Syro Malabar..

Safe Environment

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                                             Safe environment training for Children

Purpose of the program is to empower children and youth to actively participate in a safe environment for themselves and others. This program focuses on the presence of God.
Safe environment training teaches children that God is present and close to us all the time.
Adults help children to recognize God's love by helping them understand that each person lives and moves in a circle of grace. That circle is the amount of space a child's arms take up when put above the head, circled down in front of the body and side to side. When something or someone comes into your Circle of Grace that makes you uncomfortable and you have that funny feeling in your tummy, that could be the Holy Spirit prompting you to do something.

Safe environment training also teaches children how to seek help from trusted adults. We have to inform our children about the bad things that can happen to them if they are not informed aPnd not careful.

Parental involvement is very important. Through the safe environment training, children will:
Understand they are created by God and live in the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Be able to describe the Circle of Grace that God gives each of us. Be able to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional spiritual and sexual boundaries. Identify all types of boundary violations. Demonstrate how to take action if any boundary is threatened or violated.

Safe Environment Program 

Our Church, Holy Family Syro-Malabar Catholic Church,  must ensure that our children  who worship, study, or participate in activities sponsored by  our parish can do so in the safest and most secure setting possible.

Our safe environment program will have the following components:

  • A code of conduct for clergy and for all volunteers in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people.
  • Training for all adults who work with children that consists of:
    • Signs an adult may see in a child who is abused
    • Signs an adult may see in a person who abuses children
    • What actions an adult should take when they believe child abuse of any kind may be occurring
  • A training program for children that includes age appropriate materials pertaining to personal safety that conforms to Catholic teachings

Code of Conduct

A Code of Conduct identifies acceptable behavior that is legal, professional and responsible. It must include clear standards of ministerial behavior and appropriate boundaries for clergy, for any other paid personnel, and for volunteers in positions of trust who have regular contact with children and young people. Code of conduct for everyone  covers clear standards of behavior and appropriate boundaries.  There can be a code of conduct for children and youth that includes behaving appropriately and respecting the rights of others.

Click here to view more about Code of Conduct

Ten points to create safe environments for children

Teresa M. Kettelkamp
Executive Director
Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection

  • Sexual molestation is about the victim

Many people are affected when a priest abuses a minor, but the individual most impacted is the victim who has suffered a violation of trust that can affect his or her entire life. The abuser, the family of the abused, and the parish community are all affected by this sin and crime, but the primary person of concern must be the victim.

  • No one has the right to have access to children

If people wish to volunteer for the church, for example, in a parish or school, they must follow diocesan guidelines on background checks, safe environment training, policies and procedures, and codes of conduct. No one, no matter who they are, has an automatic right to be around children or young people who are in the care of the church without proper screening and without following the rules.

  • Common sense is not all that common

It is naive to presume that people automatically know boundaries so organizations and families have to spell them out. For example, no youth minister, cleric or other adult leader should be in a childs bedroom, alone with the child.

  • Child sexual abuse can be prevented

Awareness that child sexual abuse exists and can exist anywhere is a start. It is then critical to build safety barriers around children and young people to keep them from harm. These barriers come in the form of protective guardians, codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and procedures, and safety training programs.

  • The residual effects of having been abused can last a lifetime

Those who have been abused seldom just get over it. The sense of violation goes deep into a persons psyche and feelings of anger, shame, hurt and betrayal can build long after the abuse has taken place. Some have even described the feeling as if it has scarred their soul.

  • Feeling heard leads toward healing

 Relief from hurt and anger often comes when one feels heard, when ones pain and concerns are taken seriously, and a victim/survivors appropriate sense of rage and indignation are acknowledged. Not being acknowledged contributes to a victims sense of being invisible, unimportant and unworthy; they are in some way revictimized.

  • You cannot always predict who will be an abuser

Experience shows that most abuse is at the hands of someone who has gained the trust of a victim/survivor and his/her family. Most abuse also occurs in the family setting. Sometimes the nicest person in the world is an abuser, and this niceness enables a false sense of trust to be created between abuser and abused.

  • There are behavioral warning signs of child abusers

Training and education help adults recognize grooming techniques that are precursors to abuse. Some abusers isolate a potential victim by giving him or her undue attention or lavish gifts. Another common grooming technique is to allow young people to participate in activities which their parents or guardians would not approve, such as watching pornography, drinking alcohol, using drugs, and excessive touching, which includes wrestling and tickling. It is also critical to be wary of age-inappropriate relationships, seen, for example, in the adult who is more comfortable with children than fellow adults. Parishes can set up rules to guide interaction between adults and children.

