About the Safe Environment Program

Roots: The Safe Environment Program (SEP) is the concrete expression of the Guidelines for the Prevention of and Response to Sexual Misconduct of the Diocese of Tucson. The Guidelines represent the diocesan response to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by the Bishops of the United States in 2002 and revised in 2005. The Guidelines established both the Sexual Misconduct Review Board and the Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection.

Guiding Principles: The spirit of the SEP is reflected in the Code of Conduct and the Summary of the Guidelines that every person ministering or otherwise serving in the Diocese of Tucson must read and follow. The system is based on the power of checks and balances to prevent or detect the maltreatment of persons being served, particularly children and vulnerable adults. The Sexual Misconduct Review Board, a consultative body to the Bishop, receives reports of all actions taken to prevent or respond to abuse of minors or vulnerable adults. The Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection reports both to the Bishop of the Diocese of Tucson and the Sexual Misconduct Review Board.

Mandatory Reporting: The Code of Conduct and the Summary of the Guidelines commits each person who ministers or otherwise serves in the Diocese of Tucson to report immediately to civil authorities any reasonable suspicion that a child might be the victim of maltreatment. In addition, the Diocese of Tucson maintains an open and proactive relationship with all levels of law enforcement regarding any report of abuse, even when the alleged abuse may have occurred many years ago.

Screening: All persons who have independent access to or influence over minors or vulnerable adults (high-responsibility personnel) are required to undergo a thorough process of screening, including a criminal history check. Candidates for ordained ministry also must go through a psychological assessment.

Education: Each year, all personnel are required to refresh their knowledge of Arizona’s mandated reporter law and the Diocese of Tucson Code of Conduct. High-responsibility personnel are expected to receive more significant re-education in some aspect of the SEP relevant to their ministry or other service.

Education of Children and Youth: The Personal Safety Curriculum for Children and Youth of the Diocese of Tucson is the recommended instrument for accomplishing the required annual education of our children and youth in personal safety issues. Children and youth are taught that when they feel unsafe or troubled they do not have to suffer in silence; they are encouraged to speak up to responsible adults in their lives who can help them to sort out the situation.

Supervision: Prevention by appropriate behavior is a section of the Guidelines. Clear boundaries are essential for the prevention of misunderstanding and the appearance of misconduct. They are also critical in establishing a ministry environment in which any person who is guilty of positioning himself or herself to exploit a minor or vulnerable adult will be easily spotted.

Communications: In addition to the information available on the website of the Diocese of Tucson, the Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection publishes a monthly column in The New Vision on the Safe Environment Program.

Outreach and Community Service: The Victim Assistance Program provides counseling up to 30 sessions for persons who report abuse by a person ministering or otherwise working for the Diocese. The Office of Child, Adolescent and Adult Protection collaborates with law enforcement and social service agencies for the benefit of children and youth in the larger community. There is a particular relationship with the Southern Arizona Children’s Advocacy Center.

Audits: Every year, each parish and school is required to report on the process of screening and educating all personnel, children and youth, and parents. Each parish and school is also required to maintain a plan for compliance with the standards of the Diocese of Tucson that have been adopted by the parish or school. An internal auditor visits each parish and school on a two-year cycle to review compliance with the SEP.