Charity Spotlight: Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center


 There are 2.9 million reported cases of child abuse every year in the United States. These reports come from teachers, law enforcement or legal representatives or social service providers. 1 in 16 children suffer from sexual abuse and 1 in 10 children suffer from child maltreatment. Experts agree that these incidences are far greater than what is reported to the authorities. Thankfully there is a center to prevent child abuse, protect children and restore the lives of abuse victims right here in Okaloosa County. The Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center is a child friendly atmosphere and safe environment for investigative, legal, social, medical and mental health services. 

Right about now the halls of the Emerald Coast Children's Advocacy Center are filled with Holiday decorations and toys and holiday packages. You can smell the freshly baked chocolate-chipped cookies as you walk through the door. Greeted by welcoming, warm smiles and a warm, caring environment, victims and their families have all resources under one roof. 

In 2014 ECCAC served 687 children, all confirmed cases of physical abuse, sexual abuse, severe neglect and/or drug endangerment. DCWAF funding provided 1,413 mental health therapy sessions in 2014, where licensed therapists help children be children again. These interventions can include individual counseling, art therapy, play therapy, support groups and sand tray therapy. The Center offers a warm, caring environment so children’s first experiences with therapy are positive. In addition, there is a case advocate who ensures that the well-being of the child is focused on and can track these cases to discuss the progress of the child abuse case and ensure the successful prosecution of the offender. DCWAF funding ensures access to a case advocate and those services. Since the inception of the program in 1997, there has been a 45% increase of successful prosecution of offenders. 

ECCAC became a Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation (DCWAF) partner in 2009. Since their partnership, they have been awarded over $785,000. These Funds have been used for direct services to clients including mental health, case advocate, mental health advocacy programs and additional building needs such as replacing air conditioning units, and most recently for new construction. Scheduled to open in early 2016, the center is currently under construction on their second location in DeFuniak Springs, serving Walton County. Offering these resources to Walton County will be a safe haven for other victims of abuse. Expected to open in April 2016, this facility will mirror the Niceville location’s model “team” approach.

Published on Monday, December 7, 2015