The world isn’t always fair or kind, but nonprofits like the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center help to make a positive impact in the direst of times in a child’s life.
“The Children’s Advocacy Center is about providing services to children who have been victims of abuse,” says Chief Executive Officer Julia Hurst. “We manage the more egregious types of abuse, which are child sexual abuse, drug endangered children, and severe neglect. The sad thing is, we only see cases that have been reported through the Department of Children and Families hotline or law enforcement. Last year we saw 736 kids, and statistically there is probably two‑thirds more out there that could use our help, so it is really important that people know that piece of it.”
Staggering figures for a nonprofit that only serves Okaloosa and Walton counties. Additional advocacy centers can be found across the states, with each one operating independently.
The Florida abuse hotline is 1‑800‑96‑ABUSE. All calls are confidential, including caller information, and Hurst encourages everyone to report concerns they might have. “What happens, because I get these calls too, is we think something is going on, but we don’t want to be wrong. Our response is that it is not up to you to investigate, that is the job of the Children’s Advocacy Center and of law enforcement. It is not your job to decide whether or not it happened, and people struggle with that. However, that phone call could change the life of a child.”
ECCAC has operated out of Niceville since it’s inception in 2000. One of its primary roles is to be a safe harbor for the process that occurs after reporting of abuse. “Prior to the center, when a child was a victim of, say, sexual abuse, they would have to go to a lot of different places to get help,” says Hurst. “They would go to one place to tell their story, another place to have medical, they go to another place to talk to the prosecutor, and then another for mental health. So what we have done for the Children’s Advocacy Center is put all of those services under one roof. The goal is to get all the information in one interview so a child only has to tell it one time.”
The location of the center is Niceville was selected to feel child friendly. It’s located in an active neighborhood so it doesn’t present itself as a foreign office space. Hurst explains how greeters, a fish tank and a colorful space all help to make a child feel more comfortable. “The goal with the center is to help reduce the trauma that the child has already gone through and make an environment where they don’t mind coming back. They will have to come back if they are in therapy or if the case is going to go to trial and they need to take depositions.
“Beyond the case work we do and the advocacy—we do a lot of ancillary services for kids like Christmas parties, back‑to‑school bashes—all those things help support a family.”
Two of the newest additions are Riley and Cody, therapy dogs that can often be spotted at the center.
The big news is that a second center will have its grand opening April 8 in DeFuniak Springs. “We have always served both counties from Niceville when we started, and then we decided that we should do an assessment and see if we needed to be in Walton,” says Hurst. “We are very close to making it happen, and it has very much been a community‑minded project. It has been an amazing journey with all of us, and especially the kids we are seeing.”
The ECCAC is always looking for additional volunteers, both at the center itself and as helping hands for upcoming charity events like the Chi Chi Miguel Throwdown Golf Tournament on April 15. Other regular needs include diapers, baby wipes, cookie dough, art supplies for the therapists, and gift cards for clothing stores.
“The center is very thankful for the community,” says Hurst. “We wouldn’t be able to do what we do for these kids without it.”
Learn more, volunteer or donate at eccac.org.
‑ Nikki Hedrick
- Art Classes & Workshops
- Art Events
- Art Galleries
- Artist Joey McKenna Steps into Nature This Month at SoWal Library
- Call to Artists
- Adopt a Family for the Holidays
- Community Bank Invests $15,000 in NWF State College Students
- Making an Impact: Over $500K Awarded to Local Nonprofits
- Caring and Sharing: Café Thirty-A’s Annual Christmas Charity Ball
- Hold the Dishwashing, Please… Thanksgiving Dining Out Options
- North Beach Tortilla Co. Offers Sand and Sunsets in Santa Rosa Beach
- Overproof, Full Proof and Navy Strength Rums…and the Cocktails That Love Them
- Restaurant Guide
- Rosemary Beach Prohibition Repeal Wine Dinner Set for Dec. 7
- Where to Spend Your Happy Hours
- It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Hallmark!
- Local Film Screenings
- Reviews: Dafoe and Pattinson Shine in “Lighthouse,” Eddie Gets His Dolemite On
- Eric Paslay’s Favorite Live Tracks
- Live Music
- Rock Stars of Comedy… Gallagher Is Coming to Town
- The Pauseandplay.com Record Roundup
- The Record That Changed My Life: Al Alvarado
Harbor Docks Celebrates 25 Years of Thanksgiving Tradition
By Chris Manson Former Harbor Docks owner and Beachcomber contributing writer Charles Morgan credits longtime employee Ann Jones (a/k/a Miss Ann) with the idea of opening the restaurant on Thanksgiving Day....
Where to Spend Your Happy Hours
Baxter’s Bar & Grille 605 James Lee Road Fort Walton Beach 850-812-6868 When: 3-6 PM and 10 PM-Midnight daily. Closed Mondays (for now). Drink Specials: $3 wells, $2 drafts. Camille’s at Crystal...
North Beach Tortilla Co. Offers Sand and Sunsets in Santa Rosa Beach
By Lauren Sage Reinlie Northwest Florida has a new spot to unwind and soak up all the beauty the area has to offer. Chef Jim Shirley’s North Beach Tortilla Co....
Bob Luongo writes: “Two years ago my Jack Russell friend of 15 years died. Penny was my constant companion. For the last two years I’ve had many recurring dreams where I was...
Rock Stars of Comedy… Gallagher Is Coming to Town
By Nikki Hedrick Not many comedians reach household name status. Gallagher, by his account, has logged over 4,000 shows and over a dozen comedy TV specials, and has only been slightly...
Upcoming Stage Shows
FRIDAY, NOV. 8-SATURDAY, NOV. 9 STAGE CRAFTERS’ “THE PAJAMA GAME” Fort Walton Beach Civic Auditorium, 7:30 PM StageCraftersFWB.com Tickets are $25. Cast includes Tim Bartley, Terry Carnathan, David Chancellor, Gabriella Dedmore, Azhia...