April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. But in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, advocacy for youth is addressed each day of every month.

“In the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, efforts to foster a network of child abuse prevention and child protection are a year-round commitment,” said Evelyn Brannan Tarpey, the safe environment coordinator for the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection.

In the 2007-08 academic year, 119,385 children in the parish elementary schools, archdiocesan high schools and programs of religious education received personal safety lessons through the Archdiocese, according to Tarpey.

The lessons, which are posted on the archdiocesan web site, teach the students they have a right to say “no” to anyone who would ask them to do something that makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe and that they need to tell an adult they trust what is happening or what has happened, Tarpey said.

Last October, the Archdiocese released a DVD titled, “The Gift of Innocence,” which addresses the problem of sexual violence against teenagers. A collaboration between the Office for Child and Youth Protection and the Office of Catholic Education, the DVD was viewed by sophomores, juniors and seniors in theology classrooms throughout the 20 archdiocesan high schools.

Since the Archdiocese’s safe environment training program began in September 2003, more than 61,000 adults – laity, clergy and religious – who have regular contact with children in a staff or volunteer capacity throughout the Archdiocese have participated in the program, Tarpey said.

The purpose of the training program is to provide participants with a better understanding of the critical role they play as protectors and advocates for children.

In 2008, the Office for Child and Youth Protection presented 170 safe environment training sessions to 5,504 adults who “now have a better understanding of how child molesters interact with children and adults in order to gain their trust,” Tarpey said. “They have also learned how to report suspected child abuse in Pennsylvania and the importance of modeling for children how adults interact with them in appropriate, respectful and healthy ways,” she added.

Recognizing that parents are the first and most influential teachers of their children – and to support parents in that role – the Office for Child and Youth Protection offers parents two educational DVDs concerning the personal safety of children:

* “What Do I Say Now?” provides personal safety information for parents to share with their young children and offers examples of teachable moments that reinforce safety conversations.

* “Called to Protect for Parents and Families” is geared to parents of pre-adolescent children. It addresses the behavior of child molesters and how they violate the physical, emotional and behavioral boundaries of children.

For more information, contact the archdiocesan Office for Child and Youth Protection at (215) 587-2466 or visit the web site, then click the icon at right, “Victim Assistance & Safe Environment.”

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or