Child Protection Committee
New Beginnings In Ferns Diocese
In October 2002 a three day diocesan seminar was held in Dundrum House Hotel. The aim of these days was to plan for the future of the Following a few inputs and much discussion, priests volunteered to be part of a number of work streams which evolved from group discussions of each day. The steering committee allotted personnel to each work stream. The Child Protection Committee is one of these work streams and the following opted to be part of it.
- Fr. Denis Browne
- Fr. Kevin Cahill
- Fr. Jim Cogley
- Fr. Denis Kelly
- Fr. Gerry O’Leary
The committee met for the first time in November 2002 with facilitation from consultant, Michael J. Burns and following discussion and brainstorming, drafted its brief as follows:
- What child protection guidelines do we need to put in place for safe and appropriate interactions at parish and community level?
- How best can we establish support mechanisms for 1) the victims; 2) the accused priests
- How best can we educate ourselves and the clergy at large develop our understanding of child sexual abuse so that our capacity as priests to respond and support is appropriate to today’s needs?
- What existing and new policies are appropriate for today’s needs?
- Identify personnel who might serve on the Advisory Panel in the Diocese of Ferns?
Sr. Helen O’Riordan, outreach support person for victims of abuse and Mike Murphy diocesan child protection co-ordinator were co-opted on to the committee. The officers were Fr. Denis Browne, chairperson and Sr. Helen O’Riordan, secretary.
Ferns Diocesan Advisory Panel
One of the immediate tasks facing Bishop Walsh was the establishment of an Advisory Panel to replace the committee that was already in existence to review all cases before the diocese. The child protection committee submitted a list of names to the Bishop to assist him in his choice of members. The first meeting of the Ferns Advisory Panel was held on 25th November 2003. The panel reviews child protection issues in the diocese and makes recommendations to the Bishop regarding priests against whom there are allegations/accusations. To date all recommendations of the Advisory Panel have been accepted and acted upon by the Bishop.
The panel members come from a variety of disciplines –
- Child Care Development Unit, HSE
- Canon Law
- Psychotherapy and Counselling
Policy Statement and Code of Conduct:
The committee’s next task was to formulate a Child Protection Policy Statement and Code of Conduct for the diocese. This involved research based on:- The statutory guidelines ‘Children First’, Department of Health & Children, 1999 and ‘Our Duty to Care’, Department of Health & Children, 2002: Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response, Veritas Publications 1996: Various Child Protection Policies and Procedures devised by hierarchies in the UK, Canada and Australia. The committee acknowledges assistance and advice from the Child Protection Office, Irish Bishops’ Conference. In February 2003, draft documents were presented to the priests for their comments, criticisms and suggestions. Resulting from this input, an Interim Child Protection Policy Statement and Code of Conduct for all clergy, volunteer workers and church employees involved in parish ministry were launched in June 2003. Priests were asked to bring these documents to the attention of their parish councils and parishioners, once again inviting feed-back.
Child Protection Training:
The next challenge was to provide training in Child Protection for parishes and all groups working in Church ministry. Initially, two facilitated meetings for the diocese were organised. This was a learning experience for all and the committee quickly realised that the only way forward was to work with small groups in parishes and curacies.
Following these two conferences, a review took place at committee level and it was unanimously agreed by all members to seek training in Child Protection.
The committee was aware that much development was occurring in this area and that training could now be accessed at both and national levels and that this should occur.
Committee Member Training
Two members of the committee attended a two-day
“Keeping Safe” Awareness Workshop on Child Protection Issues facilitated by the North Western Health Board. This was held in November 2003.
At the beginning of 2004 the Child Protection Office, Irish Bishops’ Conference indicated their willingness to provide training for the committee members. Kay Hyden, National Training & Development Co-ordinator met with the committee and established the needs of the diocese. Kay and Aine O’Grady, Director Cloyne Federation of Youth Clubs, formulated a training programme for the group. An intensive two day seminar was held in Enniscorthy on 23rd, 24th April 2004. There were eleven participants – four priests, five lay people (three of whom joined the Child Protection Committee) and two religious.
Parish Training Begins in Ferns
Bishop Walsh emphasised the urgency and importance of parish training. Three members of the committee with the help of Kay Hyden (Maynooth) prepared a presentation for use in the parishes. This involved many practice and revision sessions to ensure a professional presentation and a high standard of training for all attendees.
Ballaghdereen was the first parish in which such training began and the help and assistance – together with the welcome – of the priests and people in the parishes we visited are greatly appreciated.
The aim of the programme is to assist each parish in developing child protection policies and procedures relevant to local circumstances.
Training – Objectives and Key Features
Objectives: The aim is that by the end of the presentation participants will:
- Be aware of guiding principles regarding child protection
- Know what is meant by abuse
- Be familiar with diocesan policy, procedures and code of conduct
- Begin the development of policy & procedures at local parish level
- Be familiar with diocesan child protection personnel and resources available.
