Alumni Stories: Judy Anderson Perillo
When Judy Anderson Perillo began working toward her bachelor’s degree in chemistry at Incarnate Word in the late 1960s, she never dreamed her career would eventually take her into the field of children’s advocacy issues. Now over three decades later, Perillo, BA ‘68, finds herself immersed in ensuring thousands of children in the San Antonio area grow up in environments safe from abuse.
“Children trust adults to take care of them and when they are abused, that sets up a lack of trust that can last a lifetime. Unfortunately, they (abused children) will most likely continue to see the world as an unsafe place into adulthood,” Perillo noted. “It is our responsibility to help them survive and become the healthy, functional adults they are meant to be.”
Perillo is the director of the San Antonio Archdiocese Office of Victim Assistance and Safe Environment. The office, created in September 2003 to address the issues of clergy sexual abuse, grew out of the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops and provides direct services to victims while promoting prevention throughout the Archdiocese’s 19 counties.
Perillo brings passion and dedication in providing a safe environment for children through her job at the Archdiocese. She also employs the use of two well-known anti-victimization programs to educate parents as well as children and adolescents on the behaviors that place them at risk for exploitation and abuse.
One of those programs, Child Lures, was developed by Vermont-based Kenneth Wooden and aims to make the prevention of crimes against children a national priority. Child Lures has been nationally recognized for its highly effective child safety programs. Perillo says as of January 2005, over 16,000 children throughout the Archdiocese of San Antonio have been instructed in the Child Lures Prevention program, with over 25,000 more to be reached during 2005.
So how does one make the transition from chemist to child advocate in one lifetime? Perillo says it happened the moment she held her first child in her arms. “I just knew the minute I looked at her that I wanted to be with her.” After spending 14 years at home raising three children, Sarah, Amy and Mark, Perillo decided, “You never stop learning and responding to the next call.”
The “next call” came in the form of working with youth in Del Rio, Texas. She and her husband, Pasquale, developed a comprehensive youth ministry among the three local parishes.
The University recognized Perillo in 1983 as an Alumna of Distinction in the Family Category for their work with the youth of Del Rio. “It was a family honor, really. And it recognized the contribution laity can make to the church,” Perillo noted.
In 1988 she began a 12-year career as a family preservation caseworker and trainer with Child Protective Services. Her casework focused on families where abuse of children had already been validated and change for their protection was the top priority.
“I’m a life-long learner,” Perillo says. And that thirst for knowledge eventually led her back to her alma mater, where she obtained her Master’s in Education in 1998. “I’m also a big believer in continuing education. It’s a good investment at every stage of life. There’s not a single thing you learn that could ever be wasted.”
Today she continues advocating for children throughout the San Antonio area and is enjoying the blessing of her two grandchildren, Bethany and Mikaela. Perillo and her husband celebrated their 35th wedding anniversary last year. “I’ve never stopped admiring him,” Perillo says of Pasquale, who has worked at the Archdiocese of San Antonio as the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry for 20 years.
Perillo sees hope for the future of children’s rights and advocacy issues. “Our culture is beginning to place a greater value on rights and dignity of children and women,” she said. “Children are not the possession of their parents. We must each work to protect our children and take the time to be with them if we hope to make a difference in their lives.”
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