VIRTUS keeps the ‘promise alive’ to protect children
April 10, 2012
HOUSTON — What else can we do to keep all children safe?
That pertinent question is answered in VIRTUS “Keeping the Promise Alive,” a refresher program for “Protecting God’s Children” for adults, which is required training for all parish and school employees and related ministry volunteers who took “Protecting God’s Children” in the years 2003 to 2005. The Archdiocese began the “Keeping the Promise Alive” program for employees and volunteers last fall and continues to implement the training in phases.
In 2013, those Archdiocesan employees and volunteers who completed “Protecting God’s Children” in 2006 to 2008 will be asked to take the “Keeping the Promise Alive” refresher course.
“It is very necessary to have all of these eyes trained to look out after our kids,” said Julie Blevins, the Safe Environment program manager for the Archdiocese. “That is the biggest gift of VIRTUS; it makes aware of what to look for and how we’re to act so the behavior of those who do not have good intentions with children can become more transparent for us to see.”
“Protecting God’s Children” is training conducted by VIRTUS certified facilitators on the prevention of child sexual abuse. The training makes participants aware of the signs of child sexual abuse, the methods and means by which offenders commit abuse, and five easy steps one can use to prevent child sexual abuse.
“Keeping the Promise Alive” provides ongoing awareness for the prevention of child sexual abuse. The material covered in this program identifies and reinforces the lessons of the original “Protecting God’s Children” program by clarifying some of the more challenging aspects of the sessions and strengthening the participants’ ability to recognize risky adults in their environments and to take action to intervene in potentially threatening situations.
Many parishes and schools are continuing to implement “Keeping the Promise Alive” for employees and volunteers who completed “Protecting God’s Children” between 2003 and 2005. Blevins said those employees and volunteers have until Dec. 31, 2012 to take the refresher course. Otherwise, on January 2013, they will be placed in an “inactive” status and unable to serve or volunteer until they complete “Keeping the Promise Alive.”
The refresher program also discusses results found in “Protecting God’s Children” and provides updated background checks for those enrolled. While Blevins said background checks are certainly essential to the process of child safety, “it is those who are watching who are going to prevent” any inappropriate or criminal acts.
“And that is not measurable,” she said. “Sometimes, people ask how many kids were prevented from being abused or approached inappropriately, and you don’t know that because thankfully it was prevented because someone brought [the concern] to our attention or the pastor’s attention.”
Blevins said VIRTUS training facilitators are still being sought, particularly for Spanish-speaking sessions.
For more information about VIRTUS or Safe Environment Programs, call your parish or school safe environment coordinator or visit www.archgh.org.