Key Features: These included:
- Guiding principles including the paramountcy of protection of children
- Types of abuse citing examples
- Diocese of Ferns Policy Statement & Procedures
- Dealing with Disclosure
- Reporting procedures in diocese of Ferns
- Importance of keeping records
Interim Policy and Code of Conduct
Having circulated the Interim Policy Statement and Code of Conduct, the then committee drafted sample record forms e.g. Parental Consent, Incident/Accident, Volunteer Application Forms etc. Copies of these forms are made available at the end of each training session. This statement and code of conduct were guided by the simple principles summarised in the paragraph:
“Children are vulnerable and powerless on certain occasions. At times they may have difficulties making decisions in matters relating to their personal safety. All engaged in activities involving children have a special duty of care towards them”
(Code of Conduct for Clergy, Staff and Volunteers working with children and young people, Ferns Diocese June 2003)
Three members of the Child Protection Committee, Ms. Isabelle Flynn, Fr. Gerry O’ Leary and Sr. Helen O’Riordan undertook “Training the Trainers” Course organised by the National Bishops’ Conference Child Protection Office. The “Keeping Safe” Training the Trainers Programme has been provided by the Volunteer Development Agency through “Our Duty to Care” project. The programme is recognised by the Northern Ireland Open College Network for accreditation at Level 3 and is designed to raise awareness on issues of best practice in relation to child protection. It consists of five modules as follows:
- Raising awareness about child protection issues.
- Familiarising participants with a child protection policy and procedures for reporting suspected or disclosed abuse.
- Assisting participants in identifying good recruitment procedures and explore organisational systems which assist with the management of staff and volunteers.
- Identifying ways of creating a safe environment while working with children and young people.
- Assisting organisers of residential groups and/or outdoors visits in exploring all aspects of the safety and general welfare of children and young people.
It was a nine month programme for the academic year 2004 -2005 which the three members have successfully completed. They are now accredited Keeping Safe Trainers for the diocese.
They will train facilitators for parish training and designated liaison persons at parish level
The Work of Child Protection Continues…… New Personnel
Child Protection committee meetings are held regularly and on-going progress is reviewed. At the end of the first year, the members invited lay people to work on the committee. The following new members who were trained as facilitators agreed to become involved:
- Ms Kathleen Fitzpatrick
- Ms. Isabelle Flynn
- Mrs. Breeda Hayden
The chairperson, Fr. Denis Browne volunteered to work with the Ferns Mission to Brazil and this assignment will begin in January 2006. Fr. O’Leary was elected as chairperson.
To date the following parishes / curacies have received training in Good Practice Guidelines or a date has been scheduled with the parish before the end of 2005:
- Ballindaggin / Caim,
- Ballycullane /Gusserane,
- Bannow / Ballymitty,
- Bree / Galbally,
- Bunclody / Kilmyshal,
- Carnew / Tomacork / Coolfancy / Shillelagh,
- Castlebridge / Curracloe / Screen,
- Crossabeg / Ballymurn, Davidstown / Courtnacuddy,
- Enniscorthy – St. Aidan’s / St. Senan’s,
- Glynn / Barntown,
- Gorey / Tara Hill,
- Kilaveney / Crossbridge,
- Kilrush / Askamore,
- New Ross,
- Oylegate / Glenbrien,
- Piercestown / Murrintown,
- Taghmon / Caroreigh / Trinity,
- Templetown / Poulfur
The plan is to have visited every parish / curacy in the diocese before the end of 2006.
- On 17th December 2003, the Child Protection Committee made a submission to the Lynott Committee.
- January 2004 a two day seminar in Dundrum House Hotel was organised for priests of the Diocese. This was facilitated by Joe Sullivan and team. The title of the workshop was: Understanding Child Sexual Abuse – Empowering and Informing the Clergy and Diocesan Staff.
- On 31st August 2005, Isabelle Flynn, Fr. O’Leary and Sr. Helen facilitated an afternoon on Post Primary Child Protection Guidelines for the staff of St. Peter’s College, Wexford.
- Priests of the diocese have had many briefings at Deanery level on the work of this committee.
- At regular intervals during the past three years, two committee members met with the facilitator Michael J. Burns to review progress and to set targets for action.
- The members of the Child Protection Committee are convinced of the value of the “Keeping Safe” Training Programme and from this conviction has evolved the wish to bring Best Practice Guidelines to every parish/curacy in Ferns. To continue this work, further facilitators will be trained.
- Designated Liaison Persons will be appointed following acceptance by Rome of the document ‘Our Children: Our Church’. Training will be arranged for all DLP’s when the appointments are finalised.
- Following the publication of “Our Children: Our Church” the Diocesan Policy Statement and Code of Conduct will be reviewed taking special note of the comments and suggestions received to date.
- Finding meaningful work for priests out of ministry is a difficult task and efforts will continue to assist those with special responsibility for these men.
The Diocese of Ferns is indebted to the hard working members of the Child Protection Committee who are determined to make Ferns a model of good practice in the area of Child Protection. It is assuring to have people who are both interested and committed to continue training for the benefit of both laity and clergy in the Diocese.
Director: Fr. John Carroll,
Tel (053) 24368, Fax (053) 23436