BRIDGEPORT—The Diocese of Bridgeport has been found compliant with all audited articles within the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People for the 2017/2018 audit period.
The announcement was made by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano after receiving notice from StoneBridge Business Partners of Rochester, New York, a national financial auditing firm specially trained to review diocesan compliance to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) charter.
“I am deeply grateful for the efforts of our Safe Environments office, our schools, parishes and other institutions,” said Bishop Caggiano. “Because of their commitment and vigilance our children are safer. As a diocese we are working together to prevent abuse and I’m grateful to all those who are at work every day to protect our children.”
The diocesan audit response was led by Director of Safe Environments & Victim Assistance Coordinator, Erin Neil, L.C.S.W., and Chief Legal Officer, Anne McCrory, for overseeing the effort to renew programs.
The year’s comprehensive audit included an onsite visit from a StoneBridge auditor in November and phone interviews conducted with pastors, directors of Religious Education and others.
The one recommendation for change cited by the audit was the need to begin parish and school visits to ensure compliance.
“Although the diocese is in communication with parishes and schools throughout the year regarding the status of safe environment programs, onsite parish and school audits are not currently performed,” said Director of Safe Environments for the diocese, Erin Neil.
Neil said the diocese has relied largely on parish/school staff and volunteers self-reporting through an annual report to ensure program compliance and accurate reporting, but it will also introduce parish/school visits during the 2019 fiscal year.
“These visits would allow the diocese to gain a better understanding of how policies and procedures are being implemented at the parish and school level and assist in ensuring compliance with safe environment requirements,” the audit report concluded.
In 2014 VIRTUS launched an update to their program and Bridgeport was the first diocese in the country to use the new online training module. All Safe Environments Policies were updated to include guidelines on cell phone and technology safety and reporting protocol for suspected child pornography. At that time the auditors also reviewed the diocesan outreach to victims to ensure that there is a prompt response consistent with state law and USCCB charter provisions to any allegations.
In 2016, the Office of Safe Environments began offering continuing education opportunities, which expand upon the VIRTUS child sexual abuse prevention, course mandated reporting, bullying awareness and prevention, sexual harassment and other safety issues which impact children and the adults who work with them.
Last year, the diocese introduced the “A Pledge to Protect” website to offer a comprehensive overview of all Safe Environments services including videos, reporting instructions and other information.
“I have commissioned the creation of this website to demonstrate that the Diocese of Bridgeport is transparent and fully accountable in its policies, programs and response to the sexual abuse of minors. It brings together and updates information concerning diocesan Safe Environments efforts, its outreach to victims of clerical sexual abuse and its comprehensive policies and practices to prevent future abuse and intervene immediately when allegations are brought forward,” said Bishop Caggiano.
(For information visit: www.bridgeportdiocese.org/pledge/welcome)