Acknowledging that everyone can play a part in promoting the well-being of children and families, many Safeguard the Children parish committees organized special events in April for National Child Abuse Prevention Month as part of their year-round activities.Last Sunday, St. John the Evangelist’s Safeguard the Children committee hosted a Walk-a-Thon in the South Los Angeles parish parking lot after the noon Mass with participants holding signs and carrying specially-ordered reusable bags imprinted with the words, “Keeping Kids Safe.” 

Anita Robinson, parish Safeguard the Children committee chair, notes that students in the religious education program (there is no parish school) have regularly received child abuse prevention training, including cyber-safety classes. Posters such as the new “Five Body Safety Rules” developed by the archdiocesan Office of Safeguard the Children are prominently displayed around the parish.

“We do things all year, including self-assessment of all parish buildings,” said Robinson, committee chair since 2007. “All of these activities have raised awareness because it keeps child protection in the forefront. We’re a parish trying to save children --- that’s our motivation.”

On April 25, the Holy Family Safeguard the Children committee in South Pasadena presented an evening workshop on “Promoting Safety and Character in Youth Sports” highlighting ways to prevent child abuse in athletics. Oscar McBride, associate director of Notre Dame University’s “Play Like a Champion Today” program, spoke on providing a safe environment to children and youth who participate in sports.

This is the third annual lecture held at Holy Family as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, according to Elizabeth Calciano, chair of the Safeguard the Children committee, which includes subcommittees working on projects such as parish web-based compliance. “People appreciate the information we provide; we get a lot of good feedback,” said Calciano.

On April 28, 10:30 a.m., St. Alphonsus Church in East L.A. will hold a living rosary in the small school yard with children from the school and the religious education program praying for the prevention of child abuse as well as for survivors of abuse.

“This rosary will help us lift our needs in prayer, offering them to God through Mary who offers her loving protection to all her children,” said Rosalie Nuanes, chair of the Safeguard the Children. Her committee plans monthly activities and events coinciding with the parish school’s monthly Sunday Mass from September to June.

As one of the first parishes to create a Safeguard committee in 2003, St. Alphonsus has several policies in place promoting child protection, including a yearly safe environment walk around the church and school buildings and extra precautions at the annual parish fiesta where chairpersons, security staff and volunteers maintain a close eye on the numerous children attendees.

“Fiesta chairpersons make sure the companies we contract with are aware of St. Alphonsus’ commitment to protect our children,” said Nuanes. Maria Elena Jauregui, parish director of religious education, said parishioners appreciate information provided by the Safeguard the Children committee. “Parents liked the “Teaching Touch Safety” lessons and wanted more,” said Jauregui.

“There’s been a phenomenal rate of compliance and effort in our parishes --- it’s become part of a mindset,” said Joan Vienna, archdiocesan director of the Office of Family Life and archdiocesan coordinator of Safeguard the Children. 

She noted that the archdiocese is starting to develop new resources for the children’s program, starting with the locally-produced “Five Body Safety Rules” poster and continuing with new teaching materials that next year will address the widespread problem of bullying.

St. Monica’s Youth Ministry in Santa Monica has provided resource materials to Vienna from its recent presentation on “Boundaries and Bullying.” “It’s exciting that parishes are developing resources and people are sharing things with me,” said Vienna.

“We have a lot of people working on behalf of Safeguard the Children, including hundreds of VIRTUS facilitators and thousands of adult volunteers,” added Vienna. 

In the archdiocese’s “Working Together to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse” brochure issued this year marking the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Archbishop José Gomez expressed his gratitude for local efforts to prevent child abuse.

“I remain grateful to all those who have labored so diligently to help ensure the safety of our children and young people,” said Archbishop Gomez. “Let’s continue this important work together.”

To receive a free copy of the “Five Body Safety Rules” handout, call the archdiocesan Office of Safeguard the Children, (213) 637-7508.

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