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Keeping Maine kids safe from sexual abuse

A conference aimed at providing more tools to protect children at risk is underway in Portland

PORTLAND, Maine — Teaching faith communities how to better protect children from sexual abuse was just one the issues being discussed at the Keep Kids Safe Maine conference for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.

Prosecutors, health care providers, faith leaders, law-enforcement officials and educators from across the state are learning how to better protect children who may be at risk for sexual abuse.

Victor Veith, a nationally recognized child sexual abuse expert, says one in five churches in this country have a sex offender in their congregations, crucial information faith leaders may not be aware of.

He says faith communities often recruit volunteers to work with young children — but without proper training and screening potential offenders can get through that process.

"Many offenders are attracted to faith communities and one of our goals is to educate and put in training policies to reduce the risks," said Veith of the Zero Abuse Project.

Veith says besides a criminal background check, church officials need to check an applicant's social media and work history. The conference, being held at the First Baptist Church in Portland, is free and open to the public wraps up Saturday.

Go here for more information on the Keep Kids Safe Maine conference.

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