Safe environment program updated to take on technology


By Anne Marie Amacher

A new version of the safe environment program Protecting God’s Children now addresses technology and protecting vulnerable adults.

Mary Wieser, director of faith formation and safe environment coordinator with the Diocese of Davenport, said the new version is so important that all staff and volunteers serving in the diocese are asked to be recertified — even if it hasn’t been five years since they were certified.

Beginning this past March, the diocese’s nearly 50 facilitators were trained with the new version. All priests went through the recertification process in June and since that month all presentations throughout the diocese have been conducted in the new version. The diocese has been offering a safe environment program since 2003.

“This is stuff teachers and catechists need to know,” Wieser said. “We need to know what is going on in our young peoples’ lives.”


The new version of Protecting God’s Children tackles the issues of the Internet, social media sites, texting, cyber-bullying and more.

“Kids are so vulnerable,” said Virginia Trujillo, safe environment coordinator assistant. “They think their friends are the only ones who see their pictures and posts. Even if you delete something, it’s there forever (in cyberspace).”

With constant changes in technology it is hard for parents to keep up, Wieser said. Today’s teens and younger were born into a technological world. “Not being digital natives (most parents and grandparents), we need to be aware of what is going on for the safety and welfare of our children. We do not want to put them in danger.”

Wieser noted that technology is great when used properly. Schools need to look at ethical and moral issues regarding technology.

With the new version of Protecting God’s Children, adults can learn warning signs and cries for help that young people may express. Adults know what to look for and can listen to their kids. In the school, parish and youth ministry sector, use of the social networking site Facebook is permissible. But, “Don’t use your personal page for youth ministry. Allow and encourage parents to become friends on the youth ministry website or Facebook page,” Wieser said.

Parents should not assume their children are protected from misuse of the Internet. “That’s what perpetrators go for.”

All staff and volunteers serving in the Davenport Diocese must take the program within the diocese.

Trujillo noted that the Diocese of Davenport participates in the Gavin Audit each year and provides documentation regarding the safe environment program. “We go above and beyond the requirements of the United State Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.”

“Don’t be foolish and not go through the recertification,” Wieser said. “With all the tragedies of the past 50 years if you don’t keep up to date then you haven’t fulfilled your responsibility to protect children and vulnerable adults in the diocese.”

Money from the Annual Diocesan Appeal helps support the Protecting God’s Children program.

Training is free and offered throughout the diocese.

To learn more, visit the diocesan website at

Safe environment requirements for employees and volunteers

Priests, deacons, pastoral associates, seminarians, directors of religious education, youth ministers, principals, Catholic school teachers, Catholic school secretaries, school aides left alone with minors, athletic directors, child-care directors, scout leaders of groups chartered by parish or parish school and employees working with minors are required to:

• Have a background check

• Attend Protecting God’s Children program

• Participate in continuing online training

• Complete recertification process

Volunteers working with minors four times or more per year, or engaged in overnight functions or employees not working with minors are required to:

• Have a background check

• Attend Protecting God’s Children program

• Complete recertification process

Scout leaders (not chartered by parish or parish school, but using diocesan facilities) are required to:

• Attend Protecting God’s Children program training unless they can provide verification that they have completed the scout safety training program

• Complete recertification process

Minor volunteers working with minors four or more times per year are required to:

• Attend Protecting God’s Children program (preferably with a parent or with parental permission)

• Complete recertification process

• Background checks cannot be conducted on minors under 18; adults are advised to use discretion when allowing minors to be left alone with or in charge of other minors.

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