Catholic church leaders and staff from all across Iowa are meeting in West Des Moines today for the launch of a program to promote the protection of children from sexual abuse. Anne Marie Cox, spokeswoman for the Des Moines diocese, says the effort is called the Safe Environment Program. Priests, deacons, school administrators and diocesan staff members from all four of Iowa’s Catholic dioceses have been invited — several hundred people are expected for the presentations which start at 8 AM. Cox says the protection of children from sexual abuse is a top priority for the church. Cox says the program targets institutional change and addresses individual behavior in terms of raising awareness of the sexual abuse of children — how to see the signs or symptoms of possible sexual abuse. In addition to the Safe Environment Program, there will also be a code of conduct published for church personnel and there will be a broader range of people who will undergo criminal background checks. Today’s program kickoff is being held at West Des Moines Dowling High School.
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