A Safe Environment for Children
About VIRTUS Training
All volunteers are required by the Archdiocese to complete VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” (PCG) training. This is a one-time obligation, unlike the annual CORI process. Volunteers are defined as parishioners participating in ministries, serving on councils, and doing any type of volunteer work. If this is you and you have not done the training, or if you’d like to get involved with a ministry, please sign up for one of the diocesan courses here. Please note: You must register and make an account in the VIRTUS Online portal to view available courses.
The Protection of Children
The Archdiocese of Boston has in place a vigorous program to protect children from harm and to educate its ministers and faithful about the nature of abuse, with a goal of increasing knowledge, creating a safe environment for children, and recognizing and reporting potentially dangerous situations.
Policies & Procedures for the Protection of Children
The Archdiocese published the current set of “Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Children” in 2003. This document contains information about safe environment education programs, pastoral outreach services to victims of child abuse, policies about reporting abuse and neglect, and how complaints of child abuse are handled by the Archdiocese. In 2004, the Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight also published a condensed “Pocket Guide to the Policies and Procedures for the Protection of Children” that focuses primarily on reporting incidents of child abuse. The condensed version also contains a one-page flow chart with a sequence of actions to follow (and organizations and phone numbers to call) if child abuse is suspected, disclosed, or observed. The complete bound text of the policy, “Policies, and Procedures for the Protection of Children,” as well as the smaller “Pocket Guide,” are available in the narthex and in the Parish Office. There are also links to both of these documents below.
Child Abuse Prevention
At Saint Cecilia, we have a Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Team. The CAP Team is responsible for educating all parish clergy, employees, and volunteers in mandated reporting laws and for facilitating the VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children” training required of all clergy, employees, and volunteers who minister directly to or have the potential for interaction with children, youth, or vulnerable parishioners. The CAP Team members have been trained by the Archdiocese and are available to provide consultation and support to anyone in the parish who may suspect, observe, or be the recipient of a disclosure of child abuse or neglect. Parishioners should always feel free to contact any member of the CAP Team with any questions or concerns.
The Saint Cecilia Child Abuse Prevention Team
Lois T. Flaherty
Lois Flaherty is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who has been a member of Saint Cecilia Parish since 2001 and helped to start the Child Abuse Prevention Team in 2002. Before moving to Boston in 2001, she practiced for over thirty years in Baltimore and Philadelphia. In Baltimore, she headed the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the University of Maryland. She teaches at Cambridge Health Alliance, is active in professional organizations, and edits the journal Adolescent Psychiatry. She is a graduate of Duke Medical School and trained in psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins.
Letitia Howland has been a member of Saint Cecilia Parish since 2003 and volunteers in various parish ministries, including lector and hunger and homelessness. She is a passionate advocate for children, especially those pushed to the margins. Her background includes various senior leadership roles with Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps, Inc along with a variety of management positions worldwide with General Electric Company. She also volunteered for a year in New York City with Covenant House, a homeless shelter for young people aged 18-21. Letitia graduated from St. Lawrence University with a bachelor’s degree in economics.
Maria R. Roche, NP
Maria Roche has been a parishioner at Saint Cecilia Parish since 2005, and has three children who have gone through the Faith Formation Program. She has worked in the nursing profession for more than twenty years, including thirteen years as a nurse practitioner and nursing director of the Gynecologic Oncology Research Program at Mass General Hospital Cancer Center. She also volunteered for ten years as a nurse practitioner serving homeless and runaway youth at Bridge Over Troubled Waters. She is currently working in biotech, running oncology clinical research at Blueprint Medicines. Maria received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing at Georgetown University.
Erin Young, MSW, LICSW
Erin Young is a clinically trained, independently licensed social worker who has been a member of Saint Cecilia Parish since 2010. Before moving to Boston in 2010, Erin and her husband lived in Detroit, Michigan where Erin worked as a therapist and was trained in providing therapy and counseling for sexually traumatized children. She currently works at a regional health insurance provider guiding behavioral health clinical strategy and program development. She is a graduate of Kalamazoo College, where she received a Bachelor’s Degree in Religion and Political Science, the University of Michigan, where she received her Master’s in Social Work, and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst where she received her Master’s in Business Administration. Both she and her husband are active lectors at Saint Cecilia.
