“See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always look upon the face of my heavenly Father.” (MT 18:10)
BY DOMINIQUE JOHNSON
April is Child Abuse Prevention month, and during this month we are reminded that we are called to be instruments of justice, working for the common good of all, which includes the protection of children and that this responsibility belongs to everyone as a matter of charity and justice.
In the Diocese of Juneau, the Office of Child and Youth Protection takes the responsibility of creating a safe environment for children in our parish communities and of making sure ministers, staff and volunteers are compliant with the diocesan policies on child and youth protection.
Robbie Izzard, who has served as the Victim Assistance and Safe Environment Coordinator for the Diocese of Juneau since 2002, said when it comes to preventing child abuse it is her job to, “Make sure all clergy, religious, lay employees and volunteers receive initial safe environment training.” In addition to the initial training, all diocesan staff and volunteers are required to attend yearly trainings and receive monthly updates on topics regarding sexual abuse. For those unable to attend the presentation in person a recording of the training is available on
the diocese website.
Another key training that is required in the diocese is safe environment for students in religious education. This training is taught by catechists in diocesan parishes each year; the local Director of Religious Education must report back to Izzard on where and when the training took place. The purpose of this training is to ensure that students know about healthy boundaries.
For individuals who are victims of abuse and who are looking for support, the diocese offers workshops and resources to help. Izzard said, “I facilitate group workshops for survivors of all forms of childhood abuse, including clergy sexual abuse. We currently have a workbook study group meeting weekly using a 12-step model designed to deal with the effects of childhood trauma.” The Office of Child and Youth Protection also has a library of resources available to anyone, and if you aren’t in Juneau then Izzard will mail available diocesan materials and resources to those in Southeast.
With the fast-changing world of technology Izzard keeps the diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection current with the latest information by attending conferences for similar diocesan offices in the country. In March, Izzard and Marilyn Monagle, a representative of the Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board, attended the Child and Youth Protection Catholic Leadership Conference in Savannah, Georgia. At these conferences Izzard said, “We attempt to bring information back to our diocese regarding background checks, effective safe environment programs, internet safety and updated information in all fields of child protection.” One of the major topics brought up at this year’s conference was the impact of pornography on children, with the increasing access to the internet via phones and tablets. It is this new information Izzard brings back to Juneau to share with diocesan ministers and staff, so they can be more proactive in creating a safe environment in their communities.
If you have suggestions for training or programs to be offered through the Diocese of Juneau or questions for the Office of Child and Youth Protection, please contact Robbie Izzard at 907-586-2227×25 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information on Diocesan Safe Environment Policies and ‘How to report sexual Misconduct’ may be found at: dioceseofjuneau.org/victimassistance-coordinator/.