Diocese of Sioux City in Compliance with Dallas Charter

By Renee Webb
Catholic Globe
December 23, 2016

The Diocese of Sioux City was informed on Nov. 18 it is in compliance with the data collection requirements pertaining to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People (Dallas Charter) for the 2015/2016 audit period.

According to Colleen Sulsberger, coordinator of the Office of Safe Environment for the diocese, the United States bishops selected the national auditing firm and for the last four years have used StoneBridge Business Partners.

“They are a national auditing firm that specializes in compliance auditing for large organizations,” she explained. “StoneBridge compiles the data from each diocese and reports this data to the USCCB Committee on Child and Youth Protection. They also make recommendations to us as to how our safe environment programs can be improved.”

Although auditors from StoneBridge were in the diocese two years ago, Sulsberger noted they visit every three years. This year there was no visit, just a data collection audit.

In this process, Sulsberger fills out a form stating how many people work in the diocese in various roles and documentation that each has received VIRTUS safe environment training, completed a background check and is in compliance with the Code of Conduct.

“If there are persons needing to complete one of these three elements, we must have plans in place to follow-up and bring everyone into compliance,” she said.

The diocese also reports any incidences of abuse of children by anyone working in the diocese who may have been reported during the previous year and how any such reports were handled.

“Tracking compliance for thousands of employees and volunteers is a huge tasks but we have made it more manageable by having a Virtus Site Coordinator at each parish and school in the diocese,” Sulsberger said. “The site coordinators oversee the files for the people working or volunteering at an individual location, and they are responsible for monitoring compliance.”

While the USCCB compliance audit is yearly, the site coordinators run their compliance reports every three months and follow-up as needed so that there are no surprises at year-end when the audit report for the entire diocese is due.

Given the work involved with collecting the data, Sulsberger was pleased and relieved to learn the diocese’s compliance.

“We have a great team of teachers, clergy, and VIRTUS site coordinators who work hard every day, making sure we remain in compliance and that our safe environment programs are as strong and effective as they can be,” she said.

Information gathered from these diocesan audits is used in a national report.

In May of 2016, the 2015 Annual Report on the Implementation of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” that was prepared by the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection for the National Review Board and the USCCB was released. That report included a letter from StoneBridge stating that during the 2015 audit year, they visited 70 dioceses/eparchies and reviewed documentation submitted by 120 others. The audit on the implementation of the charter found that between July 1, 2014, and June 30, 2015, 189 dioceses and eparchies were compliant with the charter. One diocese was found non-compliant, and one diocese and five eparchies did not participate.

The chairman of the National Review Board for the Protection of Children and Young People, Francesco C. Cesareo, Ph.D., in remarks prefacing the report stated, “The audit remains the single most important means of ensuring that the Charter is being implemented. Through this instrument bishops are held accountable in complying with the requirements spelled out in the articles of the Charter, an important indicator of the seriousness with which the bishops take their responsibility in creating a safe environment for children.”

While Cesareo applauded the bishops for their progress, he warned against a false sense of security that can lead to complacency.

At the national level, the 2015 report stated there were 903 new specific allegations with 838 survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy who came forward in 123 dioceses.

Sulsberger stressed the importance of the church remaining diligent in the work of protecting children. She noted that in every case of abuse, there were warning signs that were either not recognized or not reported.

“The child protection measures that the Catholic Church takes cannot guarantee that every child will be shielded from abusers – nothing can do that. But we ‘can and do’ insist that every adult who works with our children knows the warning signs of an abuser, and how to report those warning signs,” she stressed. “Child molesters seek out jobs and volunteer positions that give them access to children, and churches are often targeted. Through abuse awareness programs such as VIRTUS, background checking, codes of conduct that spell out specific behaviors that are expected of all personnel, the Catholic Church will continue to be a safe place for children to learn and grow.”









Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.