Greet The Giver: Children's Advocacy Center

Children's Advocacy Center works to minimize trauma for victims of abuse

Jackie Stephens

Jackie Stephens

— The Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County creates a safe place for children who are victims of both physical and sexual abuse. They perform forensic interviews and medical exams, advocate for the child in court, provide parenting classes and more. Thorough investigation, trained specialists, loving care and compassion are the core of CAC of Collier.

Collier County’s CAC is an immediate response facility. Through their programs, they assist children in the healing process. The Child Protection Team provides the medical and social diagnosis of child abuse and neglect. The Family Safety Program provides a safe place where children and families may interact. They provide family assessments, supervised visitations and safe exchanges. The Child Victim Rapid Response Program places a professionally trained youth advocate in selected Collier County Public Schools to assist abused or neglected children in accessing support and community services. The Parenting Education Program is a parenting skills course for high-risk families that have typically had their child removed from the home or are under strict supervision of Family Preservation Services.

Collier County’s CAC works closely with local law enforcement, the Florida Department of Children & Families, the State Attorney’s Office, Victim Advocates and Mental Health Partners to ensure quality care for the children they are caring for.

1. If you could gather the community and tell them one thing about your charity, what would it be?

The Children’s Advocacy Center works to minimize the trauma of children who have been physically or sexually abused. We’re the first responders. When abuse or neglect is suspected, the child comes to our agency, where they are examined by specially trained pediatricians, and interviewed by our social workers in a kid-friendly environment that isn’t intimidating. Our Child Protection Team (CPT) takes all the information gathered and shares it with law enforcement, the court system and the Department of Children and Family Services. We work as a team to advocate for the child. Then, our agency assists the child and their family throughout the entire court process to ensure abusers are brought to justice. Our organization is involved in every local abuse case you read about in the newspaper. We also offer many other programs, including parenting courses and supervised visitation.

2. What is unique about having a charity in Southwest Florida?

I think what is unique is that there are so many charities in a relatively small area. The people of Southwest Florida are extremely compassionate, passionate about the causes they believe in and generous with their time, talent and resources.

3. What surprises you the most about working with this charity?

I’m always surprised at how prevalent abuse is—it doesn’t just happen to "other people’s children." Abuse crosses socio-economic and ethnic boundaries. I’m also amazed at how intuitive and resilient children are after going through such traumatic events.

4. Why did you choose to devote your time to this cause over others?

I volunteered for a Guardian Ad Litem program in college and worked with abused children. I think child abuse is one of the most important social issues we face and it needs to be addressed. Child abuse has a ripple effect. It can lead to other social problems such as higher crime rates, substance abuse, teen pregnancies and mental health issues. But we know—and research backs this up—that if children who have been abused receive counseling, they will avoid dangerous behaviors such as drinking, or taking drugs during their life time; they’ll grow up to be productive adults. Children can’t protect themselves and they need the services Children’s Advocacy provides.

5. How does working for your charity make you feel?

In this kind of work, you’re privy to some horrible crimes against children. No child should have to endure these events. I’m proud of the work we do and our staff’s strong sense of responsibility. Child abuse is a difficult social issue, and we get a sense of accomplishment knowing we’re doing something important in the lives of children. We help them heal and we know we make a difference.

WANT TO GET INVOLVED?

Financial donations are always appreciated. Donations can be made at www.caccollier.org or checks can be made to Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County. Collier County’s CAC also accepts donations of new clothes and undergarments for children of all sizes as well as new or gently used toys. Clothes should be appropriate to wear to school or church. Donations of new stuffed animals for children to hold and hug are also appreciated.

To volunteer, contact the Development Office at (239) 263-8383 ext. 232. Volunteer activities include receptionist duties, labeling and stamping of mass mailings, helping out at fundraisers and baby sitting for short periods of time.

Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County

1035 Sixth Ave. N.

Naples, FL 34102

Website: www.caccollier.org

Phone: (239) 263-8383

MARK YOUR CALENDAR

Attending an event is a great way to support Children’s Advocacy Center of Collier County. Their sixth annual Golf Classic is coming up on Saturday, April 28 at Twin Eagles Golf Community in Naples. Admission is $150 per golfer and includes breakfast, greens fees, a cart, snacks and drinks on the course, specialty event and drink holes, lunch at the club house, raffles and awards. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. For more information, contact Tina Streeter at (239) 263-8383 ext. 232 or tstreeter@caccollier.org.

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