FOLLOW US  Click to go to Facebook.  Click to go to Twitter.  Click to go to YouTube.   TEXT SIZE Click to make text small. Click for medium-sized text. Click to make text large.  

Who We Are


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:

  • To assist each diocese and eparchy (eastern Rite Churches) in implementing "Safe Environment" programs designed to ensure necessary safety and security for all children as they participate in church and religious activities
  • To develop an appropriate compliance audit mechanism to assist the Bishops and Eparchs in adhering to the responsibilities set forth in the Charter
  • To prepare a public, annual report describing the compliance of each diocese and eparchy to the Charter's provisions

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.

Office Staff

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, held the position of Director of Safe Environment Training for the Diocese of Phoenix since 2011. Her accomplishments include serving as a professional resource for 220 safe environment coordinators, 470 safe environment trainers, and approximately 27,000 diocesan personnel and volunteers. Melanie holds a M.S. in Psychology from the University of Phoenix, AZ and B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ. She is married and is looking forward to the birth of her firstborn in June 2016. 

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.

Drew Dillingham, coordinator for resources and special projects, has served the Conference since July 2013. Drew completed a Diploma in Safeguarding of Minors at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2017. Drew also holds a B.A. in Political Science and a Master's of Public Policy from Stony Brook University, NY, as well as a certificate in Catholic Theology from St. Joseph's College in Maine.

By accepting this message, you will be leaving the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. This link is provided solely for the user's convenience. By providing this link, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops assumes no responsibility for, nor does it necessarily endorse, the website, its content, or sponsoring organizations.

cancel  continue