December 01, 2020

The Catholic University of America has launched a new online graduate-level certificate in Child Protection and Safe Environments. The four-course certificate will educate students on the causes of abuse, how to prevent it, and how to respond to discovering it in any context, from home to Church to school.

The Child Protection and Safe Environments certificate program is a collaboration among Catholic University’s National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS), the School of Theology and Religious Studies, and the Columbus School of Law. The program is a reflection of the unique expertise offered at Catholic University across disciplines. Students in the certificate program are required to complete four courses in the fields of theology, social work, and law, culminating with a capstone research project of their own choosing. 

Designed as an asynchronous program (courses do not meet at one set time), the certificate is easily able to fit into the busy schedules of working people. Thus, it caters to non-traditional students: chancery employees; Catholic school administrators or teachers; clergy or seminarians; youth ministers or scout leaders, etc. 

Topics covered include:

  • The dynamics involved in sexual abuse and exploitation, particularly within the Catholic Church.
  • The history and current practice of child protection and safe environment programs, particularly within the Catholic Church.
  • Core principles of trauma-informed services.
  • Policies, programs, and clinical interventions designed to help trauma survivors.
  • Criminal and civil and legal systems and their roles in addressing abuse.

Eileen Dombo, associate professor of social work, was a leader in designing the certificate program. She hopes the courses will provide a more intensive training for Church leaders on the effects of trauma and sexual abuse, so that they can more effectively respond to survivors and navigate difficult conversations around sexual violence. 

The certificate program kicked-off last fall with an in-person version. The new fully online program is now accepting students for the Spring 2021 semester. 

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