A Safe Environment for Children

Upcoming VIRTUS Training

Sunday, May 5, 1:00 p.m. | Community Room
Sunday, September 8, 11:00 a.m. | Community Room

VIRTUS is the umbrella term for a two-part training designed to keep children safe in the parish setting. The Archdiocese requires this two-part training of all volunteers and staff who have the potential for direct contact with children or the vulnerable due to their involvement in the parish. The first part, Protecting God’s Children (or PGC), is a training on how to recognize the signs and symptoms that a child is being abused and how to talk with children about these issues. The second part is a mandated reporter training.

All parish staff and volunteers are mandated reporters and are required to attend this one-time training. If you intend to volunteer in the future and haven’t attended this training before, please join us. Please note that both parts will be covered in Sunday’s session and the training will be approximately 3 hours, including videos and group discussion.

Help us by officially registering for this course on January 21 at 11:00 a.m. at https://www.virtusonline.org/. Doing so will create a permanent record of your participation and completion of the training. If you can’t register online, please join us anyway and come a few minutes early so you can be registered in the system. Thank you so much, and we look forward to seeing you!

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

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.

Letitia Howland

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. 

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.

    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 any time 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.