Archdiocese Releases New Child Protection Policy and Announces Child Protection Director

March 20, 2003

Eight months of intensive work by an independent board of child welfare experts, chaired by Shay Bilchik, the president and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, has resulted in a newly expanded and updated Child Protection Policy for the Archdiocese of Washington. The policy, announced today, will go into effect on June 1, 2003. In addition, a new Director of Child Protection, Marcia Zvara, will start on April 1, 2003.

“I could not be more pleased with the work of this committee nor more grateful for the energy, experience and commitment the members brought to this task,” said Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, who established the Child Protection Advisory Board. “While the Archdiocese has had a child protection policy for 17 years, this new policy truly is a model for any organization that is committed to protecting children.”

The past Archdiocesan policy called for prevention and response when abuse did occur, including criminal background checks on employees and volunteers working with children, education, mandated reporting to civil and archdiocesan authorities, removal from ministry, pastoral care and a Case Review Board of predominantly lay people to advise the cardinal-archbishop on fitness for ministry when a clergy member has been accused.

“When the Advisory Board undertook this work it was affirming to discover that a strong foundation and policy already existed in this area,” said Shay Bilchik. “The Cardinal has allowed the Board to expand the scope of the policy to protect more children, formalize each section of the policy in order to create greater consistency in its implementation, and has asserted that the appropriate role of the Church is to proactively seek to achieve a greater level of safety for all children,” commented Bilchik.

The new policy, online in English and Spanish at, greatly expands these core requirements. The policy is comprehensive, addressing not just child sexual abuse, but the full range of child protection, including child physical abuse and neglect.

The expanded policy calls for significant transparency, and details how prevention and response efforts will be carried out, such as how the Case Review Board will function and what the pastoral care offered by the Archdiocese will encompass.

In addition, a key component is greater accountability. Compliance measures and responsibility for carrying out each component of the policy are detailed for the first time. In addition, every Secretariat and agency of the Archdiocese of Washington will be required to file an annual report of its own compliance with the policy. The Child Protection Advisory Board and Case Review Board will meet jointly each year and the Child Protection Advisory Board will produce an annual report detailing Archdiocesan child protection activities.

Finally, the revised policy greatly expands and revises how the Archdiocese will provide pastoral care in the case of an allegation. Most significantly, the policy calls for a Director of Child Protection to coordinate the response to allegations and to ensure victims receive compassionate and appropriate pastoral care. In addition, guidelines for the pastoral care for someone who is falsely accused are included for the first time.

The new Director of Child Protection, Marcia Zvara, M.S.W., has extensive social services experience. Since 1996, Ms. Zvara has been a senior assistant to the director for the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. Over the past six months, she has managed the delivery of income support programs, emergency services, employment programs, community outreach and child care subsidy programs.

Prior to that, her responsibilities included working with the chairs and staffs of the 13 boards and commissions that advise the Department of Health and Human Services, working with staff of the county council’s Health and Human Services Committee and handling special assignments such as legislative analysis for health and human services.

From 1988 to 1996, she was a special projects manager for the county’s Department of Social Services. She coordinated staffing for the county’s Welfare Reform Task Force and coordinated the committee that developed the agreement between the State of Maryland and Montgomery County to implement state legislation consolidating Montgomery County’s four health and human services departments into one county agency.

Ms. Zvara also served as chief of the Family Services Division, Montgomery County Department of Social Services and as an assistant director of the Prince George’s County Department of Social Services. In each position, she managed the delivery of an extensive network of social services, including family services.

She received a B.A. in psychology from Oberlin College in 1964 and a master’s in social work from the Howard University School of Social Work in 1968. She is a licensed clinical social worker.

Susan Gibbs
Office of Communications
[email protected]