  • People can be taught to identify grooming behavior

which are the actions which abusers take to project the image that they are kind, generous, caring people, while their intent is to lure a minor into an inappropriate relationship. An abuser may develop a relationship with the family to increase his credibility. Abusers might show attention to the child by talking to him/her, being friendly, sharing alcohol with a minor and giving the child status by insinuating that the child is their favorite or special person. Offenders can be patient and may groom their victim, his or her family, or community for years.

  • Background checks work.

Background checks in churches, schools and other organizations keep predators away from children both because they scare off some predators and because they uncover past actions which should ban an adult from working or volunteering with children. If an adult has had difficulty with some boundaries that society sets, such as not driving while intoxicated or not disturbing the public peace, he or she may have difficulties with other boundaries, such as not hurting a child. Never forget that offenders lie.

Click here to download Safe Environment Training document 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


  • What should I do if I suspect my child has been abused?

Call the police or social services department in your community. Reassure your child that he/she did nothing wrong and that he/she did the right thing by telling you. You may want to find a child counselor experienced in child abuse matters. Call the victim assistance person in your diocese.

  • My child came home and told about being shown pornography. What should I do?

Call the police. There is no good reason for an adult to share pornography with children. Assure your child that they are not in trouble, that they did the right thing by telling you. If necessary, help them process the experience by talking about your feelings toward pornography and why it is wrong. If the child was shown pornography at school, let school officials know about it as well. Call the victim assistance person in your diocese.

  • I get the 'creeps' from one of the volunteers at Church. He always has his hands on kids in one way or another. What should I do?

Listen to your 'gut.' Offenders give warning signs that knowledgeable adults can use; your 'gut' often picks them up. You are not accusing someone of abuse you are communicating your concern about inappropriate behavior. Let the diocesan/eparchial victim assistance or safe environment coordinator know of your concerns. Let the supervisor of the program know of them as well. Keep reporting your concerns until someone hears you. Your courage to report those types of incidents may be very helpful. Reporting can let the person know their behavior is unacceptable, and it lets them know they are being watched. If it is poor judgment, this gives the person the opportunity to change the behavior.

  • Why do I have to be trained? I did not do anything wrong, this is a clergy problem.

Child sexual abuse is a widespread societal problem, not a Catholic clergy problem. The more people who are trained to recognize the warning signs of an offender, the safer our children are. In the aftermath of the clergy scandal, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires the Church to train both adults and children to prevent child sexual abuse. This is not because the Church thinks all adults are the problem. It is because the solution to preventing child sexual abuse depends on caring adults knowing what to do.

  • My children are too young to hear this. Aren't you destroying the 'innocent period' of their development?

Teaching children about boundaries and safe touches is not sex education. There are many safety issues we teach children: bike safety, water safety, fire prevention, driver's training, etc. Personal safety programs should have age appropriate lessons that give children the skills they need to protect themselves without frightening them. Keeping children unaware of the dangers around them does not keep them safe. Predators count on children not knowing what to do.

  • I believe morality should be taught in the home, not in school. Does my child have to attend these training classes?

You are right, morality is best taught in the home, but this is personal safety training, not morality class and not sex education. Catholic moral theology compels us to keep children safe. Parents are the primary educators of their children, and those who do not want their children to participate in the school/religious education portion of the training may opt out. They should still receive the parent portion of the training for assistance in how to teach their children to be safe.

Safe Environment

  • What are dioceses/eparchies doing for Safe Environment training?

Each diocese/eparchy is free to choose a Safe Environment training program that meets the needs of that particular diocese or eparchy. Many have developed their own programs, and many have purchased a training program from vendors. Training programs are to be established for employees, clergy, volunteers, and children.

  • Who needs to be trained?

The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People requires dioceses and eparchies to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators, volunteers and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children and young people.

  • What are the Catholic Church's teachings regarding child sexual abuse?

The Catholic Church teaches that the "human body shares in the dignity of the image of God" (CCC364). That dignity leads us to foster in every person the belief and awareness that as a person of God they are deserving of love and respect. Dignity is a gift given by God at birth. Abuse of all kind is harmful to that dignity. Children being among the most vulnerable require us to protect that dignity.

  • How long will our diocese/eparchy need to do safe environment training?

Child sexual abuse is a pervasive societal problem. Dioceses should consider the creation of safe environment programs and preventing child sexual abuse as something we do as part of who we are as the Church. Dioceses and eparchies have been required to meet Safe Environment expectations since 2003 and should plan on meeting those expectations for the foreseeable future.

Few links for Safe Environment References:


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