The Diocese of St. Cloud launched a new online platform Aug. 1 designed to help its parishes and Catholic schools maintain safe-environment records and streamline training information.
“Our first priority is creating safe places in our churches for our youth and vulnerable adults,” said Linda Kaiser, the diocese’s safe environment coordinator. “This new platform will not only help us continue to improve our efforts but will also be more efficient and more effective for those serving in our parishes and schools.”
Administrative functions that were originally carried out through paper transactions by parishes, schools and the diocese will now be completed entirely online. Additional features include:
- Online tools to monitor parish and school compliance.
- Each local site administrator will be able to see who has completed training and background checks as well as the dates of completion.
- There will be one company — SELECTiON.com — designated to do background checks for everyone in the diocese who works with children, youth and vulnerable adults.
- After this year, parishes and schools will no longer have to submit an annual compliance report. All the data needed for the diocese to complete the report for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ audit will be gathered through this new system. Each parish and school can download their own data for their records.
- Staff and volunteers will submit their own background check request, but not until the five-year renewal date, avoiding duplication.
- SELECTiON.COM does nationwide checks as well as quarterly watches.
Prior to Aug. 1, safe environment training was required every year. With the new platform, it will only be needed once every five years for adults along with a background check.
Everyone will do the safe environment training online for 2018-19. Student training will continue to take place annually.
The new platform is a product of Catholic Mutual Group, which also handles property and liability insurance for the diocese. Catholic Mutual launched the program in July 2016 in six dioceses; currently 36 dioceses in the United States and Canada use it.
“It has been a really good tool for diocesan administrators to see what is happening at the parish level and to keep all data in one place,” said Lori Kortright, risk control training supervisor for Catholic Mutual. “There are 8,968 registered accounts in the St. Cloud Diocese and site administrators can see in real time where people are at in the process as well as monitor when they are about to expire and help them get certified again.”
In addition to the criminal background check and required safe environment training every five years, more training options are available throughout the year through the new site.
“We are always working on new content, exciting new trainings that people can access through the platform. This allows us to be a one-stop shop for [fostering] safety ,” Kortright said.
Lori Iannuzzelli, faith formation secretary and safe environment coordinator at St. Andrew Parish in Elk River, attended one of the training sessions for the new platform given by the diocesan safe environment team Aug. 1 in St. Cloud. The team includes Kaiser; Tim Welch, diocesan media consultant; and Terry Voigt, administrative assistant to the vicar general.
“At the meeting kick-off, Linda Kaiser and Tim Welch gave a very informative overview of the ‘whats’ and ‘whys’ of the program changes and of the deep importance of safe environment itself,” Iannuzzelli said. “They, along with Terry Voigt, then proceeded to walk us through the new platform while explaining details and answering questions from the attendees as well.
“All of the information was quite useful and there was opportunity to discuss individual everyday scenario ‘what ifs?’ which allowed for the site administrators to feel confident about working through the process with their respective parishes and schools,” she added.
Notably, Iannuzzelli said the platform prevents the duplication of records and allows for sharing data within the St. Cloud Diocese. She also appreciated the ability to generate various reports to track progress.
“The most important message from the meeting was in the defining of who should be trained — those whose duties include contact with minors,” Iannuzzelli said. “After all, our most important priority in Catholic education is keeping our students safe.”