YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Catholic Diocese of Youngstown is joining other diocese across the country in implementing new programs to prevent child abuse.

VIRTUS is a nationally recognized group of programs that promote “rightdoing” within religious organizations.

In 1994, the Youngstown Diocese started using the policy “Treasures Gift from God” to protect children. Now that it’s moving toward VIRTUS, the protection it wants to provide for kids who may victims of abuse will be enhanced.

Former Youngstown Police Det. Delphine Baldwin-Casey is joining forces with the Youngstown Diocese and Monseigneur John Zuraw to bring in VIRTUS. As the Victim Assistance Coordinator, Baldwin-Casey is the first point of contact for people who claim to have been sexually abused by clergy, religious or church personnel, or volunteers.

Handling child abuse cases is nothing new for Baldwin-Casey, who spent 31 years with YPD. She created the crisis intervention unit for the department and still serves on the children services board.

“The worst abuse of any victim is their silence, and they should tell someone. Someone they trust, that they can confide in. Someone that would believe what they’re saying,” she said.

Zuraw says the diocese is changing to VIRTUS because it is nationally recognized. If someone who may be abused moves, they can still get help under VIRTUS.

Everyone within the diocese will be required to watch two videos and do book work in order to be trained in the programs. Not only will priests and other church workers be required to participate in the program, but teachers, principals and even volunteers in the school systems will be required as well.

“The program helps the individual who has been trained to then know what do I do. If I see these signs, who are the necessary components or individuals that I must notify?” Zuraw said.

Knowing the signs of child abuse is just part of the training. Baldwin-Casey says training all of the staff to react to the child correctly will be the biggest component.

“You need to be compassionate toward what they’re saying. You need to listen, you need to treat every case on an individual basis.”

Baldwin-Casey is already accepting phone calls from those who feel they have been abused by a diocesan employee or volunteer.

Anyone who feels that they have been a victim of child abuse by a priest, deacon, seminarian, religious, including those in formation, diocesan employee or volunteer and those who have reason to suspect that someone they know has been a victim should call her at 330-718-1388.

WKBN 27 First News reached out to several Catholic schools in the area for comment, but they said they were still in the process of getting information about VIRTUS.