Promoting a Culture of Safety: Nikki Hittle Earns Certified Praesidium Guardian Designation (CPG) as Safe Environment Director for the Legionaries of Christ.
The Legionaries of Christ safe environment director, Nikki Hittle, has achieved the esteemed designation of Certified Praesidium Guardian (CPG), according to an announcement made by the Congregation earlier today. There have been, roughly, 850 people who have successfully earned the CPG since Praesidium launched the program in 2016. Praesidium, a renowned leader in risk management of sexual abuse of vulnerable populations, awarded the certification to Ms. Hittle in recognition of her commitment to the highest standards in sexual abuse prevention. With this achievement, she joins a community of professionals dedicated to fostering a culture of safety through risk management and best practices in preventing sexual abuse.
Ms. Hittle is an accomplished professional who has served as the safe environment director for the Legionaries of Christ since November 2, 2020. With a deep commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of vulnerable populations, she has dedicated her career to the prevention of sexual abuse and the promotion of a culture of safety. She earned a BA in Elementary Education in 2000 from the University of Montana with certification in teaching grades Kindergarten-8th, a Master’s of Social Work (MSW) in 2008 from Eastern Washington University with certification in school social work, and educational leadership training and principal certification with Washington State University in 2012. As an educator and social worker for 20 years, she has worked in diverse communities teaching at the elementary and middle school levels, as a social worker in high schools, and as a principal at the elementary school level. In late 2020, she decided to transfer her gifts and expertise to the non-profit sector focusing on developing trainings in trauma informed/sensitive practices and visionary leadership for building collaborative and positive communities providing safe environments for all…kids and adult alike.
As the safe environment director, she ensures effective systems and procedures are in place for facilitating the opportunity for justice to prevail, and for promoting the creation of healthy environments that allow priests and laity to thrive. It is her role to meet the needs of all who are involved by ensuring that activities run by the Congregation occur in a safe environment. She works on behalf of victims by assessing allegations and activating an appropriate response; the accused by ensuring due process is followed and coordinating with the investigative team and authorities for a valid and thorough investigation of allegations; all Legionaries of Christ in the North American Territory by helping ensure safe environments, education, and training opportunities are available to increase the awareness and capacity of all the members of the congregation; and those who support the Legionaries of Christ by implementing collaborative partnerships, sharing the vision of the work and communicating with stakeholders for feedback to improve practices. “The safe environment department aspires to prevent trauma, effectively respond to allegations, and pastorally intervene with all those involved in the situation,” Nikki Hittle said. “Our work is guided by the Congregation’s Code of Conduct as well as the safety standards set forth by Praesidium to maintain our accreditation for a safe environment.”
The work Ms. Hittle has invested into acquiring the CPG certification will increase her capacity to effectively contribute to the mission of the safe environment department and the Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ. The CPG certification acknowledges individuals who demonstrate a profound dedication to preventing sexual abuse of vulnerable populations. To obtain the certification, Ms. Hittle successfully completed a rigorous certification process, gaining proficiency in organizational abuse prevention best practices and acquiring specific skills to prevent incidents of abuse. Additionally, she exhibited knowledge on how to respond effectively in the event of an allegation or incident, ensuring that the Legionaries of Christ consistently implement abuse prevention best practices.
Ms. Hittle said the path toward earning the CPG was a challenging and rewarding process. She stated “I appreciated the time and resources to gain in-depth understanding of safeguarding and the opportunity to have dialogue with like-role professionals in other industries that serve youth and vulnerable adults. In my opinion, the most helpful part was the impact project as it required me to put into action what I learned and it was set up to be collaborative in nature allowing me to share my learning with others in our organization. The impact project was a tangible thing that required system changes from education and awareness, to process enhancements, to building relationships and shifting mindsets. Most importantly, it reinforced the change process protocol I had learned in education and social work providing us a valuable framework to continue making vital and ongoing improvements in safeguarding in the future.”
The certification process for becoming a Certified Praesidium Guardian involves three main areas: education, experience, and knowledge. Ms. Hittle fulfilled the requirements in each of these areas. She completed a comprehensive pre-workshop assignment, which included six hours of online training to enhance her understanding of abuse prevention. Furthermore, she participated in an immersive workshop experience totaling 20 hours of learning, discussion, and application of abuse risk management skills rooted in Praesidium’s Safety Equation™. Lastly, she successfully completed a post-workshop Impact Project, showcasing her abuse prevention knowledge through practical application within the Legionaries of Christ. The Impact Project, tailored to each Guardian and their organization, is carefully reviewed by an expert Praesidium Consultant.
The Certified Praesidium Guardian designation is valid for a three-year period. During this time, she will continue her efforts to create a safe environment. Praesidium and the Legionaries of Christ are proud of her work and her contributions toward fostering a culture of safety within the congregation. She is an invaluable resource for the organization, the Church, and the surrounding community in the area of sexual abuse prevention.
As the General Director of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr. John Connor previously stated “Facing our history with determination and helping victims heal is part of our mission. The renewal through which the Holy See led us in past years prepared us to take responsibility for the consequences of our history. Now, aware of what we have learned, we are determined to keep taking decisive steps down this path. There is no turning back.”