As part of its continuing response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis, the Diocese of Allentown has created a new cabinet-level leadership position to further strengthen its programs to prevent abuse and keep children safe.
Pamela Russo, an experienced executive and licensed social worker, has been named Diocesan Secretary for Youth Protection and Catholic Human Services. She will be responsible for overseeing and improving all aspects of abuse prevention and child safety.
“Preventing abuse and keeping children safe are top priorities,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert. “We are extremely blessed that a woman of Pam’s experience and insight will be joining us to advance these protections to the next level.”
As part of her new role, Russo will be available as a resource to assist victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse as they report their experiences and apply for compensation from the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.
Russo also will launch a thorough review of all current diocesan policies on Safe Environment, Victim Assistance and Child Protection, and will develop and implement improvements.
Russo is currently executive director of Catholic Charities of Tennessee, in Nashville. It is the largest Catholic Charities organization in the state, with 170 employees and a budget of $20 million. She will begin work in Allentown soon.
“This newly-created role is a unique opportunity to really make a difference in critical areas at a critical time in the history of the Diocese,” said Russo. “I’m thrilled to be joining the Diocese of Allentown team.”
The Diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator, Safe Environment Coordinator and Charter Compliance Officer, who play key roles in providing services to abuse victims or in preventing abuse and keeping children safe, will report to Russo.
Russo also will oversee Catholic Human Services and protection of vulnerable adults. In those capacities, reporting to her will be the chief executive officer and chief financial officer of Catholic Senior Housing and Health Care Services, and the executive director of Catholic Charities.
Russo has vast experience in child welfare roles and has served as an instructor for courses on recognizing signs of child abuse. She earned her Master of Social Work degree from Temple University, Philadelphia, and also holds a Master of Science degree in Administration of Human Services from Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia.
She is a former Secretary for Catholic Human Services at the Diocese of Allentown, and also previously worked as executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Allentown. Previous to that, she held positions with Catholic Social Services, Philadelphia, including manager of the Mercy Hospice Residential Facility, and worked as assistant director of residential services at Keio Academy of New York.
Anyone who knows of incidents of abuse, in the Church or outside it, should report it to the State ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313, the State Attorney General’s hotline at 1-888-538-8541, or to local law enforcement. The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator is available to provide assistance to anyone who, as a minor, was abused by a priest, deacon, employee, or volunteer of the Diocese, or of its parishes. Her direct line is 1-800-791-9209.