By Jay Nies
Moving toward better security and accountability, the Jefferson City diocese has revised how it conducts criminal background checks and makes employees and volunteers aware of what’s in the diocesan Code of Conduct.
Starting June 1, the diocese will conduct its criminal background checks of all employees and volunteers online through SELECTiON.COM.
This will make the checks more timely and comprehensive, including information from other states.
Mike Berendzen, diocesan coordinator of safe environment, helped review numerous options for better background checks. He said several other dioceses use SELECTiON.COM, and the company has a very good record of accuracy and customer support.
The company uses an electronic rather than paper-driven process, leading to better accuracy as well as protection of sensitive information such as an employee’s or volunteer’s Social Security number.
The company will also provide quarterly re-checks of each employee and volunteer, greatly helping with the requirement for background checks to be completed every five years.
Every Church employee and volunteer in the diocese must undergo a thorough initial background check as well as timely follow-up checks, in keeping with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
These checks are intended to ensure that individuals working with children have not been convicted of a crime that would constitute a threat to young people.
Diocesan employees and volunteers must also attend a VIRTUS® Protecting God’s Children training session at a location in the diocese, or have completed appropriate safe environment training in another diocese.
Employees must also stay current on monthly training bulletins on the VIRTUS® website, aimed at helping to recognize and prevent the exploitation of young people and vulnerable adults.
Heightened awareness and vigilance is an important part of preventing abuse and keeping potential abusers away from children and other vulnerable people.
The diocese is also adding a Child Abuse and Neglect Registry search to the background check process.
The search, previously conducted only on school employees, will now be expanded to anyone working with children and youth.
Background checks and safe-environment training are mandated under the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
That document, approved by the U.S. Catholic bishops in 2002, provides consistent, verifiable norms for ensuring that all of the Church’s environments are safe for children and others who are vulnerable.
The diocese has also updated its Code of Conduct. The changes reflect developments in technology as well as broader awareness of factors that contribute to the harming of children and young people.
All employees and volunteers who work with children will be required to log onto the VIRTUS® website and electronically sign the revised Code of Conduct.
The VIRTUS® system will help keep track of who has signed the document, helping to ensure that it will be read, understood and put into practice.
“It will also allow us to better keep records on who is compliant with our safe environment requirements,” said Mr. Berendzen.
“All of this adds another level of safety and security,” he added.
Ultimately, according to Mr. Berendzen, “these changes will help ensure we create the safest environment possible for the children, youth and vulnerable adults in our diocese.”