Children's CIRCLE OF GRACE Training Program

FY 2017-2018: Materials being Distributed  
Children’s Training Program

The Circle of Grace Program was developed by the Archdiocese of Omaha and has been a passionate journey for all involved.  The Archdiocese of Omaha committee was brought together by the mandate of the U.S. Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The charter mandates that each diocese must have a safe environment program for children and youth which include an audit to ensure compliance.

The committee set a goal early on that we wanted a program rich in our Catholic faith and clinically sound.  The committee knew the program needed to first meet the standards of the U. S. Bishop’s audit, but we also wanted much more for our children and youth. Thus, we decided that our main commitment was above and beyond meeting the needs of the U.S. Bishops’ audit; we want to ensure the safety, wellâ??being, and spiritual formation of our children and youth. With these goals in mind, we have developed a program which includes teaching a culture of respect and faith that goes beyond mere protection.  This program helps children and young people understand their own sacredness, the sacredness of others, and how to seek help through their relationships with trusted adults. Consequently, the Circle of Grace concept was born.

What is the Circle of Grace? It is the love and goodness of God that surrounds us and all others.  It is the recognition that God is with us always and is there to help us in difficult situations.  Through the Circle of Grace Program, adults assist children and youth to recognize God’s love by understanding that each of us lives and moves within a Circle of Grace.  Your Circle of Grace holds who you are in your body and through your senses. It holds your very essence in mind, heart, soul, and sexuality.

This holistic concept allows children and youth to identify uncomfortable situations long before any inappropriate touch may occur.  Those who molest children start to groom them by manipulating them to break rules and keep secrets such as consuming alcohol and viewing pornography.  This manipulation usually occurs before any attempt of inappropriate touch.  The Circle of Grace program helps children and youth to identify early on when they are uncomfortable with a situation and includes ways to seek the help of a trusted adult.  The Circle of Grace Kâ??12 Program goals and objectives are met in all grades.  The program is selfâ??contained for each grade with everything needed to teach the material.

One of the benefits of the Circle of Grace program is that the instructors also have the opportunity to ponder their own belief and experience of God’s presence in their lives.  During a training session an operating room nurse, who was a catechist, asked the following question: “So Jesus is right with us in the operating room?”  Her prior faith formation taught this belief but the Circle of Grace Program finally allowed her to understand God’s love in a very visual and real way for her life.

With that realization in mind, ponder the Circle of Grace prayer.  It is profound in its simplicity.

 Raise your hands above your head then bring
your outstretched arms slowly down. Extend your arms
in front of you and then behind you
embrace all of the space around you slowly reach down to your feet.
Knowing that God is in this space with you.
This is your Circle of Grace; you are in it.
What would our world look like if we all lived believing
and truly knowing that God is that close? 

What is a Circle of Grace?

The Catholic Church teaches that God has created each of us as unique and special. Genesis 1:27 tells us that we are created “male and female in God’s image” and that God saw this as “very good.”  In that goodness, we are meant to respect ourselves and everyone else as persons created and loved by God.

Adults assist children/young people to recognize God’s love by helping them to understand that each of us lives and moves in a Circle of Grace.  You can imagine your own Circle of Grace by putting your arms above your head then circle down in front of your body including side to side.  This circle, front to back, holds who you are in your body and through your senses.  It holds your very essence in mind, heart, soul, and sexuality.

Why is it important to help our children/young people understand the Circle of Grace?

God intends our relationships in life to be experiences of divine love.  Respectful, nurturing, loving relationships increase our understanding of our own value and help us to love others.  It is never too early to help children/young people understand how very special they are and how relationships in life are called to be sacred.  Understanding this can help them to protect the special person they are and to be respectful of others.

Adults, as they strive to provide a safe and protective environment, hold the responsibility to help children/young people understand and respect their own dignity and that of others.  A truly safe and protective environment is one where children/young people recognize when they are safe or unsafe and know how to bring their concerns, fears, and uncertainties to the trusted adults in their lives.

How is the Circle of Grace Program different from other protection programs?

