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The Diocese of Nashville is implementing a new Safe Environment training program and system of background checks for all employees of the diocese, its parishes, schools and institutions and volunteers who work with young people.
The diocese implemented the Safe Environment Program, including training, background checks, guidelines for reporting suspected abuse to civil and diocesan authorities, and other policies and procedures, to keep the environment for children at its offices, parishes and institutions safe and free of abuse.
The diocese will be using CMG Concept, a service of its insurer Catholic Mutual Group, to provide the online training and the background checks.
“Background checks, training and compliance are pieces of our Safe Environment program that have been historically managed through many different systems that were not integrated,” said Bill Stejskal, chief mission integration officer for the diocese and the diocesan Safe Environment coordinator. “So, making sure that an employee or volunteer had an acceptable background check and had completed their training was a busy task.
“CMG Connect allows us to consolidate these critical pieces on a single cloud-based platform,” Stejskal said. “Compliance audits, therefore, are streamlined, efficient and can be conducted in real time. You may think of it as a one-stop cyber shopping. It’s easier and at least as effective as what we have done in the past.”
The previous training program was a slideshow that covered topics such as how to recognize signs of abuse of a child, how to report such abuse, and how to prevent abuse.
“The old training program is about 20 years old,” Stejskal said. “It was effective, but it needed to be refreshed.”
CMG Connect provides a contemporary base-line Safe Environment computer-based training for diocesan employees and volunteers, that includes three videos, Stejskal said. The videos are more realistic than the previous training slideshow, including topics such as how to recognize the signs an adult may be grooming a child to be their victim, he added.
Those who take the training must take a test at the end of each video, Stejskal said. “They’re not hard but you have to watch the video” to answer the questions.
Deacon Hans Toecker, the chancellor of the diocese and the previous diocesan Safe Environment coordinator, had the new training program in place before Stejskal took over those responsibilities last June, Stejskal said.
Diocesan officials encouraged the staffs at the parishes and institutions within the diocese to start using the new training program he said. “It got a lot of support from the parishes and institutions when we rolled it out,” Stejskal said.
But beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, the new training program will be mandatory for all current employees and volunteers as well as new employees and volunteers, Stejskal said.
Besides the new training program, CMG Concept will also take over conducting background checks of all current and new employees and volunteers.
The CMG Concept system makes it easier to update background checks for employees, which is required every five years, and to track when the required background checks and training have been completed by all employees and volunteers, Stejskal said.
“By April 1, 2020, we’ll be able to look at any parish and know where they stand,” Stejskal said.
The requirements for the training and the background checks will be linked, he said. “Not until the required training is completed is the background check automatically launched. This is the reverse of how it used to be done.
“With CMG Connect, we have complete certainty that for any employee or volunteer that a background check has been conducted, the required training has been successfully completed,” Stejskal said.
Among his responsibilities as the Safe Environment coordinator, Stejskal chairs the diocesan Safe Environment Committee, which develops policies and programs for preventing and reporting abuse.
Among the Committee’s goals for this fiscal year, Stejskal said, are: to improve training for employees and volunteers; to select a company to conduct background checks; and to improve the processes to ensure that the required background checks and training are completed.
“The CMG Connect Safe Environment tool gets us a good way down that road,” said Stejskal.
In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which outlined a comprehensive set of procedures for addressing allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, including guidelines for:
• Creating a safe environment for children and young people.
• Healing and reconciliation of victims and survivors.
• Making a prompt and effective response to allegations.
• Cooperating with civil authorities.
• Disciplining offenders.
The Diocese of Nashville has been in full compliance with the requirements of the Charter since its adoption.
The diocese encourages anyone who knows of or suspects that abuse has taken place to make the proper reports to civil authorities and to diocesan officials if the potential abuser is an employee or volunteer of the diocese or one of its institutions.
For more information on the program, click on the Safe Environment link on the diocesan website, www.dioceseofnashville.com

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