Have you ever found yourself in the middle of an extraordinary event, whether for work or in a personal situation, where things were so hectic or overwhelming that you found yourself forgetting to drink or eat? In times like this, it is easy to pay less attention to basic needs. This may be why during funerals or even weddings, there is often someone whose role it is to ensure the grieving family members or the bride and groom are being provided for and watched over.
While we remain in mitigation efforts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the archdiocese also wants to ensure that our safe environment procedures remain front and center during these extraordinary times. Back in April of this year, when our faith formation programs were suspended, and our Catholic schools moved to online distance learning, the archdiocese established protocols to ensure safe environments remain as we navigate these unique circumstances.
The two protocols which were created beginning April 16, 2020, are:
“Safe Environment Guidelines for Distance and Online Learning, in consultation with the Office of Catholic Schools” and “Safe Environment Guidelines for Online Ministry With Minors and Vulnerable Populations.”
These protocols mirror the existing Pastoral Policies of the Archdiocese, reiterating standards of conduct, compliance and reporting abuse requirements. Existing archdiocesan policies require that anyone who has “contact” with minors or vulnerable adults, where this contact could create a relationship or could be unsupervised, must meet safe environment compliance.
In order to meet safe environment compliance, a minister must have a background check and complete the online safe environment training before beginning ministry.
In summary, the protocols state:
- All employees and staff must meet safe environment compliance and all volunteers who have “contact” with minors or vulnerable adults also must meet compliance, when ministering in person as well as online.
- The parish or school is required to notify parents and guardians of the schedule when their child is engaging in online learning or ministry.
- Distance learning or ministry sessions are to be conducted during standard class or ministry times and are to be solely initiated by the minister.
- Video conferencing platforms must be password protected to ensure the safety of all participants.
- All reporting procedures related to abuse of a minor or vulnerable adult, as well as any violations of archdiocesan policy or standards of conduct, must continue to be followed with heightened awareness.
These protocols can be found on the Archdiocese of Anchorage website.
We all continue to do our best to manage these challenging and extraordinary times. As a Church, we all need to assist in ensuring our most vulnerable remain as safe and healthy as possible and are protected from all forms of harm.