dangers and warning signs of abuse as well as ways to prevent it; the nature and effect of sexual abuse of minors by adults; recognition of patterns of behavior of sexual predators; and proper reporting of abuse when there is reasonable cause to believe abuse has occurred. Virtus combines on-site, instructor-led, training sessions, awareness videos, trainthe- facilitator education and monthly continuing education and training online.

The Child Lures Program is being taught in schools and parish religious education programs. This program provides encouragement to children to report inappropriate behavior to a trusted adult.

All employees and clergy who work with children must complete a background check prior to being hired or beginning ministry in the Church. Also, every adult volunteer who works with children and young people is similarly screened. Beginning with the 2007 – 2008 school year, all new teachers and school staff must submit to fingerprinting. As part of the screening protocol, all clergy and staff and volunteers who work with children are subject to additional screening against the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services database that tracks indicated (founded) reports of child abuse and neglect.

A uniform Code of Conduct has been developed and promulgated to all clergy, staff and volunteers throughout the Archdiocese. The Code calls for all who minister to children and young persons to maintain a professional role and to be mindful of the trust and power they possess as a minister. The code specifies unacceptable conduct when in the presence of minors. All clergy and employees, and adult volunteers who work with children must read and sign the Code of Conduct Acknowledgement Form.

More information about the Virtus program, background checks and the uniform code of conduct can be found on the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Web site, by clicking on “protection of children.”

Resources for parents:

To report allegations of child abuse to civil authorities:

  • Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. In Illinois, call (800) 25-ABUSE or (800) 252-2873; outside Illinois, call (217) 524-2607; TTY (800) 358-5117
  • In Cook County, call Cook County State’s Attorney chief of sex crimes, Shauna Boliker, (773) 869-6492
  • In Lake County, call Lake County State’s Attorney Chief of the Criminal Division, Patricia Fix, (847) 377-3000

To report allegations of the sexual abuse of a minor by a priest or deacon, lay church employee or volunteer to the Archdiocese of Chicago, call Leah McCLuskey at (312) 751-5205 or (800) 994-6200.

Office for the Protection of Children and Youth
(312) 751-5254

Children Matter Network

The Children Matter Network Web site is offered by a partnership that
includes the Office for Protection of Children and Youth and all of its
members, the archdiocesan Office for Catechesis, Office of Youth Ministry,
Office of Catholic Schools, Family Ministries Office and Department
of Communications. It offers resources for parents and others to help keep
children safe from pre-kindergarten through high school, including various
educational opportunities.

Past topics include: Internet safety, summer safety tips, summer family
fun ideas, words that help kids and the annual Child Abuse Prevention
Month campaign in April.