Get the Catholic New World eNewsletter

Advertisements ad

The InterVIEW

Archdiocese forging abuse-prevention alliances

A regular feature of The Catholic New World, The InterVIEW is an in-depth conversation with a person whose words, actions or ideas affect today's Catholic. It may be affirming of faith or confrontational. But it will always be stimulating.

Because of the good work being done in the Archdiocese of Chicago to protect children from sexual abuse, the church here is forming strong alliances with child-abuse prevention agencies locally and nationally that can benefit children everywhere. That was the consensus from speakers at the fourth-annual National Safe Environment Leadership Conference held March 1- 5 at the Westin Hotel on Michigan Avenue.

This year’s conference was organized by Womazetta Jones, director of the Safe Environment Office; Jan Slattery director of the Office for Protection of Children and Youth; and other staff from that office.

Keynoter Jim Hmurovich, president and CEO of Prevent Child Abuse America, spoke with editor Joyce Duriga while at the conference.

Catholic New World: Do you think it is more important to be proactive or reactive in preventing child abuse?

Jim Hmurovich: It’s imperative to be proactive in the prevention of abuse and neglect. The data is stunning. ... When you put all of that information together, you find out that many bad things happen to very young children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the younger the child, the higher the rate of victimization.

Now when we take a look at the fact that during the same period of time a child’s brain is developing — a brain that will set the course of that child’s life — and adverse childhood experiences like abuse and neglect hurts that development — all of a sudden that’s a double whammy. We’ve got to make sure that children grow up in healthy, safe and loved environments.

We’ve got to make sure we support our parents with the right type of information so parents can be the parents they want to be. Otherwise, we’re taking a risk with that child’s ability to lead a good, healthy, productive life. We believe prevention is where we should be investing our money.

CNW: You have been working with the Archdiocese of Chicago and some of its prevention programs. What are some of your thoughts about what is being done here?

Hmurovich: I am absolutely impressed with the work of Jan Slattery, Womazetta Jones and most importantly Cardinal Francis George. The leadership that the cardinal is exhibiting is tremendous. He understands the issue. He has compassion for people and he has the energy to want to do the right things.

I’m a big fan of what is going on here at the archdiocese and I see that the partnerships that we’re attempting to grow are going to grow into a beautiful national movement thanks to the leadership of the people at this convention.

CNW: What is it about what the archdiocese does that you like?

Hmurovich: I think you [the Archdiocese of Chicago] take a holistic approach. In any service that you provide, it’s about the entire person and providing the services that support the information necessary to make the person feel as part of a community and to feel good about themselves and be a productive member of the community. I think everything the archdiocese does is built around that.

CNW: What role can faith communities and people of faith play in preventing child abuse?

Hmurovich: I’ve been a practicing Catholic all of my life. The best way that I think we can work together and move ahead is two-fold. First, I think we have to all accept that children are all of our responsibility.

And that it can be something simple to help. Sometimes it’s as simple as walking through an airport and seeing that a mom has a child in her arms and is pushing a baby stroller and she’s also trying to carry the luggage with her. Wouldn’t it make sense to reduce stress and anxiety there by somebody saying “Hey, can I help?” Those are the little things each one of us can do everyday that can make a difference.

Where I see the real partnership and real opportunity that is coming is that our vision is the same. The Catholic Church believes in social justice. The Catholic Church believes in community. The Catholic Church believes in the individual rights of people as well as the role of the family.

We believe the same things. We are natural partners to get an agenda to the national level and make sure the America actually passes public policy that comprehensively makes the ethical treatment of children its number one priority.