ARCHDIOCESAN OFFICE FOR THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH
REORGANIZED BY CHANCELLOR JIMMY LAGO
Chicago, IL (April 2, 2007) - The Office for the Protection of Children and Youth has been reorganized by the Chancellor, Jimmy M. Lago, to clarify, enhance and streamline the process for receiving and acting upon reports of child sexual abuse by priests, deacons, religious or lay employees of the Archdiocese of Chicago. The primary mission of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth is to promote and protect the safety and dignity of children and assist those who have been affected by abuse and trauma.
The Office for the Protection of Children and Youth is comprised of the Office of Assistance Ministry, Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review, and Safe Environment Office. Jan Slattery, the Director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth supervises these offices that administer several programs to help prevent incidents of sexual abuse of minors. These initiatives focus on screening and specialized education, including background evaluation of seminarians and deacon candidates, priests, deacons, archdiocesan employees, as well as all volunteers in Archdiocese of Chicago schools and other ministries that involve children and young people.
"We have no greater responsibility than to ensure the safety of children," said Jan Slattery, Director, Office for the Protection of Children and Youth. "Our goal is to provide the tools to every priest, teacher and staff member in the Archdiocese to help them know and recognize the signs of all abuse, particularly sexual abuse, so they may do all in their power to keep our children and young people out of harm's way."
As part of the reorganization of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth, the Archdiocese of Chicago named Womazetta Jones the Director of the newly created Safe Environment Office. Jones, who was most recently the Child Protection Statewide Training Manager for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in Chicago, will now direct all ongoing training for pastoral center groups, parishes, employees and volunteers. All archdiocesan employees and volunteers who work with children are required to attend the Virtus/Protecting God's Children ä training program within three months of beginning employment, ministry or service. To date, the archdiocese has trained over 60,000 people in the Virtus program including more than 800 archdiocesan priests and over 14,000 archdiocesan employees.
A number of changes have been made recently to improve communications and to clarify services, including changing the name of the Office of Professional Responsibility to the Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review. Additionally, the title of the Professional Responsibility Administrator has been changed to Director of the Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review. The Office's Director is a lay Catholic professional who has the qualifications and experience in working with those who are victims of abuse or other trauma and their families. This Office, under the direction of Leah McCluskey, has as its foremost priority, the safety of children and young people.
The Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review receives and investigates allegations of child sexual abuse by former or current Archdiocesan priests or deacons. It also works with persons who report an allegation of child sexual abuse by a member of a religious order or a lay person employed by or serving as a volunteer in the Archdiocese to ensure notification of and coordination with the appropriate parties, including religious congregations and the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools.
The Archdiocese of Chicago recognizes the Church's pastoral responsibility to assist all those affected by sexual abuse of a minor and responds through the Office of Assistance Ministry and other special initiatives. Ralph Bonaccorsi, who has 40 years of experience as a teacher, educational administrator and mediator, directs the Office of Assistance Ministry. He is assisted by Mayra Flores as well as an expert group of community mental health professionals experienced in working with victim-survivors of sexual abuse and with communities that experience crisis as a result of allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel.
To report child abuse call the Department of Children and Family Services hotline, 1-800- 25-ABUSE, (1-800-252-2873 ). More information on reporting child sexual abuse can be found on the Children Matter Network web site, www.childrenmatternetwork.org. Information about policies and procedures for reporting clerical sexual abuse can be found on the Archdiocesan web site, www.archchicago.org, or by calling Leah McCluskey, Director, Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review at 312--5205 or on the Confidential Hotline, 1-800-994-6200.