Episcopal Diocese of Albany, NY
Business Office: 68 South Swan Street - Albany, NY 12210 - (518) 465-4737
Christ the King Spiritual Life Center: 575 Burton Road - Greenwich, NY 12834 - (518) 692-9550

Protecting His Kids

by Deacon Laurie Garramone-Rohr, Coordinator for Christian Ed

I know victims. I’ve heard their stories. Most are speaking from outside of churches because they can’t bear to go in a church anymore. Whether or not the offense was discovered or prosecuted, people who have experienced sexual abuse in church feel betrayed by the congregation, by clergy and, often, by God. Sexual abuse is a serious problem and a crime, and our job is to prevent it before it happens.

So, at the risk of offending you right from the start, let me give you some quick statistics:

These statistics are chilling to me, because they point to the fact that schools, churches or day care centers might just be the easiest places for offenders to be in contact with kids. And while we don’t want to hear about it, talk about or deal with it, as a church, we have to. Pedophiles, or people who molest children, are smart. Sometimes they are smarter than you or me because they have learned how to think like a kid and how to manipulate children in unspeakable ways. And they know that we often let our guard down when it comes to volunteers. So we’ve got to be smarter; we’ve got to be prepared, and we need to be trained to recognize the signs that someone might be a child predator. You and I need to protect God’s kids. So here are my two best suggestions:

1. Take the required (notice the emphasis on ‘required?) diocesan course called “Safeguarding God’s Children.” Anyone who has contact with children including Sunday School teachers, vestry members, clergy, or teenagers who baby sit in the nursery needs to take this course. We’re offering the course FREE on Saturday, November 7th at Christ the King Spiritual Life Center from 9 am to 1:30 pm. Lunch and materials are included with your registration and attendance. Register on-line at www.albanydiocese.org and click on ‘Christian Education’. Can’t make that date? Contact the diocesan coordinator directly to schedule a course at your church or deanery. Father Michael Gorchov, rector of St. Paul’s in Troy, and his wife Marianne are the coordinators of the program. He can be reached at frmig@nycap.rr.com

2. Sign up for Group Publishing’s Volunteer Central program for an annual cost of $119. National background checks are just $12 each for your volunteers, and this is the least you can do to show parents that safety is essential to your church. The service checks Motor Vehicle records, criminal records and Sexual Offender registries as well as other aspects of someone’s history. “Oh my!” you say, “$119 a year? That’s so much!” Compared to the well-being of even one child or the reputation of your church, that’s not much. And you get MUCH more than the background check service. Volunteer Central provides monthly newsletters about volunteer retention and training; it provides on-line consulting services for your church, numerous articles, and customizable forms for field trips and medical information that you need to have on file for your kids. Go to their website to check out the details for your church: www.churchvolunteercentral.com Got a volunteer who especially cares about kids? Let them think about sponsoring the program for a year to see if it fits your needs.

This isn’t one of my ‘happy’ columns about the joys of teaching—this is a cautionary article about the foundation of your program, and the serious nature of keeping God’s kids safe. I hope that you can bring this article to your vestry and talk about the ways your parish can keep kids safe.

Questions? Concerns? E-mail me at LGRohr@albanydiocese.org

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