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ARCHDIOCESE OBSERVES NATIONAL CHILD ABUSE PREVENTION MONTH
Children Matter Network Website Provides Resources

Chicago, IL (April 10, 2008) - The Archdiocese of Chicago and the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth have joined with other organizations concerned with child welfare, in observing April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. The Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth has as its stated mission, to protect the dignity of children and assist those who have been affected by abuse.

A complete change in format for the Children Matter Network website, www.childrenmatternetwork.org, was initiated by the Archdiocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Youth to focus on materials and resources for parishes and schools to use in pastoral, parental or educational ministries with children during Child Abuse Prevention Month. Materials provided on the Children Matter Network website include links to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Liturgy Guide, in both English and Spanish, that can be incorporated into parish liturgies and prayer opportunities. The Liturgy Guide provides assistance in homily preparation, suggested intercessions, and the Order for the Blessing of a Victim of Crime or Oppression. Additionally, the USCCB is providing resources in English and Spanish to facilitate activities to highlight the need for prevention efforts. They include posters, liturgical guides, articles on church efforts to reach out to abuse victims and to protect children, and bulletin announcements. Also included on the Children Matter Network website are Liturgy suggestions for the blessing of children and a prayer service adaptable for different age groups.

The Archdiocese of Chicago is also partnering with Prevent Child Abuse Illinois, a chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America. Prevent Child Abuse Illinois works to protect children and strengthen families through public awareness, education, advocacy and community assistance. The Children Matter Network website provides a direct link for schools and parishes to the Prevent Child Abuse Illinois’ Child Abuse Prevention Month Community Packet with materials including Facts About Child Abuse, Warning Signs of Abuse, What to Do in Your Community, Community Prevention Campaigns, What to Do if You See Child Abuse in a Public Place, information about the Blue Ribbon symbol of Prevent Child Abuse Awareness, and the introduction of the Pinwheel, the symbol to help promote child abuse awareness.

The Archdiocese has been proactive in establishing policies and procedures to address child sexual abuse by church personnel since 1992. Since establishing the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth in 2003, 70,400 lay employees, volunteers and clergy in the Archdiocese of Chicago have attended Virtus/Protecting God’s Children training and 69,200 lay employees and clergy, as well as volunteers who work with children, have completed background checks. Additionally, 220,000 young people have participated in safe environment education programs in Catholic schools and religious education classes.

Three agencies operate out of the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth: the Safe Environment Office provides ongoing training for children and adults on prevention and reporting of abuse, and checks the backgrounds of all clergy and staff and all volunteers who work with children; the Office for Assistance Ministry provides outreach to victims of clerical sexual abuse; the Office for Child Abuse Investigations and Review receives and reviews allegations of sexual abuse of children by clergy, employees or volunteers of the Archdiocese of Chicago. For information about the Office for the Protection of Children and Youth visit www.archchicago.org.

Established in 1843, the Archdiocese of Chicago serves 2.3 million Catholics throughout Cook and Lake counties through its 363 parishes, and its numerous apostolates, missions, shrines, oratories and chaplaincies.

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