Donors’ group asks funders to sign pledge supporting child protection policies

Donors’ group asks funders to sign pledge supporting child protection policies

Children play during gym class at South Boston Catholic Academy in Boston Jan. 28, 2021, amid the coronavirus pandemic. A new Safeguarding Initiative announced Feb. 23, 2021, by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities includes a pledge for donors to show their support for protecting children and vulnerable adults from abuse. (Credit: Allison Dinner/Reuters via CNS.)

An umbrella group for Catholic philanthropy, calling it an effort to "change cultural norms" by increasing donor engagement, has developed a pledge for funders to use to connect their giving to guarantees there will be procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — An umbrella group for Catholic philanthropy, calling it an effort to “change cultural norms” by increasing donor engagement, has developed a pledge for funders to use to connect their giving to guarantees there will be procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults from sexual abuse.

Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, or FADICA, which was founded in 1976, calls it the “Funder Safeguarding Pledge” and said it is the key component of a multiyear initiative, “Commitment to Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection.”

The pledge, for FADICA members and their grantee partners, asks whether their organization has a safeguarding policy; “clearly defines appropriate and inappropriate boundaries between employees and youths”; has procedures for managing high-risk activities including overnight stays and electronic communications; screens employees for abuse risk; and has clear procedures for reporting abuse and suspicious behaviors.

So far, 17 of FADICA’s member partners have signed on, including the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, the Catholic Medical Mission Board, the Loyola Foundation, and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

“By implementing this safeguarding initiative through the member network, the burden on any individual member decreases, and access for a larger number of grantee organizations increases,” FADICA said in a statement.

This is “particularly helpful for smaller, grassroots grantee-partners, who may not have devoted resources or personnel for safeguarding,” it added.

In a Feb. 25 webinar, Maria Robinson, chair of the FADICA board and a member of the Raskob Foundation for Catholic Activities, called it an “important first step within the philanthropic community, and we all have roles to play.”

Also in the webinar were Teresa Kettelkamp, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors; Peter Laugharn, president and CEO of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation; and Juan Carlos Cruz, an advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and himself a survivor of abuse in Chile.

In 2018, after Pope Francis sent investigators to look into abuse claims in Chile and confirm what Cruz and others said was taking place there, Cruz was welcomed to the Vatican by the pope to share his experience and recommendations.

“This should not be a top-down process handled solely by leadership. The key is to pass the baton to the base,” said Kettelkamp about the FADICA initiative. She is a former executive director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection.

“This is a journey,” Laugharn said. “We’re all on a journey together.”

For so long, we have been so scared about talking about it,” Cruz said. “We can’t hold it in. So it is tremendously important for initiatives such as this with foundations that are leaders in this area.”

“People tend to be scared of survivors sometimes,” he added. “Sometimes people see survivors and they see a lawyer with dollar signs. We’re not like that.”

FADICA describes itself as “the leading philanthropic peer network serving as a catalyst for a vital Catholic Church, Catholic ministries and the common good.”

Alexia Kelley, FADICA president and CEO, formerly worked in President Barack Obama’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, both in the Department of Health and Human Services, and at the White House.

She also worked at the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, the U.S. bishops domestic anti-poverty program (1993-2002) and was a co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.

The FADICA news release said that when reports on clergy sex abuse in the Catholic Church emerged again in 2018, FADICA members began working on what is now its “Funder Safeguarding Pledge” and multiyear initiative “Commitment to Child and Vulnerable Adult Protection.”

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