When she began facilitating safe environment training in the Diocese of Palm Beach in 2005, Donna Eurich did not know that child protection would become her vocation and full-time work in the future. She was a middle school religion teacher at the time. Now she is the director of child and youth protection and the victim assistance coordinator for the Diocese of Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma, and the first graduate of the online Certificate in Child Protection and Safe Environments offered by the National Catholic School of Social Service at The Catholic University of America.
A year ago, Tulsa Bishop David Konderla asked Donna if she were interested in completing the online certificate program at Catholic University, promising that the diocese would fund this education. Eurich enthusiastically answered yes.
Eurich took courses online that addressed sexual abuse and exploitation, social work responses to trauma, and law and policy as it relates to child protection. Eurich said she enjoyed the certificate courses and was unable to choose which was her favorite.
“Everything I learned was valuable!” she said. When pressed, Eurich said, “The piece I was most interested in was victim assistance. I came to Tulsa as the safe environment coordinator initially, and evolved into the victim assistance coordinator, and I wanted a better overarching understanding of how those two meshed together."
Eurich noted that before participating in the program at Catholic University, she did not have a background in social work, as many victim assistance coordinators do. “But to be the coordinator you do not have to be the clinician. You can help and guide a person through the process of getting the help they need. This program gives you a good overview of what to expect in the work,” she said.
She completed a capstone project under the direction of the program’s director, Eileen Dombo, who is associate professor, assistant dean, and chair of the doctoral program at the National Catholic School of Social Service. For her capstone project, Eurich created a video summary of best practices for diocesan child and youth protection.
“I am proud of Donna's work,” Dombo said, “and believe that she will use what she has learned in our program to help victims of clergy sexual abuse, and help others in her diocese be more trauma-informed in their responses.”
Eurich said she will use what she learned in the certificate program to inform her work going forward. “I went into this program with a mission for my diocese: to become a trauma-informed Church, so that everyone in the Church who deals with people (answers the phone, etc.) takes into consideration that they could be talking to a victim, and that there are certain things that you should or should not do. My goal, in collaboration with my bishop and vicar general, is that we can help our priests—and everyone else, quite frankly—respond properly when disclosures are made to them.”
It is heartening to know that the Church’s response to victims of clergy abuse in Tulsa and Eastern Oklahoma will be informed by Donna Eurich, and that Catholic University has played a role in helping her serve others.