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In Dallas, 2002, at their Annual Meeting, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops drafted a landmark document in response to the crisis of sexual abuse of children in the Church. This document, setting forth their agreed upon responsibilities in combating the problem, was entitled the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
The charter specifically created the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection and assigned to it three central tasks:
The Secretariat for Child and Youth Protection is a resource for dioceses/eparchies for implementing safe environment programs and for suggesting training and development of diocesan personnel responsible for child and youth protection programs; taking into account the financial and other resources, as well as the population, and demographics of the diocese/eparchy. The Secretariat produces an annual public report on the progress made in implementing and maintaining the standards in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People following an annual audit process. The report is public and includes the names of dioceses/eparchies that the audit shows are not in compliance with the provisions and expectations of the Charter.
Deacon Bernie Nojadera, executive director, served as Director of the Office for the Protection of Children and Vulnerable Adults with the Diocese of San Jose, California, from 2002-2011. He has a bachelor of arts degree from St. Joseph College, Mountain View, California, in 1984; a master of social work degree specializing in health and mental health services from San Jose State University in 1991; and a master of arts in theology from St. Patrick’s Seminary and University, Menlo Park, California, in 2002. He has been a member of the Diocese of San Jose Safe Environment Task Force, involved with the San Jose Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the County of Santa Clara Interfaith Clergy Task Force on the Prevention of Elder Abuse, and the County of Santa Clara Task Force on Suicide Prevention. He has worked as a clinical social worker for Santa Clara County Mental Health (1991-2000) and is a military veteran. He is married and has two children.
Melanie Takinen, associate director, has been with the USCCB since 2016. Previously, Melanie served as the Director of Safe Environment Training for the Catholic Diocese of Phoenix for five years. While working at the diocese, Melanie was involved in various coalitions for the prevention of child abuse and made many improvements to the diocesan safe environment training program. Her prior work experience also includes academic counseling, case management and youth ministry. Melanie holds a Master’s degree in Psychology from the University of Phoenix and a Bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with concentrations in Diversity in Education and Sociology from Arizona State University. She is married and has one son.
Laura Garner, executive assistant, joined the staff of the Secretariat of Child and Youth Protection on January 3, 2011. Previously, Ms. Garner served as a Staff Assistant in the Office of the General Counsel with the USCCB since 2008. Ms. Garner holds a BA in Psychology from Loyola College and an MA in Art Therapy from George Washington University. Before joining the USCCB, she worked at home as a medical transcriptionist while raising four children. Other employment includes bank teller, paraprofessional, computer educator, and receptionist.
Lauren Sarmir, coordinator for resources and special projects, is new to the USCCB. Previously, Lauren served as Advancement Operations Manager for the Pontifical North American College’s Office of Institutional Advancement in Washington, DC. Her prior work experience includes: The Heritage Foundation, Family Research Council, United Kingdom House of Commons, as well as the United States House and Senate. Lauren holds a Master’s degree in International Politics, and a Bachelor’s degree in Politics with a focus in Latin American Affairs/Hispanic Studies, and Catholicism in post-Communist Eastern Europe, both from The Catholic University of America. She and her husband live in DC.
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