Working together to protect youth, vulnerable adults

By Catholic Spirit Staff

Next fall will mark the 15th anniversary of the Diocese of Austin’s Ethics and Integrity in Ministry (EIM) program. Since June 2002 the diocese’s efforts have followed the mandate of the “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” instituted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to protect children and vulnerable adults. 
The diocesan Office of Ethics and Integrity in Ministry continues to evaluate programs and policies. The EIM policies must be reviewed and updated periodically per the Charter; the most recent update was completed this summer and the revised policies are now available in English and Spanish both online on the EIM page at www.austindiocese.org and at parishes and Catholic schools in the diocese. 
Emily Hurlimann, the diocesan EIM coordinator, said the primary effort of the latest update was to make the document more “user friendly” by reducing some of the repetitiveness found in the previous version, and by more clearly explaining various EIM requirements. For instance, the final section on “Responding” includes a simple reporting decision tree showing whom to contact if abuse is suspected. The EIM policies are reviewed regularly by the diocesan EIM Review Board, which provides valuable feedback throughout the update process. Final approval is determined by Bishop Joe Vásquez.
The Diocese of Austin has maintained EIM compliance for every EIM audit since this process began more than 10 years ago. As required by the Charter and the diocesan policies, allegations of abuse and concerns of boundary violations are reviewed and addressed by the diocesan Coordinator of Victim Assistance and Pastoral Support, the EIM Office, the EIM Review Board, and ultimately by the bishops of the diocese. 
“Screening, as well as training and education programs for various age groups, have been in place since 2001. Warning signs have been explained and learned. Appropriate ways to interact with minors and vulnerable persons have been taught. Victims have been listened to and received counseling. Reporting procedures have been followed. Children have been protected,” Hurlimann said.
The diocesan EIM Office is responsible for helping parishes and schools make sure all clergy, religious, employees and volunteers who minister to minors or vulnerable adults, are fully EIM compliant meaning they complete the EIM Application for Ministry which permits the diocese to run a background check, and attend an EIM workshop every three years. Additional responsibilities of the EIM Office include processing notices of concern submitted to the diocese, training volunteers to provide various training/education programs and evaluating current and future program needs.
There are three specific points Hurlimann wants to make sure are known about the diocesan EIM program:
If anyone suspects abuse has occurred, or is occurring, state law requires that it be reported to civil authorities, and it should also be reported to church officials if it involves church personnel. The diocese is committed to providing compassionate and confidential care to victims of abuse. 
If anyone is a victim of sexual abuse and has concerns about attending an EIM workshop, they should contact the EIM Office at (512) 949-2447 to discuss an alternative workshop arrangement. 
If everyone throughout the diocese works together to learn about and enforce the policies and procedures of the diocesan EIM program, we are more likely to help prevent abuse in our parishes, schools and communities. 
“We are all called to protect our children and vulnerable adults, and with our policies and more awareness about abuse, we can do that,” Hurlimann said.
Specific questions about the diocesan Ethics and Integrity in Ministry policies may be addressed to 
Hurlimann at (512) 949-2447 or emily-hurlimann@
austindiocese.org.