Office of Child Protection introduces new ongoing training

By Maureen Smith
JACKSON – Effective, Jan. 1, the Diocese of Jackson will complement its safe environment program with monthly online training programs from VIRTUS.
It is both the foundation and the structure of all the risk control initiatives undertaken by National Catholic Services. Every employee and volunteer in the diocese will get an email every month with a link to training material. He or she will have to answer a multiple-choice question after reading the bulletin.
The VIRTUS Online Program is integrated with the Diocese of Jackson Protection of Children eApps Database. The eApps database will track and report who has participated in the monthly web-based safe environment training bulletins. Additionally, the VIRTUS website will include Diocesan Protection of Children polices and resource information.
All those who minister to children, young people and vulnerable populations will be provided a user ID and password to enter, and will receive a system email reminder within the first full week of each month that a training bulletin is available to view online.
Anyone logging into the VIRTUS website is offered the Spanish option as well.
New employees and volunteer are still required to participate in a live “Called to Protect” initial training. The month subsequent to the initial training, an applicant will start receiving the monthly bulletin emails.
VIRTUS is the brand name that identifies best practices programs designed to help prevent wrongdoing and promote “rightdoing” within religious organizations. The VIRTUS programs empower organizations and people to better control risk and improve the lives of all those who interact with the Church.
The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (National Catholic) created the programs. Msgr. Kevin McCoy, past board chairman of National Catholic, asked whether child sexual abuse could be prevented and, if so, how? In March of 1998, National Catholic invited prominent national experts in many disciplines to discuss these questions at a forum in Washington, D.C. From those discussions, the initiative for the VIRTUS programs was created. The National Catholic Board of Directors selected an Ad Hoc Committee to oversee development of the programs. The Ad Hoc Committee was assisted by a steering committee of nationally known experts and program and service providers.
“The VIRTUS® Programs empower organizations and people to better control risk and improve the lives of all. The training programs are comprehensive and multi-dimensional incorporating proven best practice standards for the ‘prevention’ of child sexual abuse,” wrote Pat O’Neal, Virtus executive director in an email. “The programs also incorporate best practice procedures for identifying problematic situations, reporting child sexual abuse, screening and selection of employees and volunteers, and addressing victim/survivor advocacy and healing,” O’Neal added.
“Most initial training programs establish awareness, but few change behavior. With the VIRTUS programs, the potential for successful behavioral change can be increased via the VIRTUS Online system. Monthly scheduled online training bulletins reinforce knowledge gained during awareness training with a continued focus on the prevention of child sexual abuse and the abuse of vulnerable adults,” said O’Neal.
Virtus is Latin for excellence, valor, moral strength and courage — the same characteristics needed for caring adults who interact with children and protect them from abuse. Through these programs that have reached more than 2.5 million adults, caring adults become partners with parents to ensure that all children are protected.
Vickie Carrollo, Safe Environment Coordinator for the diocese said she is excited about the new program. “I am always happy when we can strengthen our program, but I also believe the monthly bulletins are interesting and cover such a huge variety of topics,” she said.
Carrollo wanted to express her thanks to everyone involved in safe environment training and maintenance. “Thank you for the hours you have given, for your service to the Church and for the children you have protected.  Many blessings as we continue our journey into the future of safe environments.”