By: Office for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults
The Diocese of San José remains steadfast in our commitment to the safety and well-being of our children and vulnerable adults. Even during pandemic uncertainty and shelter-at-home restrictions, we must remain vigilant in order to protect our youth and vulnerable populations. Research and experts alike warn that times of heightened stress and isolation can trigger abuse, disclosures, or lead to victim/survivors requiring more care and support. As outlined in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, we recognize that clergy, diocesan personnel, volunteers, parents, and youth play a critical role in safety and prevention. Bearing this in mind, it is important that we are all aware of our Safe Environment requirements and responsibilities as delineated in diocesan procedures, policies, and codes of conduct.
All clergy and diocesan personnel, as well as adult volunteers – 18 years-old or older – who serve in any capacity with children or vulnerable adults, must complete the following requirements:
- All personnel, including clergy and volunteers, must submit the proper background screening and clear the criminal history check prior to engaging in ministry or employment. Employees and clergy must submit a Live Scan Fingerprint submission through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Volunteers also must submit the proper background screening via Live Scan or Online Background Check. For additional information, please visit the Diocesan website at https://www.dsj.org/protecting-gods-children/opcva-conduct-and-policy/
- All personnel, including clergy and volunteers, must complete the appropriate Diocesan Safe Environment training course to learn how to recognize and report abuse or misconduct prior to engaging in ministry or employment. Thereafter, Diocesan Safe Environment training must be renewed every three (3) years. Training is available exclusively via the VIRTUS Online learning management system (www.virtusonline.org). The training is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Korean. For additional information, please visit https://www.dsj.org/protecting-gods-children/
- All personnel, including clergy and volunteers, must understand their reporting responsibilities as it pertains not only to Diocesan policy, but also with regard to one’s mandated and ethical reporting requirements.
Beyond the Church’s call to action, there are state requirements that must be upheld as well. Under California State law, all parish and school personnel, including clergy, are Mandated Reporters and are required by California law to report any reasonable suspicion of child abuse, sexual or otherwise, to civil authorities. Failure to report a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or neglect is considered a misdemeanor and is punishable in California by six months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Additionally, adult volunteers are considered Ethical Reporters. It is the responsibility of Ethical Reporters to report any suspicions of abuse to a diocesan staff member on-site, who is then responsible for reporting the incident to the appropriate authorities immediately (or as soon as practically possible within 24 hours). However, anyone who has reason to believe or suspects that a child has been or is being abused should report their suspicions to civil authorities.
Youth also play a vital role in safety and prevention. Students in our Catholic Schools and Catechetical Programs participate in a VIRTUS® Catholic Safe Environment Curriculum lesson every year which is founded on the principles of appropriate relationship boundaries in the broader context of Christian values. All lessons are age-appropriate and empower children to begin to recognize inappropriate behaviors and tell a safe adult. Parents are encouraged to continue the conversation at home and can find helpful resources and lesson plans on the dioceses’ website at https://www.dsj.org/protecting-gods-children/virtus-resources-for-teachers-catechist/.
As always, please feel free to contact our office without hesitation with your questions or concerns. If you would like to volunteer at a parish or school and are not yet compliant with diocesan requirements, please take a moment to contact your site’s volunteer coordinator to begin the process. As always, the Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults is also available to answer your questions at 408-983-0113 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Office for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults thanks you, our Catholic community, for your continued partnership in maintaining a safe environment for all. Please be assured of our continued prayers for you and your family as we ask for God’s Grace in our determination to protect our youth and most vulnerable.
The Diocese of San José strictly adheres to a zero-tolerance policy and promptly notifies law enforcement and child protective services when abuse is reported, in accordance with mandated reporter laws. If an adult victim/survivor is looking to report a case of Clergy Abuse or sexual abuse involving Church personnel, we encourage them to first contact their local civil authorities (law enforcement). Once a report is filed with the local civil authorities, individuals are encouraged to contact the diocesan Office for the Protection of Children & Vulnerable Adults at (408) 983-0113. All reports are confidential to protect the rights of the victim. Reports to the Diocese are accepted by either online submission or by phone. For online submission, please use the following URL to access our secure third-party reporting server designated for this purpose: https://opcva.ethicspoint.com or contact our toll-free 24-hour reporting hotline at 844-372-1691