The obligation for all Christians to protect children flows from the ministry and example of Jesus Christ. VOTF's Child Protection efforts focus primarily on education and on monitoring parish/diocesan child-safety programs to ensure consistent, ongoing vigilance. Sexual abuse of children is not just a human rights issue; it's a crime. It's also endemic in many societies.
- Effective educational programs help adults prevent, recognize, and act responsibly to instances of child sexual abuse.
- Critical review of community programs and evidence-based curricula help empower adults to take responsible actions to protect children.
We also recommend the establishment of Parish Safety Committees in every parish, to actively support the formation and activities of child abuse prevention teams in each parish, and to monitor the adherence of each parish to effective child-safety guidelines. Such activities should include:
- Prevention education conducted annually for all children, parents, staff, lectors, Eucharistic ministers and volunteers;
- Checkups yearly on the criminal offender record information on all clergy, staff, ministers, and volunteers; and
- Obtaining and disseminating information concerning past assignments of all new pastoral personnel.
- Call the local law inforcement authorities.
- Call the child-welfare agency in your area, or use your state's toll-free number to report the abuse. (List is updated frequently.)
- If you think the abuser is a cleric, report it to the diocesan office. After you have called the law-enforcement authorities. (The USCCB web site has a list of victim-assistance coordinators in each diocese. If your diocese is not listed, ask them why not.)
What to do if you suspect a child is being sexual abused? Report it! Call the local police, call your state's child welfare agency, tell the child's school, but do not keep silent. If you are unsure of the appropriate agency or steps to take, use this list from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to reach the welfare agency in your state. Some cities and states also may have abuse hotlines you may call.
Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (commonly called the Dallas Charter)
BE AWARE: outline listing symptoms that may indicate sex abuse; what to do when a child reports abuse; why children are vulnerable
Christian Stewardship of Children in the Catholic Community: example of a parish child-safety team guidebook
In 1983, a presidential proclamation declared April to be Child Abuse Prevention Month nationwide. As a result, child abuse awareness activities are promoted across the country during April of each year. April is thus a time to acknowledge the importance of families, institutions, and communities working together to prevent child abuse.
The U.S. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN) within the Children's Bureau coordinates Child Abuse Prevention Month activities at the Federal level, providing information and releasing updated national statistics about child abuse and neglect. Many governors also issue proclamations to encourage initiatives and events in their states.
During April of every year since 2002, Voice of the Faithful® has raised public awareness that child abuse can be preventable when institutions, community programs, and systems are engaged and work together. Research has identified factors known to prevent and reduce child abuse and neglect, including the education of parents, children, and the community to raise awareness of prevention measures. VOTF advocates that all parishioners be educated in abuse prevention through child abuse awareness training.