April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. This is a time to acknowledge the importance of families and communities working together to help prevent child abuse and neglect, as well as to promote the social and emotional well-being of impacted children and their families.
That is the 24/7 job of the multi-disciplinary team of staff and volunteers at Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Centers (ECCAC) in Okaloosa and Walton counties. ECCAC is an accredited member of the National Children’s Alliance (NCA) non-profit organization. There are 881 Centers across the country.
National abuse statistics are alarming. According to NCA, nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S. annually. Neglect is the most common form of maltreatment with 75% suffering from neglect, 17.2% from physical abuse, and 8.4% from sexual abuse. About 4 out of 5 abusers are the child victim’s parents.
According to ECCAC’s CEO, Julie Porterfield, “Right here in Okaloosa and Walton counties in 2019, our two Children’s Advocacy Centers assisted 710 children and 303 caretakers. For every one child we help, there are two child victims locally who are not helped due to lack of reporting to authorities. However, ECCAC is proud of the fact that last year, through our Child Safety Matters prevention program, we reached 31,606 grades K – 8 children.”
National Child Abuse Month in April is so important because of the awareness it creates. Prevention is the best protection against child abuse. In support of child abuse prevention month, ECCAC is selling $20 t-shirts to wear during the month of April, with proceeds benefiting ECCAC. Order the t-shirts on-line by visiting www.eccac.org.
ECCAC is in its 20th year in operation this year. They have provided over 150,000 services at no cost to include mental health therapy, crisis intervention, referrals to other community providers, interviews and medicals to more than 14,000 children and their families.
For further information, visit www.eccac.org. If abuse is suspected, call the anonymous Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.