The Archdiocese of Washington has selected Marcia Zvara, a senior official in Montgomery County's public health system, to serve as its director of child protection, a new position in which she will become the archdiocese's primary liaison with victims of child sexual abuse.
Zvara, who is not Catholic, will retire at the end of this month after 22 years with the county's Department of Health and Human Services, where she is senior assistant to its director. She will be formally named to her new post today by Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick at a news conference, said Susan Gibbs, archdiocesan spokeswoman.
McCarrick also will release changes to the archdiocese's child protection policies that were recommended by a nine-member advisory board he named in July.
Zvara, a 1968 graduate of Howard University's School of Social Work, will begin her new job April 1. She will be responsible for ensuring that anyone who alleges they were abused as a minor by an archdiocesan employee receives appropriate pastoral care, including psychological counseling, and a full explanation of archdiocesan policies. She also will meet with victims, their families and affected parish communities.
"The archdiocese has made an unbelievably good choice," said Bob DeBernardis, a senior Montgomery health official who has known Zvara for 18 years. "She has a great deal of experience in the child protection area . . . and is very, very adept at working with boards and commissions. . . . She has an uncanny ability to bring together divergent views. We're going to miss her."
Her position was created in response to the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People adopted by U.S. Catholic bishops last year after the scandal of clerical child sex abuse hit the church. The charter states that each diocese "will have a competent person or persons to coordinate assistance for the immediate pastoral care of persons who claim to have been sexually abused as minors by clergy or other church personnel."
The Baltimore Archdiocese created a similar position in April, now held by the Rev. Rick Woy, said archdiocesan spokesman Stephen J. Kearney. Judy Dobson, a lay social worker, works with Woy as outreach coordinator to abuse victims.
The Arlington Diocese has not appointed a director of child protection, diocesan spokeswoman Linda Shovlain said. The Rev. Mark S. Mealey, vicar for pastoral services, is designated to meet with people who allege abuse and to provide them with counseling and pastoral care, Shovlain said.
In her last job with Montgomery County, Zvara managed the delivery of income support programs, emergency services, employment programs, community outreach and child care subsidy programs. Before that, her responsibilities included working with 13 boards and commissions that advise the health department, serving as a liaison with the County Council's Health and Human Services Committee, and handling legislative analysis for health and human services.
Before joining Montgomery, Zvara worked for the Prince George's County Department of Social Services for 12 years, where she served as an assistant director.