A new Safe Environment Program Office will serve as a clearinghouse in the archdiocese for all issues relating to child safety and protection.
Msgr. Richard F. Stika, episcopal vicar for the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection, made an announcement about the office Aug. 1. He noted that the new office will follow specifications in the U.S. bishops’ 2002 "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People." The charter guides the Church’s efforts to respond to reports of sexual abuse.
In the four years since the bishops approved the charter, the archdiocese has initiated "an extraordinary response to an extraordinarily difficult time for the Church," Msgr. Stika wrote in a letter about the new office.
Since 2002, in fulfilling the charter, he noted, "virtually all adults who work or volunteer with children in the archdiocese have participated in Protecting God’s Children workshops, undergone thorough background checks and signed the Code of Ethical Conduct."
He added that children in full-time schools and Parish Schools of Religion have gone through Safe Touch programs, and many parents have voluntarily participated in the programs as well.
"While everyone strongly supports the goal of these initiatives — the safety and well-being of our children — we know that achieving them was challenging to many of our parishes and agencies and to the various archdiocesan agencies that provided support in these efforts," Msgr. Stika noted.
For that reason, the archdiocesan Child Safety Committee, which oversees these matters, proposed the creation of an office dedicated to safe-environment issues, he said.
Terry Edelmann, former community relations director for the Catholic Education Office, is the director of the new office. Mary Schnoring, former child safety coordinator and a teacher at Holy Infant Parish in Ballwin, is the office coordinator for compliance issues. Andrea Witt of St. Peter Parish in Kirkwood is the coordinator for training.
Issues relating to complaints of abuse or investigation into allegations of abuse will continue be directed to Msgr. Stika or Deacon Phil Hengen.
The new office will provide assistance to parish and agency staff with questions and concerns, Msgr. Stika pointed out.
"I am very enthused about the new office. It should provide the opportunity to do this important work in a collaborative way that will ease burdens and yet ensure we stay in compliance" with the bishops’s charter, he stated.