Protecting God’s Children for Adults
The prevention and awareness training at the parish level for adults is called “Protecting God’s Children” (PGC). PGC was created by The National Catholic Risk Retention Group and is currently in use in over 80 dioceses in the United States. PGC consists of classroom presentations, printed materials, and videos that focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse and the protection of children. Training in the signs that indicate a child is being abused in some way and guidance on how to talk with children about these issues will also be included, as will training in the responsibilities of mandated reporting and the Archdiocese of Boston’s policies and procedures for preventing child abuse. An online component called “VIRTUS On-Line” will provide continued training through monthly bulletins and annual recertification. One-time attendance at a PGC training session is mandatory for clergy, staff, children’s catechists, Saint Cecilia CARES ministers, lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and greeters, but the sessions are open to any adult in the parish who would like to attend.
Code of Ministerial Behavior
All clergy, employees, and volunteers are required to read and sign the Code of Ministerial Behavior for the Archdiocese of Boston. The Code contains the standards of personal and professional behavior for pastoral situations involving children, youth, and adults under the general headings of:
- Conduct with Children and Youth
- Sexual Conduct
- Conduct for Pastoral Counselors and Spiritual Directors
- Conflicts of Interest
- Reporting Ethical or Professional Misconduct
- Staff/Volunteer Well-being
Two Personal Safety Programs for Children in the Parish
We are aware that children are taught about personal safety at home and oftentimes in school. However, children learn more about safety and are more likely to follow safety rules when they have multiple opportunities to practice and talk about these matters. Therefore, in cooperation with the Archdiocese of Boston’s Office of Child Advocacy, we have implemented two personal safety programs for children:
Talking About Touching
Talking About Touching was developed by the Committee for Children (CFC), a nonprofit organization that has researched and developed award-winning social-emotional skills curricula since the late 1970s. CFC is committed to its mission to promote the safety, well being, and social development of children by creating quality educational programs for educators, families, and communities. Children enrolled in our Faith Formation Program who are in grades K2 through 3 have three classes dedicated to the Talking About Touching program. The Talking About Touching program uses time-honored, developmentally appropriate teaching techniques to help children learn safety skills. These include refusing and reporting unsafe touches but also encompass basic safety skills (such as for cars, bikes, and fire) and the Always Ask First Rule. It’s a great way to talk to young children about sensitive but essential topics.
Each of the four grades has its own set of lessons starting with basic safety lessons, such as “Learning Gun Safety—Never Playing with Guns” and “Bicycle Safety,” then moving on to such topics as “Secrets About Touching—Telling a Grown-Up” and “Learning to Be Assertive—Standing Up for Yourself.”
Keeping Children Safe
Keeping Children Safe was adapted from the Michigan Model for Comprehensive School Health Education developed by the Michigan Department of Education under a grant issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health. Children enrolled in our Faith Formation Program who are in grades 4 through 8 have three classes dedicated to the Keeping Children Safe program. The curriculum include a review of the safety rules with increased emphasis on the ability to judge risks, a discussion of power and when it is appropriate for others to have power over them and when it is not, a discussion of peer pressure and power, babysitting and appropriate touch, internet and cyber safety, bullying, and making responsible and healthy choices.
At the beginning of each school year, we host a parent meeting conducted by our parish Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Team. This is an opportunity for the CAP Team to introduce themselves to the parents, tell you a bit about the role of the parish CAP Team, and show a thirty-minute video called “What Do I Say Now?” This award-winning video can help parents learn different ways to talk with children about touching safety. Examples are also provided to help parents respond appropriately to a child’s disclosure of abuse. The CAP Team will also discuss the Talking About Touching and Keeping Children Safe programs.
How to Report Crimes Against Children
The Department of Children and Families (DCF) is the Massachusetts state agency charged with the responsibility of protecting children from child abuse and neglect. To report abuse or neglect, call the Child-at-Risk Hotline anytime of the day or night at 1-800-792-5200. State law requires professionals whose work brings them in contact with children to notify DCF if they suspect that a child has been—or is at risk of being—abused or neglected. The Department receives reports on more than 100,000 children each year. Archdiocesan policy requires all of us to be protectors of children by being aware of how to make a report. A report is to be filed with DCF when we have reasonable cause to suspect that a child under the age of 18 is suffering a physical or emotional injury resulting from abuse (physical, emotional, sexual) or neglect of any kind.
The requirement is to immediately report these situations by phone to DCF and to follow up with a written report within 48 hours. Anyone can make a report if there is a reasonable cause to believe that a child is suffering in this way. See our pastor, faith formation director, or a member of our Child Abuse Prevention Team if you have any questions. DCF can be reached at 617-748-2444 or via the Child-at-Risk Hotline: 1-800-792-5200.
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Facts for Families