According to research, one in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused by age eighteen. Many protection programs focus on “stranger danger,” however, up to ninety percent of the time the perpetrator is a relative, family friend or other person known to the child/young person.  Circle of Grace goes beyond just protection by helping children/young people understand the sacredness of who they are and how to seek help through their relationships with trusted adults.

Goal of the Circle of Grace Program - Grades PK-12

The goal of the Circle of Grace program is to educate and empower children and young people to actively participate in a safe environment for themselves and others.

Objectives of the Circle of Grace Program - Grades PK-12

  • Children/Young People will understand they are created by God and live in the love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  • Children/Young People will be able to describe the Circle of Grace which God gives each of us.
  • Children/Young People will be able to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual boundaries.
  • Children/Young People will be able to identify all types of boundary violations.
  • Children/Young People will demonstrate how to take action if any boundary is threatened or violated.

School Administrators, Directors of Religious Education, and Youth Ministry Leaders

  • Leader is defined as clergy, administrator, director of religious education/formation, teacher, catechist, or youth minister who has been trained to teach the Circle of Grace Program. All leaders must be adults and certified in Safe Environment training.
  • Every leader should read the Philosophy, Goals and Key Concepts to better understand and prepare to teach the Circle of Grace. The Key Concepts review the essence of the curriculum, that God is always present in our Circle of Grace and desires an intimate relationship with His children.
  • Administrator/Director needs to review how to handle sensitive situations with each leader. It is important for leaders to report all concerning situations to their Administrator/Directors and understand child abuse/neglect reporting laws. A Quick Reference Card for Leaders is located in this section.
  • This program may bring up past issues with a leader which may make it difficult for them to teach the lessons. Please encourage leaders in this situation to speak with their Administrator/ Director, Pastor, or they can call the Local or Diocesan Safe Environment Director directly. Supportive resources are available in their community to help them.
  • Circle of Grace Curriculum has both comprehensive and focus grades. The comprehensive grades have multiple lessons in PKâ??3.  This is due to vulnerability and need for repetition Grades six has multiple lessons due to insecurity of transitional years.  The focus grades have a lesson on one particular area.
  • The timeframe for lessons may vary depending on size of class, age of children/young people, amount of discussion, etc. Grade 6th lessons can be done as a retreat night. Sometimes there is a need to combine grades. If so, pick the most appropriate curriculum to teach the group.  It must be a complete grade section.
  • Vocabularies with definitions are intended for the leader. The explanation of vocabulary should be integrated within the context of the lessons to assist the children and young people in their understanding of the Circle of Grace Program. The depth of the children/young people’s understanding will depend upon their age and developmental stage. A master vocabulary list of the Circle of Grace Program is included in the packet for each grade.
  • Each lesson is correlated with Catholic teachings.
  • The Circle of Grace program must be implemented in all grades each year.
  • The Kindergarten through Grade 2 lessons are very similar. Children in this developmental phase learn through intentional repetition.
  • Leader’s instructions for each lesson are italicized. Nonâ??italicized text needs to be presented by the leader to the children or young people. All the information and handouts are provided for each grade.
  • If possible, it is always “best practice” to have two adults in the room during the lesson due to the sensitive nature of the material.
  • There should be no more than two to three weeks between the last two lessons in grades K, 1, 2, 3, and 6. Ongoing reinforcement of the concepts is encouraged throughout the year.  Hopefully, the language of Circle of Grace will become a part of a positive culture of respect, care, and faith that will help protect our children and young people and help them to know what to do when they feel unsafe.
  • The School Administrator, Religious Education Director, or Youth Minister Director needs to send out the provided letter to all parents regarding Circle of Grace prior to starting the program. All parents should receive the “Common Questions of Parents” handout. Lesson specific parent information should be handed out as directed. The parent information included in this chapter for every parish/school is to assist in providing parent education both to inform parents about the Circle of Grace program and to foster greater communication in families.
  • The Children’s Training Worksheet needs to be completed and retained at the parish/school. The Children’s Training Report needs to be completed and sent to the Diocesan Office of Safe Environment for parish/ school documentation of the implementation of the program and for audit records.