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Archdiocese in compliance with charter

The Archdiocese of Omaha continues to be in compliance with the U.S. bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, according to an annual, independent audit of its child protection policies and procedures.

The audit, conducted by StoneBridge Business Partners last year, marks the 16th consecutive year the archdiocese has been documented to meet the requirements of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) charter.

“It is reassuring to know that our child protection training procedures, policies and programs have been found to be in compliance with the charter,” said Archbishop George J. Lucas.

“I believe this (audit compliance) reflects the commitment of all in the Catholic community to keep children safe.”

The charter includes procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors, as well as guidelines “for reconciliation, healing, accountability, and prevention of further acts of abuse.”

After the 2002 approval of the charter, the archdiocese’s safe environment efforts began in 2003, and included in 2004 the establishment of its victim outreach and prevention office, headed by Mary Beth Hanus.

“We continue to do all we can to have safeguards in place to protect kids and to have resources available for those who have been injured,” she said. “And we’re always looking for ways we can learn about things early so we can act to keep kids safe.”

This included last year’s Word of Honor awareness campaign in parishes and schools to help create a safe environment and promote early reporting of concerns, she said.

The audit evaluated the archdiocese’s efforts to ensure effective reporting and responses to allegations of sexual abuse as well as promoting healing and reconciliation with survivors and those harmed by clergy sexual abuse.

It also evaluated measures ensuring that archdiocesan and religious priests, deacons, educators, volunteers and other personnel are properly screened through background evaluations, and the archdiocese’s efforts to conduct safe environment training for children and adults who work with children.

“The auditors verified that the letter and spirit of the charter are being taken seriously on all levels, and that the archdiocese is providing parishes and schools effective child protection programs and training support,” said Archbishop Lucas.

For the 2018-2019 audit period, archdiocesan parishes and schools report that 31,964 children were trained in the various aspects of safe environments, personal safety and abuse prevention.

In addition, 14,469 archdiocesan clergy, employees and volunteers who work with children and parents also have received background checks and safe environment training and materials.

The archdiocese’s training curriculum developed by staff and area experts is currently being used in 51 U.S. dioceses and 600 Protestant churches.