OMAHA, Neb. — Omaha-based Catholic Mutual Group – the primary provider of property and casualty coverage for the Catholic Church in North America – is rolling out an online data platform designed to help dioceses, parishes and others maintain safe-environment records and consolidate training information.
Piloted over the past several months in the Archdiocese of Omaha and being implemented now in several other U.S. dioceses, the platform will be available to the more than 100 other dioceses in the United States, 17 dioceses in Canada and more than 200 religious orders and institutions covered by Catholic Mutual.
Called Safe Environment Solutions, the platform offers a one-stop site for people to register for training to help provide an environment for children that is safe from any type of abuse, read articles on the subject or watch a recertification video. Administrators can send emails from the platform with news and reminders, or post information on the site.
Since 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has required safe-environment training among those entrusted with children in the name of the church. Many dioceses and other institutions have maintained their own databases for safe-environment records.
The new system is designed to centralize that effort and make it easier for parishes and organizations to check whether volunteers are certified in safe-environment training or need recertification and updated background checks, Catholic Mutual officials said.
“The premise of the technology is to streamline the safe-environment process and eliminate a lot of paperwork,” said John Gorski, Catholic Mutual’s assistant vice president of risk management.
Through its liability coverage, Catholic Mutual has helped the church respond to clergy and other sexual abuse claims. Through its risk management services, Catholic Mutual also has assisted in developing and implementing training policies to prevent sexual misconduct.
It seemed natural to ask the archdiocese to pilot the new system in part because Omaha Archbishop George J. Lucas serves as Catholic Mutual’s chairman, Gorski said.
Mary Beth Hanus, manager of the archdiocese’s Victim Outreach and Prevention Office, provided valuable insight in developing the platform, he said.
Hanus said parishes in the archdiocese have been transitioning to the new system and will be using it fully by May 1. And by July 1, the archdiocese will have finished uploading past training records onto the new system.
Her office has been guiding parishes and others involved in safe-environment training through the change. Catholic Mutual held three classes on the data platform, two in January and one March 17, for the more than 120 volunteers in the archdiocese who manage and teach safe environment.
“It’s been really exciting,” Hanus told the Catholic Voice, Omaha’s archdiocesan newspaper. Changing to a new system can be challenging, she said, but “everyone’s response has been extremely positive.”
Hanus said face-to-face training for initial safe-environment certification will continue in the archdiocese, with online recertification after five years. But under the new system, people will register online for the initial training, entering their own information, ensuring more accuracy and security for the information, she said.
A new video soon to be used in online recertification updates one previously used by the archdiocese. The teaching, from the Circle of Grace and Circle of Care programs developed by the archdiocese, remains the same but the situations it uses are more current, Hanus said.
The video, which contains a message from Archbishop Lucas, will be shared with other dioceses and organizations that are insured under Catholic Mutual and use the platform.
Szalewski is a staff writer at the Catholic Voice, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Omaha.