Twenty years ago Catholics across the United States began to embrace a new, broad initiative to protect children from abuse, especially sexual abuse. This plan included training, background checks, and safe environment protocols in every parish, school and institution. In the past two decades the practices have grown and been refined to include all vulnerable persons, and especially the growth of internet-based grooming and abuse.
After twenty years, things have changed. It is time for retraining and recommitment to the plan that has saved so many children. In light of this, the Archdiocese has issued new protocols and policies.
All Safe Environment materials and training will be through the site: www.virtus.org
- If you have taken the training, “Protecting God’s Children” prior to 2020, you must participate in an update/ recertification if you are still in contact with children or vulnerable persons.
- You will also complete a new Code of Conduct, which will be through the virtus.org site.
- You will also complete a background check form on the virtus.org site. The background check information will be sent to the parish, and we will complete the check.
Everyone must go through the www.virtus.org site for this process. If you are participating in the retraining and do not remember your username or the email you used, please call the parish office. We may be able to help. Some of you may have already received an email about this. If you do not have email, also contact the office and we will provide you with further directions.
For all who have participated in “Protecting God’s Children” before, you can recertify in three ways: 1. Though an online, independent, video (it does not have to be done in one sitting), 2. Through an online live ‘zoom’ group, or 3. At a live parish session.
Virtus will also have you complete the Code of Conduct and (soon) the background check form.
Simply go to www.virtus.org and in the training tab click, “recertification”.
We now know that everyone who participated in the “Protecting God’s Children” workshop prior to 2020 must be recertified if they still work with children. This can be accomplished in 1 of 3 possible ways: online modules, online group ‘zoom’ setting, or an in-person training. A new Code of Conduct and background check are also required.
www.virtus.org is the platform for everything. If you are recertifying using the online only process, when you log in you will notice you are given two videos: Protecting God’s Children and Vulnerable Adults. This is an important part of our care for others. Vulnerable adults are at great risk for abuse of many kinds. This video contains important information. If you are doing a live zoom or live in person PGC you will still be assigned the Vulnerable Adults video to complete.
Regarding new employees and new recurrent adult volunteers:
All new paid employees, stipend individuals, coaches, catechists, shared-time teachers, VBS staff, lunchroom/playground volunteers, and tutors must complete:
- A live Protecting God’s Children training, available either in person or via Zoom. The live in-person and Zoom sessions are two-and-a-half to three hours in length and include the Protecting God’s Children 4.0 module.
- The online Vulnerable Adults 2.0 Module Registrants to the live sessions are automatically assigned access to the 40-minute online Vulnerable Adults 2.0 module, which they complete on their own time. The registrant can pause, save, and resume their position in the training if they cannot complete it in one sitting. Individuals in this category will receive certificates showing completion of the live module and the online Vulnerable Adults module.
Occasional new adult volunteers who do not serve in a recurring role with youth (as listed above) may complete Protecting God’s Children certification either through a live session (in person or via Zoom) or by completing the Protecting God’s Children Online Awareness Session 4.0 and Vulnerable Adults 2.0 combined self-paced training module. The online modules take approximately two hours to complete. The registrant can pause, save, and resume their position in the training if they cannot complete it in one sitting. Individuals in this category will receive a certificate showing completion of the combined module.
How do I know which module to take?
During the registration process on Virtus (virtus.org), each new registrant responds to a series of questions regarding their role or ministry. The Virtus system will automatically determine the required training options available to them. If the online training module is an option for that registrant, that training module is immediately assigned and can be completed at their convenience. If a live session is required, the system will point the registrant in that direction.
To recap from the last sections: all adults who work with children and vulnerable adults are required to be current with 1. Protecting God’s Children (PGC) workshop & Vulnerable Adults online video. This must be redone if you completed the workshop prior to 2020. There are multiple formats to assist you in this. 2. A new Code of Conduct is signed every year. 3. A new background check will be completed every year. All three of these requirements are completed at www.virtus.org. For questions on this please see the bulletins of the last 2 weeks or call the parish office.
Will we have to do this again?
Yes. PGC updating will now be required every 3 years and the Code of Conduct and Background Checks will be done every year. This may seem like a lot, but it does not take a significant amount of time to complete and remember this is to help us take care of the most vulnerable among us. Recent studies show that the process we are following works! The Virtus site will remind you when it is time to redo any paperwork. Just keep your email current.
Is there a grace period? For example, if I want to deliver food baskets, take communion to our homebound or be a catechist aide, how much time do I have to get all this done?
Remember that the skills and information in this process are important to keeping people safe and doing ministry well. All three components (PGC workshop, background check and the code of conduct) must be done prior to ministry with children or vulnerable persons. There are many opportunities available on the virtus.org site.
What’s the cost?
This important work is covered by the Archdiocesan budget.
What if I don’t have an email address?
We strongly urge you to create one. They are free. For further concerns, contact the parish office. We will put you in touch with someone who can help.
Can I take this even if I don’t work with children? I’d like to learn about keeping kids safe.
Of course, just register at www.virtus.org. It would wonderful if everyone had this information!
Beyond all this, what is St Blase doing to protect children and vulnerable adults?
St Blase has had a Safe Environment policy in place for decades. This includes the PGC process, but also protocols like locked doors, open/ visual access etc. (You can have/ see a copy of this by contacting the office.) In addition, key staff and volunteers must also participate in mandated reporter training annually.
What about our children/ teens? Don’t they get training?
In previous sections we talked about updates for adult volunteers. But what about teen volunteers? What are we doing for our children?
Our teens learn about service by participating in our community as catechist aides, helping with the youth choir, Summer Circle or other opportunities. While teens must be supervised by adults, they too, in this new role, take on a level of responsibility for children.
For this reason, all teens who work with children must also participate in a Protecting God’s Children process designed specifically for them. High School students must complete Virtus’ online workshop: Healthy Relationships for Teens 2.0 Online Module Expansion with Safe Environment Components. This module is accessible online through Virtus and is intended to help youth identify the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships. The module also equips teens to follow a plan to do the right thing for themselves and others upon recognizing an unhealthy situation. This module takes approximately 35 minutes to complete.
To access the module, teen volunteers need to register on www.virtus.org. After inputting their date of birth, the system will know they are a minor and will assign them the Healthy Relationships for Teens 2.0 module.
Also for the last couple of decades children have received age appropriate training for safe environments in our faith formation program. This too has been redone. Beginning with Fall 2023 the program Empowering God’s Children is the safe environment program for school-age youth in kindergarten through grade 12 in the Archdiocese of Detroit. St Blase parents will partner with catechists to help our children acquire the skills to be safe and help others as well. More information will be given parents in the Faith Formation Program this Fall.
Also, know that it is policy that adult do not communicate digitally (like email or text) directly with youth without signed parental consent. It is policy that parents also receive the same communication.
And remember the policy is: Individuals with knowledge of sexual abuse by clergy or other Church representatives are urged to contact local law enforcement and/or the Michigan Attorney General’s Office at 844-324-3374 or email@example.com. Individuals also may contact the Archdiocese of Detroit by visiting protect.aod.org, calling the toll-free 24/7 victim assistance line at 866-343-8055, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. There are no time limits or restrictions on individuals wishing to report abuse. Every complaint shared with the Archdiocese of Detroit, regardless of its source or the date of the alleged activity, is reported to civil authorities. No complaints are held back, pre-screened or disregarded.