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Hanus named victims' advocate

By Randy A. Grosse
The Catholic Voice

Mary Beth Hanus, an Omaha woman with experience in clinical and pediatric social work, will begin work Feb. 16 as assistance coordinator for the Archdiocese of Omaha.

As assistance coordinator, Hanus will help anyone who alleges sexual abuse involving clergy or archdiocesan employees, serving as an advocate to help determine the victim's needs and working to meet those needs.

The assistance coordinator position is one of the requirements for dioceses outlined in the U.S. bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People

Hanus, an employee at Children's Hospital for the past 15 years, told The Catholic Voice two things that are "very important" to her – her faith and advocacy for children – brought her to this new position.

"Several people encouraged me to apply," she said. "It must be where God wants me. It's an opportunity to combine my faith and skills and be a part of the healing process for any abuse victims, for the Church and for the entire faith community."

Steve Lazoritz, Archdiocesan Review Board chairman, excused himself from voting on Hanus' employment because he also works at Children's Hospital. He said the board was impressed by her experience and sensitivity in dealing with victims of abuse.

He said her communication skills also are important because she'll need to communicate with people from all areas of the community.

"She was by far the best choice because of her unique talents, her experience and her faith," Lazoritz said.

The Review Board chairman called the hiring the "next leap forward" in dealing with the sexual abuse of children and young people. The hiring of Hanus shows the archdiocese's concern about reaching out to victims and preventing further sexual abuse, he said.

Hanus said her first priority will be creating an awareness of her position and office. She wants people to know about the existence of her office, that victims of sexual abuse by the clergy or Church employees can come forward without fear and that everything is confidential.

"I'm here to minister to the people," she said.

In announcing the position in October, Lazoritz said the assistance coordinator reports to the Review Board, but will be as independent as possible. The coordinator also will have direct access to Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss.

Hanus said independence makes it easier for abuse victims to come forward and also helps in serving as an advocate for abuse victims.

"It also shows that the Church is going to be supportive of this process," she said.

At Children's Hospital, Hanus specialized in child abuse/neglect, was a member of the Child Advocacy Team and was involved in the development of "Project Harmony," a local Child Abuse Center.

As an inpatient clinical social worker at Children's Hospital, she provided crisis intervention, assessments, counseling and referrals to community resources. She also developed education materials on child abuse/neglect, ethics and conflict resolution.

Before joining the staff at Children's Hospital, she worked as a pediatric social worker at University Hospital, where she coordinated the hospital's Child Abuse Team.

The 46-year-old Hanus is a licensed mental health provider and a certified master social worker. She received her bachelor's degree from Creighton University and her master's degree in social work from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

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